How two villages in Kirehe built own hydro power plant

There is possibly no better way in reference to current Rwanda to explain the expressions; “Thinking Big” and “Living Together” than referring to the residents of Kabuye and Rudandi villages in Mpanga sector, Kirehe District.
The Nyankorogoma Pico Hydro plant under construction. Courtesy photos.
The Nyankorogoma Pico Hydro plant under construction. Courtesy photos.

There is possibly no better way in reference to current Rwanda to explain the expressions; “Thinking Big” and “Living Together” than referring to the residents of Kabuye and Rudandi villages in Mpanga sector, Kirehe District. 

In the valley of Kabuye and Rudandi hills, a relatively small Nyankorogoma River would often times flood whenever it rained, making the low-lying Nyawera cell a bed of floods – causing mudslides and destroying crops.

To counter this challenge, an idea of building a Pico plant was introduced by Energy 4 Impact – a Britain-based organisation that is behind the Scaling up Off Grid Energy in Rwanda (SOGER) programme, with Nyankorogoma Pico Hydro plant, residents of Kabuga and Rudandi villages.

Fast forward; KABDRU Ltd, an acronym for Kabuye and Rudandi villages, together with a private investor, Israel Habimana, who hails from the same area, put their resources together, and Energy for Impact managed to solicit a grant from Swedish International Development Agency. The result; Nyankorogoma Pico Hydro project was birthed. 

The launch of construction work for the 11KW Nyankorogoma Pico Hydro plant was held this week, and the plant is projected to supply power to 145 households, 19 businesses and several other institutions of Kabuye and Rudandi villages.

“This is a community-based project; It is as a result of a company born out of a community co-operative from residents of Kabuga and Rudandi (in Mpanga sector) – the very people who are going to be served by this hydro project,” said Victor Hakuzwumuremyi, the in-charge of the project at Energy4Impact.

According to Hakuzwumuremyi, the project is a brainchild of the “challenges this areas faced. We thought about making good use of Nyankorogoma River to bring to people what they dearly needed.”

The project is worth $85000 (about Rwf70 million), and it expected to impact small local businesses like grain milling, carpentry and barber shops, among others, consequently leading to socio-economic transformation of the area.

The plant is expected to be operational by June, and by July, the residents of Kabuga and Rudandi should be connected to power for the first time in their history.

“Residents of these ears had no access to electricity, yet their economic activities depended mostly on power. They could hardly charge their phones, while grain milling has been difficult with most of them using diesel which is in itself hazardous,” Hakuzwumuremyi told Sunday Times.

The Swedish agency is financing 70 per cent of the entire project’s budget, with residents of the two villages contributing 7 percent, while the partnering local investor, Habimana, is contributing 10 per cent of the total cost of the Pico plant. The remaining 13 per cent of the cost will be a loan from an undisclosed financier.

Once plant starts running residents will continue to make some small monetary contribution to run the project, but smaller than what other people pay for electricity bills, according to Hakuzwumuremyi.

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Gertrude Shirumutete, a resident of Mpanga sector, told Sunday Times that with access to electricity, the rest of activities leading to economic transformation have been made easy.

“Currently, the only people with access to electricity are only those that are able to buy solar panels and those are the people who charge phones. Charging a phone costs Rwf100, but because I charge many times in a month I lose a lot of money that would have helped me cater for another important activity,” she said.

Edward Bangambiki “Kazungu”, a resident of Mpanga sector and a stakeholder in KABDRU Ltd, envisions more economic activities with the birth of Nyankorogoma Pico Hydro project.

He says residents used to travel long distances to charge phones, and because their area is hilly and remote, they never expected to get connected to central grid in the near future. 

“This electricity will certainly empower us in so many ways; grain milling, in barber shops and lighting our homes. I would call this a turning point for our area and we expect a lot of business to evolve around this power project. 

“I thank Habimana and the leadership that thought about this partnership, as well as Energy4Impact and SIDA, that made this collaboration possible. This is a great initiative that will transform our area and our lives,” Bangambiki said.

At the launch of the construction works, the mayor of Kirehe, Gerald Muzungu, commended the residents of the two villages for pulling resources to foster development in their area.

“One of the most important components of development and eradicating poverty is working together. You don’t have to have a lot of money to make big things happen. Dedication, working together for a common interest can make big things happen. Bringing limited resources together will even encourage big financiers to fund your big projects and that is what we learn from this hydro projects. It best explains our Government’s development approach, which is to encourage people to participate in solving their own problems,” Muzungu said.

Several home-grown solutions such as Gacaca, NdiUmunyarwanda, Umushyikirano and Umumwiherero, are some of those that are often credited for helping to bounce back from the ruins of 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi to be where it is today.

This Nyankorogoma Pico Hydro project, Muzungu says, “challenges us all to look at how we can work together to find other home-grown solutions to the challenges we are faced with in our area and country as a whole”.

He commended the residents of Kabuga and Rudandi cells who partnered with Energy for Impact and SIDA other stakeholders to make the project possible.

This is one of the 30 Pico hydro projects being supported under the SOGER programme implemented by KABDRU Ltd.

Energy4Impact started implementing the Scaling up Off Grid Energy in Rwanda (SOGER) programme – a three-year programme – in July 2016, under the grant from the Swedish Embassy in Kigali with the objective of contributing to the development of sustained off-grid renewable energy market in Rwanda.

The project is to support private sector to deliver access to energy to 77,500 people in rural areas, in a way that is inclusive of people living in poverty and as means to drive economic development by creating nearly 7000 jobs.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

 

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