Solar powered opportunity

Limited access to cheap, clean electricity is an issue affecting most communities in rural Malawi. Working directly with communities through local partners, the CCPM has recently installed two solar kiosks in the villages of Lodi and Msoma in Mangulu, Machinga District in southern Malawi.

A solar kiosk is a shared facility that uses solar panels to bring energy to areas far from the electricity grid. It is owned by the community and run by a committee elected by the community members. The committee operates the kiosk according to a set of agreed rules, including using a rota system to share responsibility for managing and maintaining it.

Following initial PVCA assessments, which identified a lack of access to electricity as key issue, CCPM implementing partner, Church Action Relief and Development (CARD), worked with the communities to develop the solar power kiosks. It is anticipated they will be rolled out in other communities in the coming months.

In Lodi, a community member offered to mount the solar panels on the tin roof of their house. The panels were then hooked up to a small shared community building which powers a number of local enterprises, including a mobile phone charging centre, a hall that provides a well-lit area for children to study in, a fridge from which to sell cold drinks, and a barber shop.

To ensure community ownership and sustainability, all income generated from the enterprises is managed collectively by the community members involved. The profits are banked by the ‘village savings and loans’ group and this money is used to pay for running costs and maintenance of the solar kiosk.

It also creates savings for the community in case money is urgently needed in future, for instance to buy new seeds if crops fail. These funds can also be used by community members to start up more local businesses such as buying and selling solar lamps.

Following the PVCA assessment, CARD worked with the communities to develop the solar power kiosks idea. In Lodi the kiosks are already having a range of positive benefits. With the nearest town over four miles away, people now spend far less time travelling to charge their phone while the study hall is enabling children to do their homework after dark which will improve the children’s academic performance.