In Zimbabwe, residents of Chihota - about 50
kilometers southeast of Harare - have expressed concern about authorities'
seeming lack of interest in establishing solar energy projects in their area.
They say politicians should avoid making empty promises while campaigning.
Instead, the residents want office-bearers to work with them to resolve the energy
crisis. Voice of America English to Africa Service reporter Safari Njema
visited the area and says Chihota is one of the
country's districts hardest hit by deforestation and environmental
degradation. Only a few indigenous
trees remain, while the vegetation includes mostly scattered thorn bushes and
short grass. Erosion has set in and gulleys dot the landscape.
Residents now travel long distances to resettled
farms to fetch firewood; others use cow dung for cooking. Cutting down trees,
including indigenous species, incurs heavy penalties. But locals avoid fines by
felling trees under the cover of darkness.
Thirty-two-year-old Sandra Tunha from Materera
village says locals are aware the area's threatened by desertification. The
mother of two says politicians have focused on flimsy issues rather than
tackling more serious issues like solar energy. She says she's convinced officials believe rural communities
don't have the capacity to contribute to the national energy debate. She says "They must provide us with solar
panels rather than lie to us. I think we can use solar, since in Africa we have
got a lot of sunshine. We can use that sun as an alternative rather than lying
to us telling us about other political issues."
Seventy-two-year old Dasbom Chadya is a retired
school teacher from Samuriwo. He says
rural residents obtain information on solar-powered energy when they travel to
towns, adding they're aware it can transform their lives. Dasbom -- who
now grows tomatoes and other vegetables for sale in Chitungwiza – explains many
can no longer afford paraffin or candles.
School children -- who still need to do their
homework and prepare for exams – are affected too. Dasbom says while it's a blessing the government hosted the World
Solar Summit in the 1980s authorities should be working more closely with
residents to explore ways of harnessing this resource, "We
once had some solar summits and all that and we look forward to the government,
the private sector and non-governmental organizations to come together as a
nation to find out how best we can use solar instead of electricity."
Forty-four-year-old Gilbert Teburu is a vegetable
grower in the area. The father of three
says he's heard solar energy is clean technology which requires low
maintenance. He feels government should work with residents to help implement
solar energy sources in rural households. Teburu argues future generations are
under serious threat if the current rate of deforestation continues.
Chemist Gondo sells groceries from his home in
Chipitiri. Although he's managed to put up solar panels at his homestead, most
of his neighbors cannot afford to buy either the panels or batteries which
cross border traders bring here from South Africa. He concurs the only way is
for government, the private sector, NGOs and beneficiaries to work together to
develop a cost-effective method of providing such infrastructure.
the energy and power development ministry acknowledges more needs to be done.
It says between 1993 and 1998 it received financial support from the Global
Environmental Facility, to distribute solar lighting systems. The Ministry says
this resulted in the installation of 9-thousand solar home systems in rural
households and institutions.