Written by Neema Kimaro
“For now, I only have two light bulbs and a socket so that I can charge my phone at home, but I haven’t thought of using electricity for anything else. I fear it will be too expensive for me.” This is how a restaurant owner in Chang’ombe-Dodoma answered when she was asked about her future plans to use energy for production in her business.
I want you to think. What is the first thing that comes in mind when you think about ‘electricity’? The first thing that comes to my mind is light, and I bet you thought the same too. The majority of citizens in Chang’ombe and Dongo villages in the Dodoma region in Tanzania had the same mindset when teams in a so-called Energy Safari visited to learn about youth opportunities and assessment of value chain in productive uses of energy.
5 energy cases
Being the fourth of its kind, this time the Energy Safari 2019 took place in Dodoma. Here, 30 (15 women and 15 men) young participants were selected to be a part of the safari which was fixated in researching and prototyping renewable energy solutions in five energy cases; Alternative cooking energy in Chalinze Dodoma, Dodoma as a poster Green City, Assessment of value chain in Productive Uses of Energy in Chang’ombe and Dongo villages in Dodoma, Perception and awareness of renewable energy in Dodoma City, and Youth opportunities available in productive uses of energy in Chang’ombe and Dongo villages.
Energy for economic activities
The majority of the villagers in Dongo and Chang’ombe use electricity from the Rafiki Power mini-grid for household consumption such as light bulbs and sockets for charging phones as they do not have knowledge about the potential of productive uses of energy, which is where energy can be used for income generating activities such as welding, milling or refrigeration.
“Villagers and especially youth in Chang’ombe and Dongo are not aware of how renewable energy can be a key component in development. They believe that solar power is not strong enough to run heavy machines for instance milling machines” Omary Said, participant in the Energy Safari 2019. Unlike the majority, there are a few businesses in the villages which use solar energy for their economic activities such as welding and a small movie theater where people pay to watch movies or football.
These discoveries pointed the Energy Safari 2019 teams to come up with a solution to raise awareness in the communities in rural areas on how they can use energy for economic activities and also educate people in electricity costs in relation to consumption. “After talking to the Rafiki Power operator, I realized that a 16kwp Rafiki Power solar powered mini grid can equip economic activities because so far the solar energy is strong enough to run a water pump. This is why we took an initiative to educate these communities about productive uses of energy”- Beatrice Kweka, Energy Safari 2019.
More support from the government and private sector is needed to raise awareness that electricity goes beyond the light in the house or streets, and to teach these communities about productive uses of energy. We need communities to think beyond light.
Watch the video below to learn what the Energy Safari 2019 was about and get an impression of the energy landscape in Dodoma: