8 685 rural institutions electrified
THE Rural Electrification Fund (REF) has electrified 8 685 rural institutions in the country, with 754 institutions in Matabeleland North province benefiting from the project since its inception in 2002.
Energy and Power Development Deputy Minister Tsitsi Muzenda yesterday commissioned a rural electrification project that cost $216 317 at Mathabiswana and Hlanganani schools in Umguza District, Matabeleland North province.
Two primary schools, one secondary school and adjacent communities are set to benefit from the project, which is part of the Government’s efforts to provide power in rural areas.
Deputy Minister Muzenda said she was happy that the fund has made significant strides in the electrification of rural areas in the country.
“The fund has electrified 8 685 rural institutions countrywide using both grid and solar technologies. In Matabeleland North province alone, REF has electrified 754 institutions, of which 97 are in Umguza District.
“The institutions include 32 primary schools, 14 secondary schools, 10 rural health centres, three chiefs’ homesteads, three government extension offices, two business centres, eight villages, 13 small scale farms and 12 others,” said Deputy Minister Muzenda.
She said the project commissioned yesterday will also benefit the business centres, surrounding rural institutions and villages as they can now have access to the grid.
Provision of electricity, the Deputy Minister added, is in line with ZimAsset, which was crafted to achieve sustainable development and social equity in the country.
“Many other benefits will accrue from the electrification of our rural areas, among them the reversal of rural-urban migration and economic activities in downstream industries.
“The rural electrification programme has potential to improve the quality of life in rural areas. Teachers who used to shun working in the rural areas will now be happy to work at these schools while the child mortality rate has been reduced at rural health centres,” said Deputy Minister Muzenda.
She urged authorities at the institutions to take advantage of the infrastructure and raise the standard of education and health through maximum utilisation and guard the grid infrastructure against vandalism.
She said despite the commendable progress made by REF in the electrification of rural areas, the programme has not been spared from the economic challenges.
“One of the major challenges is lack of generation capacity in the region in general and at Kariba Power Station in particular. However, the Government, in collaboration with Sadc countries, is exploring all avenues to alleviate the severe power shortage in the region. The Government embarked on the Kariba South Power Station expansion project in 2014 and it has progressed well,” said Deputy Minister Muzenda.
She said there was a need to develop decentralised energy systems based on renewable energy sources, especially for rural areas.
REF deputy board chairperson, Mrs Cecilia Chitiyo commended the fund for its efforts, saying electricity is an engine for economic development.
“Rural areas were neglected for a long time by successive colonial regimes. REF is doing a good job in extending the electricity grid to these areas. From January to September this year, the fund has completed grid projects leading to 335 institutions countrywide and additional grid projects leading to 158 rural institutions were in progress during the same period.
“Further to this, three biogas digesters were completed in Masvingo and Mashonaland East provinces while eight are in progress as we strive to meet Zim-Asset targets,” said Mrs Chitiyo.
She added that REF was committed to electrifying with grid network, all public institutions within 15km to 20km from the existing grid by 2018.
“We also plan to provide those institutions which are far away from the grid network, with solar systems and biogas digesters,” said Mrs Chitiyo.
Among those who attended the switching on ceremony were Umguza Member of Parliament, who is also Minister of Macro-Economic Planning and Investment Promotion Dr Obert Mpofu, Energy and Power Development Permanent Secretary Mr Partson Mbiriri, traditional leaders, councillors, officials from REF and Zesa Holdings, civil servants and the community. — @pamelashumba1
Deputy Minister of Energy and Power Development Cde Tsitsi Muzenda reads a plaque after commissioning the Mathabiswana and Hlanganani Schools Electrification Project in Umguza yesterday. Looking on are from left, the Senator for Umguza Mrs Sikhanyisiwe Mpofu, Member of the National Assembly for Umguza Constituency Dr Obert Mpofu, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Power Development Mr Patson Mbiriri, Umguza District Administrator Mrs Ennety Sithole and REF board members and staff. (Picture by Eliah Saushoma)