Category: General News

Strategic shift in Senegal from biogas to organic fertilizer

The Program of Implementation and Dissemination of Biodigesters in Rural Areas of Senegal (PIDB), aims at reducing poverty and improving living conditions through access to biodigesters.

During implementation, the project discovered that a byproduct of the biodigester – organic fertilizer produced of the biogas slurry – was much more commercially interesting than the biogas itself. A new strategy has now been put to action where the beneficiaries repay the construction investment of the biodigester in organic fertilizer sold to companies. Instead of subsidizing the construction of biodigester, the project now offers a financial guarantee to those companies willing to endeavor into this new economic activity in Senegal.

In addition, some of the fertilizer produced can also be reused for personal gardens, increasing the yield of this activity. The arduousness of women’s daily lives is also diminished by the biogas as they can cook faster and no longer need to collect firewood.

The main constraint to produce biogas – and organic fertilizer – is the feeding of the digester. The bacteria cultures need to be fed daily, using a mixture of animal and vegetable waste and 50 liters of water, for the most widespread biodigester model in this project. Access to water and waste is mandatory and it takes time and effort for the household to gather those essential components and keep the digesters running. Here the commercial importance of the fertilizer plays a key role as it turns the activity into an important source of income.

In addition, the lack of grass often forces the peasants in Senegal to move to find pastures, or to leave their animals to the shepherds. Without a direct access to animal waste, there is a risk of killing the bacteria culture in the digester. Solutions still needs to be found but the commercial value of the fertilizer makes that task easier.

If the project succeeds it would entail fewer people moving in the dry season which would allow for a profound change on every aspect of development, starting for example by the education of children now having the possibility to remain in the school all year.

Biogas is not a technology for the poorest households. Nevertheless, there is great potential in villages with access to water and for households with at least 5 head of livestock.

Multi-technology project adds flexibility to meet different local needs


The project for access to electrical services in small towns in the Sédhiou region in Senegal, has had a great impact. Through a multi-technology approach the project has been able to adapt to different needs in the region. The three technology types include connection to the existing grid, mini hybrid power plants or connections with individual systems (SHS). The project has resulted in a total of 131 villages being electrified, which has had a high impact on the local living environment.

A great strength of the multi-technology approach is that it allows the right technology can be applied based of the beneficiaries’ needs or economic interests rather than selecting villages based on the characteristics of the technology. This is definitely an approach to be considered in other electrification projects.

However, even though all infrastructures were completed, the active participation of the society was not as high as expected. This was mainly due to the fact that community users could not afford the connection fees.

But the potential impact of the project is still significant, and two grid-connected villages have had an accelerated increase in the number of connections after the project. Access to electricity means possibilities for cols storage for commercial and domestic use, metal welding and milling etc. Furthermore, public lighting has had important impact for the living environment allowing improvement of the education of children of young people.

High impact of cross-border electrification in Togo from Benin and Ghana

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.


Access to modern and sustainable energy services in Mali

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.

New power line to Muhura and Bugurura

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.


New efficient stoves and charcoal-production techniques in Rwanda

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 hasfirst of allattempted 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.



Solar Energy for laptops in rural schools in Rwanda

Three hundred primary and secondary schools in Rwanda have been connected to electricity thanks to the IREA-RPPP-project and the support provided by the ACP-EU Energy Facility. Rwanda has set an ambitious target of one laptop pr. child in its educational system. For many rural schools this poses a challenge: How to power laptops, when your school is not connected to electricity? The solution offered by the project is solar energy and today more than two hundred thousand children go to schools that has electricity.

The project “Increased Renewable Energy Access in Rwanda through Public Private Partnerships” (IREA-RPPP) was initially designed to boost energy access through both solar- and hydropower. In the first year, the project components were split: the major hydropower projects became part of a Belgian supported hydropower-programme, and the purely EU-funded component focused mainly on off-grid solar energy. In this way, synergies were optimised between the development partners and the Rwandan government.

IREA-RPPP employed a very thorough selection process requiring that the schools targeted for support match several criteria: most importantly, they should be off-grid without the likelihood for grid connection for several years to come, so distance to the existing grid was important. Also, a certain number of students was required to maximise impact, and a necessary quality of buildings was needed to minimise theft of cables, outlets and lightbulbs. It was also important that school staff showed interest in and motivation to maintain the systems.

The technical design was adapted to the context: the condition of rural school buildings can be varied, they can be located at different orientations to the sun, and with a staff that has different levels of capacity and interest in technical maintenance. Systems were therefore placed within a fenced perimeter at the school premises with the panels mounted on a rack, inclined to their optimal position towards the sun, and with inverters, regulators and batteries placed in a small ventilated building below them.

This design resolves issues of finding suitable location for the panels and other equipment. The choice of lithium-ion batteries, the high energy capacity of the systems and the overall high quality of equipment and installations has meant that very few maintenance issues had risen even after several years of use. The large bulk of the systems will have a long lifetime before batteries or inverters needs to be replaced.

As a result of the project, the 300 schools use laptops in class and teachers have better work condition due to electricity access in the school. Some schools have even started to exploit systems in new ways using it to power computers and overhead projectors, loud speakers for communal singing, supply nearby buildings with electricity and offer services like hair cutting for children.

