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Zambia Experimenting with Renewable Energy Technology

A project in Southern Africa is helping promote the use of renewable energy sources. It’s called INSABA -- The Integrated Southern Africa Business Advisory and is funded by a German NGO called IN-Went. Voice of America's Kaunda Danstan reports from Lusaka, Zambia, that the Integrated Southern Africa Business Advisory project (INSABA) is being implemented in Zambia, Botswana and South Africa. It aims to improve the use of renewable energy technologies from the sun, wind, water and biomass – that is, materials including animal wastes that can be used to produce energy.

The project is expected to help reduce energy needs in southern Africa, whose growing economies are putting a strain on electrical grids. It’s also expected to reduce the cost of power in the region.

Neinz Bohnke is a spokesman for IN-WENT. He says,"We are taking responsibility for our environment, and renewable energy is playing a very strong role because we do not have any other choice in the long-run. All our fossil fuels are being exploited. We have to develop a long-term vision and renewable energy is the only vision we have."

Professor Francis Yamba, is the Director of the Center of Energy and Environment at the University of Zambia. He says, "The main objective of the project is to strengthen the main energy players in the sector namely [small to medium scale] energy entrepreneurs, farming communities, suppliers of renewable energy technologies and system designs."

The professor says the project is designed to increase the use of renewable energy, like solar power -- in this case PV (photovoltaic) or a thermal (heat) application. Yamba adds the term "micro hydro" and "biomass" which includes animal waste as well as other materials.

Yamba says in a country like Zambia, where only 3 or 4 percent of the rural community has electricity, renewable energy technology can be important as a source of power to the mostly small- scale farmers.

INSABA also offers technical training for those wanting to work with small and medium
enterprises. And, it’s working to identify marketable goods and services that can use renewable energy. For example, it encourages food venders to use wood efficient stoves. It also includes makers of clothing and shoes to use solar powered sewing machines.

In sub-Sahara Africa, over 80 percent of the people living in rural areas have no access to water-generated electricity. Currently, the majority of students in rural schools rely on oil lamps and candles to do their assignments in the evenings. The project using solar energy will light up over 40 rural schools in
southern Africa.

It's also teaching farmers in Kabwe in Zambia’s Central Province how to use photovoltaic panels using solar energy to power generators for irrigation. He says, "a lot of the local farmers are hard working, but are limited by the amount of water supplied by the rainy season, so we are working with some institutions to provide irrigation waters, through the use of wind mills or photovoltaic systems."

The project has been on-going since 2005; it comes to an end this year. Currently, it's generated over 120 jobs for people who now produce marketable renewable energy technologies, goods and services.