Because of long distances, it is often found too expensive to electrify isolated areas by grid. In the case of isolated areas close to neighbouring countries, however, it can in some cases be feasible to connect from the neighbouring country where the electricity grid might be closer. To overcome the high expenses and challenges of electrifying isolated areas, three projects have implemented cross-border electrification-projects in the northern, western and southern parts of Togo from Ghana and Benin respectively. The regional organisation, West African Power Pool, has led all three projects in collaboration with the national utility companies.
Impact is visible in the larger villages electrified by the project. These have experienced a significant increase in economic activities with more craftsmen and shops among the positive socio-economic effects of the cooperation across borders. The population in all villages achieving electrification have experienced improvement in living conditions and now enjoys a social life in the evening, lower risk of snake attacks because of streetlight and access to cold soft drinks and water. Furthermore, health centres report significant improvement in treatment, especially at night. Schools also report a higher student success rate through the ability to study in the evening either in classrooms, under illuminated posts or at home.
The three projects have to a large degree improved the quality life in the selected locations. Still, cross-border electrification lines have disadvantages: The main difference between localities served by the Togolese network and localities served by either the Ghanaian or Beninese network, is the duration of outages with the latter experiencing cuts for several days. Causes are difficult to place but can either be due to geography of border areas, where it can be more cumbersome to repair the grid, or because the utility companies in Ghana and Benin are less in a hurry to restore grid lines that supply Togolese clients than they are when it is their own clients that are without electricity. Whatever the reason is, the consequences of long outages are substantial for shops and craftsmen who can go bankrupt as a result of an unexpected electricity break for several days.
The good quality of works and the anticipation of future demand in the dimensioning of lines and transformers have guaranteed a stable and secure service for several years, and the three projects have proved that cross-border electrification can be a feasible alternative to off-grid electrification in isolated areas.
The Project, Access to modern and sustainable energy services, in Mali has successfully distributed 4000 improved stoves and 5000 solar powered lamps in cooperation with local women’s groups in 60 villages. The women’s groups have been organized in 4 umbrella organizations that manages their own funds. Currently, the associations have much more working capital than the initial sum they started with, and are continuously ordering new equipment based on the demand of women in the local villages.
The rural areas in Mali often have to deal with very inefficient energy solutions, such as a pot on three stones for cooking, and low quality battery-torches or kerosene lamps for lighting. Although these areas have a great potential for introducing more efficient solutions that can benefit women in terms of time and resources, the lack of economic resources and effective distribution systems remain a significant barrier.
The project has identified villages that already had functioning women’s groups, which were organized into associations, and whose members have received training in literacy, counting and management. The associations were provided with an initial sum to start a working capital and have since been responsible for ordering and distributing improved stoves and solar lamps from suppliers – to great effect, given that the current working capital is much higher than the initial sum.
“The lamps give freedom; you can do many things with them and the children have the lighting to study” says a member of the Kotongontala association in the Bougouni Cercle.
The various village groups distribute the equipment and collect reimbursement from its members, which includes the cost of the equipment as well as an interest for the associations. AMADER, Agency of the Malian government, has been involved in the project to ensure that the stoves follows the national standards and to strengthen the replication of the approach to other poor rural areas in Mali.
The Muhura power line project has ensured that social services in the cities of Muhura and Bugurura, such as hospitals, schools, and high schools, as well as households, traders, and various workshops have been connected to a stable supply of electricity. Thus, the Muhura power line project has had a profound social and economic impact.
Formerly, various social services have depended on diesel generators for their supply of power. But the generators have proved too costly in maintenance and diesel expenses. A few households and traders have had small and unreliable solar panels installed and for more electricity demanding tasks, such as welding, people have travelled to the capital, Kigali to use the workshops there, but after the project, there are now several workshops in the area thanks to the power supply.
The two cities are experiencing a boom in economic activities that, according to the head of the Umudugu in Muhura, are clearly visible, “The city is much improved. Now, we can do the same things here as in Kigali. We now have local workshops – mills, welding – a hairdresser’s salon, cold drinks.”
In order to connect the two cities with a stable and strong supply of electricity, the project build a power line that runs 15 kilometres from the Rwandan national power line to Muhura, the district capital of Gatsibo. A distribution network has been installed to sustain the various social services, traders and households in the two cities. Through this project the social services have been connected to the distribution network, whereas connecting households, traders and other private customers is an ongoing process that is handled by the Rwandan electricity company, EUCL.
The CASE project has successfully helped in countering deforestation in Rwanda, by introducing more efficient stoves as well as efficient techniques for producing charcoal, affecting approximately 145,000 people.
Deforestation is a huge environmental issue in all East-African countries. Having lost more than 25% of its forests over the past 40 years, Rwanda is no exception. 96 % of Rwandans still depend on wood for domestic energy – the alternatives being either unreliable or unaffordable – and the demand for land and the degradation of natural resources will only increase. This emphasizes the importance of countering deforestation and finding sustainable solutions to the energy needs of the population.
The main driver behind the deforestation is the use of firewood and especially charcoal for cooking in urban areas. The charcoal is often produced in rural areas far from where it is sold. The CASE project has, first of all, attempted to reduce the demand for firewood and charcoal, by introducing more efficient stoves. Second, to increase the income of the beneficiaries, the project has helped them to master techniques for producing charcoal.
The project has helped local authorities to assume their vital role and, with previous experience with Village savings and Loan-groups (VSLs), the project lead, Care Rwanda, used these as a platform for selecting project beneficiaries. A research facility has been responsible for selecting stove models as well as training local stove producers, and an NGO, which specialized in charcoal production, has handled that component.
This setup has produced strong results and the technical solutions, adapted to the local context, have created a lasting impact affecting approximately 145,000 people. Today, 7 years later, the stoves introduced in the project are still working, and are used and appreciated. The local charcoal-producers are almost exclusively applying the techniques learnt in the project and local authorities are effectively protecting forest resources in cooperation with the charcoal-producers.