Flagship project for the development of Renewable Energies in Cote d’Ivoire

The Zanzan region is located in north-eastern Cote d’Ivoire, which is a zone with sporadic electricity network coverage in comparison with other regions of the country. Without electricity, there is no public lighting, no freezers, no radios or televisions. The local inhabitants have made use of kerosene lamps and battery-operated torches for lighting the home, at an excessive cost for such a poor population.

Thanks to the support of the European Union, the NGO Delegation Fondation Akwaba and their Spanish technical partner Azimut 360 has installed photovoltaic mini-grids in 7 isolated villages in the region of Zanzan. This project, is an innovative first step in the field of solar mini-grids in Cote d’Ivoire.

Several technical solutions were implemented to guarantee that electricity demands could be met through the mini-grids: 1) distribution losses were minimised and the system design ensured adequate capacity for generation and storage; 2) the mini-grid installations are equipped with a diesel generator that automatically kicks in when the batteries reach a defined minimum, thereby reducing the energy storage requirements to provide a 24-hour service; 3) the application of a business model that makes use of smart meters that automatically interrupt the electricity supply when clients consume more than their pre-defined daily limits.

Based on this technical design and with the financial support of the EU and other donors, all 7 villages have access to electricity 24/7, providing the first reliable solar electricity supply in the country. The quality of life of inhabitants have been improved in several respects: socially, particularly in the evening due to public lighting; economically as a result of business development activities, the return of the youth to the village etc.

The change in living conditions after the implementation of the mini-grids was fundamental, as expressed by Adengra Moîs Kouadio, from Kapé village:

‘Life before electricity is not comparable with life today. We used to be blind, now we can see’.

Let the machines do the work!

An innovative project in Benin to help rural citizens with laborious agricultural tasks was successfully implemented due to an effective way of selecting capable operators as well as the use of locally produced equipment. ”SETUP: Services Energétiques et Techniques à Usage Productif au Bénin” aimed to solve a practical problem. The processing of agricultural products has traditionally been performed with hard physical labor, mostly performed by women. One example is the task of molding corn for daily meals which requires much effort from women in rural areas of Benin. This project installed 26 multifunctional platforms. Each platform consists of a building with a large room where an engine powers agro-processing equipment, such as a corn mill and an oil press. Neighboring farmers can bring their produce, pay a fee for using the machines, and efficiently let the machine do the work previously performed with physical labor. To find the right people to operate the platforms, the project organized a grand competition in cooperation with the local municipalities in order to select the best associations and private entrepreneurs. In addition, much equipment was produced by local artisans. This has made it much easier for local technicians to handle repairs afterwards. Five years after the platforms were installed, most are still in use. The clever setup, with the availability of local technicians to handle repairs and qualified operators, has resulted in a sustainable project where operators have seen new opportunities and expanded their businesses, farmers have gained vital access to expensive machinery, and the burden of some physical labor has been lifted off the shoulders of rural women.

The ACP-EU Energy Facility’s suport to innovation led to greater things


The EU Energy Facility funded project ”Catalysing modern energy service delivery to marginal communities in Southern Africa” started in 2008 with the aim to improve access to modern energy services and renewable technologies in rural areas of Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. In Malawi, this was the first step to exploiting the large energy potential that is available from the water sources on Mount Mulanje.

The specific project in Malawi took place in the Mulanje district, an area in the southern part of Malawi known for its fertile soil and beautiful mountains. The topography of Mulanje, highly suitable for hydropower due to its many streams and rivers, inspired Practical Action to develop a model for a community-managed hydropower scheme for the community of Bondo. Based on the pilot phase that was supported by the ACP-EU Energy Facility, Practical Action and the local community of Bondo realized that the sustainability of the scheme was at risk due to the lack of technical and professional capacity in the local community and to the low demand profile of households included in the first phase.

To overcome this, the project was expanded in scope to provide access to more households performing a variety of social and economic activities. Today, the Mulanje Electricity Generation Agency (MEGA) is non-profit social enterprise with the goal of being financially sustainable while offering affordable energy to rural costumers as widely as possible. MEGA sold the first units of electricity in January 2016 and have supported business customers in making use of the electricity and accessing finance. Close coordination between with the purpose-organised Village Electricity Committee and tribal chiefs helps guide and prioritise investments, and promotes a sense of ownership in the community. In its current phase, the project will bring clean, renewable energy to:

  • 1 health centre serving a population of over 22,000 people
  • 4 schools serving at least 1,500 students as well as enabling evening classes for adult learning
  • 3,000 people in 600 households with direct connections to the mini-grids
  • business and private initiatives (currently 32 customers with various income generating activities)

The MEGA that is now in place has been successful due to the lessons learned from the initial innovative phase supported by the ACP-EU Energy Facility. The approach adopted was to bring renewable energy to the local people and to empower through skills development to manage the provision of energy to their communities. MEGA now has the capacity to forecast needs and plan for them, manage the finances of the scheme, oversee operations and maintenance, and monitor consumption.

Thanks to the initial support to this innovative project provided by the ACP-EU Energy Facility and the continued commitment of The Scottish Government, the Global Environment Facility, DfID Practical Action at not least the local communities, approximately 20,000 people are benefiting from access to renewable energy in the Mulanje region.  For more information about MEGA, please visit