8 685 ru­ral in­sti­tu­tions elec­tri­fied

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News - Pamela Shumba Se­nior Re­porter

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)

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