A solar mini-grid in rural Malawi is powering maize mills, a sunflower oil plant, and will assist a welder in a nearby community develop his company, demonstrating that Africa’s sole path to low-carbon electricity is not through centralised grid systems.
Village-level solar power, according to development experts, is a more promising means of getting energy to Africa’s most distant communities than traditional networks, which often do not reach them, prioritise more wealthy neighbourhoods, and are frequently fueled by polluting fossil-fuel generating.
“With this electrical project, I see myself thriving,” welder Bartholomew Soko told Reuters TV in the community of Ndawambe. He intends to begin manufacturing door frames, television stands, and plate drying racks, in addition to the bicycles he now repairs.
“It would assist persons with disabilities be self-reliant if power was expanded to more rural regions,” Soko, who was wounded in a vehicle accident and uses a wheelchair, added.
More than three-quarters of Malawi’s 20 million people lack access to electricity, which is more than the continental average of about half.
Over the last decade, the cost of solar energy has dropped by more than three-quarters over the world.
The Sitolo initiative has brought together around 700 individuals from three communities, and local farmers no longer have to travel great distances to have their maize processed or sunflower seeds pressed.
Local residents never used to plant sunflowers, according to Brenda Limbikani, a sunflower grower. “However, since the oil-pressing equipment was introduced, more individuals have planted the crop,” she explained. “This year, more farmers than ever before are producing sunflowers.”
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