By Pamenus Tuso
Gas and solar energy have filled the electricity generation gap in the Cyclone Idai hit districts of Chimanimani and Chipinge in Zimbabwe’s Manicaland province.
Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique were hit by the deadly tropical Cyclone which destroyed bridges, roads and electricity lines among other devastating infrastructural damages.
According to the United Nations, infrastructure worth more than $1 billion was destroyed by the cyclone.
Following the damage to the electricity infrastructure, most villagers, schools and other institutions in impacted areas have now resorted to the use of gas and solar energy.
Villagers who spoke to GreenEnergy Zimbabwe in the affected areas, said the ongoing crisis although posing serious challenges for electricity generation, had also demonstrated the importance of solar energy.
“Since the Cyclone started, we have been relying on solar lamps to recharge our phones. We have also been using solar energy to light our homes and power our household appliances. The entire electricity infrastructure including electricity poles was destroyed by the cyclone,” said Ronald Njikizana, a teacher at Biriiri primary school.
Njikizana said most people in the area were able to communicate with the outside world during and after the disaster, courtesy of solar power.
“Most of the scary images which were coming out on social media during the cyclone period were actually captured by phones powered by solar.
“During the cyclone, I was also able to power my radio and TV and able to get current information concerning what was happening,” he said.
Gas has also proved to be an alternative energy to the cyclone victims.
“When the cyclone struck, my son managed to send me a 10 kg LP gas for cooking purposes. During the cyclone period, it was very difficult to source and use fire wood,” said Emilia Mlambo (80) of Mwanyisa area in Chipinge.
A Climate Change Mitigation expert in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement, Lawrence Mashungu, stressed the importance of solar stand–alone and off-grid systems during times of natural disasters such as cyclones.
“The solar stand –alone and off-grid systems provide an important source of power for lighting which is critical for home lighting and also for providing lighting for studies by school children during the night. Lighting is very important for children in the wake of new school curricula which entails that more work be done at home,” said Mashungu.
The Climate mitigation expert said during disasters such as cyclones, infrastructure like power lines are destroyed and more resources and time are required to restore electricity.
According to government officials, it will take some time before restoration of electricity in the affected areas.
“With solar installations, communication can be greatly improved because people can easily charge their phones and communicate with the outside world.
“Unlike electricity, solar systems are once off investments and the fact that they do not need re-fuelling makes them very friendly especially when transport systems have been destroyed,” added Mashungu.