By Watmore Makokoba
After enduring so many years of successive droughts and ekeing livelihoods in heavily deforested, dry areas, nothing could be more fulfilling than accessing clean energy in their homes, nutritious and abundant food on their tables and seeing the fields turn green with life as water flows on dry ground.
As people start to accrue benefits from renewable energy solutions and conservation agriculture initiatives being implemented in some dry parts of the country, members of Parliament who, although they still feel more needs to be done, are upbeat with the positive change resulting from the green projects.
The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment, Water, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, during a media briefing recently said that although these projects are being implemented in selected parts of the country’s rural community by various stakeholders, the results are a clear indication that lives have been changed positively.
“Several rural communities in Zimbabwe face limited or no access to sustainable power sources, this has impacted negatively to livelihoods as it has a direct effect on food security , health delivery systems and development. Biogas and solar initiatives projects has changed the way people used to produce food especially in dry areas such as Guruve, people are now venturing into market gardening as there is improved water availability,
“Through irrigation programs, people who used to wait for the rains can now produce food through year round, courtesy of the solar powered borehole initiative,” said the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment, Water, Tourism and Hospitality Industry chairperson, Hon. Wonder Mashange.
“As Members of Parliament we feel that it is critical to scale up these initiatives to other parts of the country still experiencing similar challenges to ensure health institutions are capacitated through alternative power provision and that there is improvement in food security” , said the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee member Hon. Walter Kanhanga of Guruve North.
Under the project being implemented by Environment Africa in Guruve as well as Zvimba, community members are grouped into clusters where a revolving fund is loaned rotationally to each member for setting up a bio digester and start up vegetable production using a small scale solar powered irrigation facility.
According to Hon Kanhanga, at least 10 digesters have been set up in one of communities in his constituency and in addition to that people have been trained on Conservation Agriculture, Beekeeping and establishing tree nurseries for distribution of tree seedlings in communities.
The Portfolio Committee Chairperson Hon. Wonder Mashange said these projects have relieved the tree population from complete depletion as most people relied on wood as a source of energy, further calling for the establishment of Environmental Courts to ensure there is enforcement of environmental regulations
“The progress made so far in promoting renewable energy in communities is highly commendable, people are becoming self-reliant and these initiatives are significantly helping to build communities resilient to climate change, as well as mitigating the effects that are already evident.
“Without taking away much from what has been done so far, there is still need to push for the full implantation of the National Climate Change Policy and this requires the coming in of other stakeholders on board.
The question we ask now is “Do we as Zimbabwean Citizens embrace these green initiatives yet? There is heavy deforestation in several communities still going , which call for the establishment of environmental courts that will deter people from committing environmental offences”, he said.
Zimbabwe hopes to increase renewable energy capacity to 300 MW by 2018, however, Engineer Joshua Mashamba, the Chief Executive of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) said the rate of electrification of rural communities was still very low.
Speaking to IPS Mashamba said “As of now, in the rural areas, there is energy poverty, as the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), we have electrified 1,103 villages or group schemes and if we combine that with what other players have done, we are estimating that the rate of rural electrification is at 10 percent. It means that 90 percent remain un-electrified and do not have access to modern energy.”
According to a report paper by Practical Action with support from Hivos, “Zimbabwe currently has a national electrification rate of 41.5%. While electricity has reached 79% of the urban households, rural electrification is still below 19%. Only 32% of the population has access to modern cooking fuel”