Solar energy saves time, money and creates opportunities for income generation in Mozambique
Mozambique / Freedom for Equality / 13 apr 2018
Only 24% of the population of Mozambique have access to electricity. This falls to only 6% in rural areas. Increased access to electricity improves education, health, comfort, protection, and productivity. It simplifies daily household tasks, such as cooking and cleaning, creating more time for education and work. It also increases security after dark, and elongates the time available for studying, working or leisure. Building the infrastructure needed to provide electricity from Mozambique’s national grid to rural areas is difficult and expensive. Luckily there is another way to generate electricity that is transportable, cheap and environmentally friendly.
Lojas de Energia is an initiative created by entrepreneur Gilda Monjane who identified of a gap of access to reliable electricity in certain rural areas of Mozambique. Lojas de Energia facilitates access to solar energy in these communities. The initiative aims to take affordable, reliable and clean energy sources closer to marginalised people living in off grid areas. It helps to reduce the particular difficulties that people, particularly women, living in rural areas face in their daily life. So far, they have trained and helped 42 entrepreneurs (30 women and 12 men) to set up ‘energy selling points’ or small energy shops. The energy shops sell solar home systems, which provide energy for lighting, charging phones and other electrical items. They also sell energy saving light bulbs and some sell solar refrigerators. The initiative, in addition to facilitating access to electricity to members of the community, offers employment for women that used to perform unpaid jobs. Their main objective is to offer more lighting hours for households, schoolchildren and businesses, decrease sexual assaults to women and contribute to improved nutrition through households saving money on kerosene.
Moamba District, Maputo is one of the many communities that felt the benefits of solar energy. Maguaza, the chief of the locality, described the widespread change. “Today we no longer use oil lamps or candles to light our homes at night. It has helped many families". With the solar panels, the community can recharge mobile phones and computers, allowing children and teenagers to continue education for longer. As one student Agostinho, who is now taking a distance-learning course, said, "Before it was impossible to think about taking a distance course, even to study was difficult at night”. Families remember times when they felt forced to use firewood during the night to light up inside the house, which put their health at risk due to smoke inhalation. Others spoke of the danger of houses burning down from using candles or homemade lamps. Although they have to contribute some money to buy the solar panels, most residents reasoned that the initial investment was worth making, because the battery panel could last up to more than six years and then be renewed.
By providing access to cheap, clean and reliable energy, Lojas de Energia has improved the lives of multiple communities. Women in particular have felt the benefits, as their burden of housework and firewood collection has been lessened. Many livelihood opportunities have also been created for the women and men who now run “energy shops” across Mozambique. In recognition of their achievements, Lojas de Energia has won several awards for sustainable development and breaking gender inequality. It is incredible what a difference a simple light can make to spark hope across a community.