Friday, September 02, 2005

SELF : In Nigeria - Extending Opportunity To The Edge Of The Desert

In 2001 Ibrahim Siminu Turaki, the Governor of Jigawa State in Nigeria, entered into a dialogue with the Executive Director of SELF the (Solar Electric Light Fund) about the possibility of using solar-electricity (photovoltaic or PV) to power essential services in the far-flung villages of Jigawa State. Governor Turaki is said to be a strong proponent of appropriate technology and is not hesitant about harnessing modern technology for remote and rural areas under his supervision. In 2001 he had already been instrumental in the creation of a satellite-based broadband Internet and communications system to link all local government districts. His was the first state in Northern Nigeria to do so. Additionally under his leadership Jigawa State had started a computer technology trade school.

The reason for the talks about solar energy for Jigawa state in 2001 was because there was a serious unavailability of energy in the smaller villages.

Obtaining commitments from the United States Agency for International Development and the United States Department of Energy for about 60% of the funds necessary for the project, Jigawa State was able to come up with the balance. An NGO named the Jigawa Alternative Energy Fund (JAEF)was formed specifically to promote the use of renewable energy and it partnered with SELF, which was the lead implementing organization for the project.

SELF had had plenty of experience under its belt prior to that time in bringing solar power to rural communities in developing nations. Since 1990 it had launched solar household lighting projects in China, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Vietnam, Indonesia, Brazil, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa and the Solomon Islands. In these countries projects had brought power to rural communities using the same small, decentralized photovoltaic systems proposed to bring solar light and power to the rural households in Jigawa State.

The project of the Jigawa Alternative Energy Fund and SELF proposed to use solar-generated electricity in a village setting to improve education, water supply, health, agriculture, commerce, security and women's opportunities in three villages with a combined population of 7,500 people. It was an ambitious goal, because in very few places had PV been used to address virtually all of the energy needs of a community. But the partners were committed to its success.

Having a reliable and adequate water supply was the highest priority of the three villages chosen for the initiation of the project. This was very obvious since Jigawa State has a semi-desert environment with few rivers or other sources of surface water. Typically, open wells with rope and bucket and hand pumps were the method of obtaining water. There were also diesel-powered pumps supplied by the government, but they were said to be difficult to repair when they broke down and the diesel fuel on which they operated, was expensive to buy.

The solar-powered pumps brought to the villages by this project are designed to run maintenance free for eight to ten years (sometimes longer) and they are powerful enough to bring fresh, clean water from deep wells. The wells are made a part of the village infrastructure by being connected into a distribution system that brings the water to numerous taps, and this reduces the amount of time that families have to spend transporting water.

The PV systems also provide power for the village health clinics. Patients can now be seen by health officers at night for the first time because of the solar powered lights. Greater quantities of vaccine can be kept on hand because it can now be refrigerated and stored longer. And this allows people to be vaccinated at greater frequency to reduce diseases. And the solar powered fans provide an obviously increased level of comfort level for both the staff and patients.

With at least two illuminated classrooms in each of the village primary schools there are currently adult education classes being conducted in the evenings. These lit areas also provide a place for the children to come and do their lessons as well. Each school also has a computer and computer instruction has been provided for the teachers. When these computers were powered up, they were the first computers in the project villages. Little time was lost in planning to eventually hook the computers to the internet via the State's broadband system in order to open the village to the rest of the world for all sorts of beneficial uses.

In as hot a climate in which these villages are located, there is a premium on being able to move about for business and socializing after the sun goes down. The new streetlights made possible by the solar energy project now give people bright places to congregate. New market locations have been created as food vendors operate beneath the lights in the evenings. By prior planning, many streetlights are located conveniently by water taps and all supply much valued security, as well as enhanced visibility, for people at night.

When the villagers go to their mosques in the evenings it is because nighttime activities are made more accessible by the solar power. Also the call to prayer five times each day can now be made over public address systems.

Every village has a solar-powered micro-enterprise building that each provides electricity to 6 very small businesses that would otherwise not have access to electricity. Electricity now powers tailors' sewing machines and barbers' clippers instead of manual power used in the past. And these are just a few examples of the progress that has been made.

The safety of solar powered lighting systems has replaced the dangerous kerosene lights in the homes of the villages. The children and adults no longer have to breath the fumes from the old lamps that were fire hazards.

There have been about 20 home systems installed in each village and this has created a demand and an interest in home systems. JAEF has put in place a micro-credit scheme in order to continue electrifying houses. Under this plan, the payments for each system will accumulate to purchase additional systems for more homes.

For one of the project villages, Wawan-rafi, a cattle or person pulled cart with fold-out unbreakable solar modules has been developed to power an efficient pump that can be moved from field to field to irrigate crops with water from a nearby lake. Before the arrival of this pump, some of the poorer farmers had to carry water their fields using a hollowed-out gourd. And there is no need to explain how difficult that was.

Also, in Wawan-rafi, a solar-powered oil expeller has been incorporated into the economy to more efficiently produce peanut oil. The production and sale of this oil is the only source of income for most village women in Wawan-rafi. The new expeller saves time, reduces the strenuousness of the labor and increases the earning capacity for the women.

A great deal of care has been taken to ensure that this project will be technically, financially and organizationally sustainable. This is a feature of all SELF projects.

"In its role as the maintainer of all project systems, JAEF provides both local and professional staff technicians to frequently check each system. Extensive training will ensure that there is always someone in each village to address any problems that might arise. Small, affordable fees collected from users will be used to pay technicians and to maintain an inventory of spare parts."

Governor Turaki , SELF and the people of the project villages are all happy with the progress of the project and they say that they are "Extending Opportunity To The Edge Of The Desert".

I have only shown you the "tip of the iceberg" of the Solar project in Jigawa State of Nigeria, and I have said next to nothing about all of the things that SELF is doing and has done. But; if I am to keep this article short; for now, I can only point the way to where you can find more information about this amazing project and to where you can learn more about SELF. Click the links below; it will be well worth your time.

Jigawa State Solar Project


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bloggs are such a wonderful way to plublish ones thoughts. Thanks for letting me visit and leave a comment. music mp3s
Word verification option?
The Word Verification option can be found on the settings - comments tab for your blog. If you choose "yes" for this setting, then people leaving comments on your blog will be required to complete a word verification step, similar to the one presented when you create a blog.

What this does is to prevent automated systems from adding comments to your blog, since it takes a human being to read the word and pass this step. if you've ever received a comment that looked like an advertisement or a random link to an unrelated site, then you've encountered comment ads. A lot of this is done automatically by software which can't pass the word verification, so enabling this option is a good way to prevent many such unwanted comments.