Trained Bugesera women in solar energy installation have gone back to using paraffin lamps and candles after operations and panels got broken due to lack of battery spare parts and the collapse of the district programme that funded the project.
In 2013, the government launched a programme to train five women in every district on solar energy, mostly on the installation, wiring and reparation.
This was in a bid to supply electricity to more people and also put women at the centre of social transformation.
Around 20 women in three districts of Bugesera, Musanze and Gicumbi were flown to India for a six months training in solar power installation and maintenance, skills they would later use in their respec¬tive areas.
Despite having installed more than 150 houses in Bugesera district in Kayumba and Rweru cells with solar power, five years later the project seems to have stalled and a number of houses have gone back to darkness and are yet to be given other energy alternatives.
Rwanda Today visited Kayumba cell in Nyamata sector, which was connected with solar power, but whose solar power receivers got broken and were never repaired, forcing residents to go back to lighting homes with petrol lamps or candles.
Back to darkness
Odetter Mukarumongi, one of the women who got trained through the partnership between Rwanda Women network and an Indian electricity firm, told this paper that the project did not last more than two years, forcing beneficiaries to focus on other sources of electricity like hydro power.
“A number of households which were connected with solar power have gone back to darkness and our skills are being wasted. Those who could afford to have their houses connected to the power grid in the area have done so but others did not because it is still expensive. We need to know whether there are other programmes in the pipeline to make use of our skills,” said Ms Mukarumongi.
Reacting briefly on the issue, Bugesera district executive secretary Elie Hakizimana told Rwanda Today that affected households were yet to report to the district adding that together with other local government officials they will reach out to concerned people and discuss the way forward.
“We have put special focus on off-grid electricity generation and supply in the district. It would be unfortunate to hear that the equipment supplied earlier has not been operational for quite some time.
Also, women who were trained with such skills cannot go back to farming. We need their skills and they need to make a living out of their experience. We are going to visit them and agree on the way forward,” said Mr Hakizimana.
In the ongoing contract performance, the district of Bugesera has committed to distribute off-grid electricity to 500 house¬holds in special categories and 600 households will be connected to on-grid power at a budget of Rwf4 million according to district reports.
Despite a high appetite for electricity to push a number of ambitious industrial prospects and cater for the upcoming SMEs, the government maintains ambitious energy targets at 563MW by 2019 from the current 208MW installed capacity.
The government said so far it doesn’t have an energy shortage, but the generated electricity has been going to waste due to lack of sufficient distribution systems and low demand.
The government has been working on increasing solar and renewable energy, saying that despite a target of connecting 500,000 houses by the end of the year, currently around 120,000 households have been connected.