Sidonge pilot project installation
Hannington, Nya and I set out last week to take delivery of our Rural Village Energy units (RVE) from Kenyan customs and kick off the installation in Sidonge but the week started badly. Our shipment was delayed yet again due to port congestion in Mombassa and still we had not received VAT and Duty Exemption from the Kenyan Revenue Authority (KRA). It did not bode at all well… nonetheless we left for Sidonge, some 450km from Nairobi – seems close enough but road conditions turn the journey into a 10 hour trip!
We stopped at the The Daraja Academy near Nanyuki along the way to chat with Jenni and Jason Doherty about partnering with them at Daraja for our second pilot implementation later this year. Owners and visionary directors of the Academy, they provide quality secondary education to exceptional Kenyan girls, based on the premise that educated girls can transcend poverty and change the world. A wonderful place to visit, albeit a short visit!
Arriving at Sidonge we were pleased to see work well underway, with the site already cleared and fenced and the gates ready for mounting. We acquired used telephone poles from the Kenyan Telco locally which will serve well for distribution of electricity within the village. Holes were dug (sometimes through rock!) and the first poles erected. We ended the week with the first electrical cabling being put up – already the village just looks different. Our activity on the ground was closely watched by groups of children who loved the action.
The “difference” in the air is tangible too – wherever we went we were greeted warmly, welcomed into rural homes as if we were family. The people of Sidonge have very little but shared with us happily. Anticipation for the day we turn on electricity in the village is huge, not to mention the perception of the difference locally produced organic fertiliser will have on their over-used lands and crops. While some homes have piped water, the irregular supply makes local control of clean water supply a boon.
Biogas seems to be a concept that still needs some work on our part – while a limited number of consumers have signed up for supply, most remain reticent, not quite understanding the benefits or concerned about using manure to cook their food. Some women had told us they were not very keen on bringing manure into their kitchens or near their food! I cannot wait for the day we demonstrate how fast a pot of water boils on a gas stove compared to a three stone fireplace or a “jiko” cooker! They’ll never want to forage for firewood again.
Our discussions with the Self Help Group committee who will own and run the project were very encouraging. Our contract and the expectations of the community and consumers very well understood. Hannington and team have done an amazing job of getting a community that is used to an AID mentality (foreign visitors mean hand-outs) to embrace the concept of a community-operated energy and water business.
Meanwhile we have received the formal approval for, and support of the Funyula District Commissioners office – very soon we hope to be meeting the Minister of Parliament for the District, Dr. Paul Otwoma to share ideas for scaling multiple village implementations beyond the initial pilot.
Finally, we ended the week with some great news: our KRA VAT and Duty Exemption has been approved. Next week the RVE hubs clear customs and be Sidonge bound. You can find out more about the rural community itself here.
We plan to finalise the installation late in September – more to follow. Thanks in advance for your comments!