How electricity has improved the welfare of Kirehe residents

Deogratius Kayinamura mills cassava, soja, maize and sorghum. He says that electrification has increased working hours. All photos by Frederic Byumvuhore.

Residents of Kirehe District are more optimistic of the future than previously, after seeing some of the remotest areas of the district connected to electricity.

According to residents’ accounts, the development has improved living conditions in terms of stimulating off-farm activities, entrepreneurial projects as well as benefiting school-going children.

It is now two months since the residents of Kigina Sector were connected to the national grid.

Clement Rushingabigwi, the manager of REG branch in Kirehe District, cautioned the residents against fraud and illegal activities.

 Deogratius Kayinamura owns and operating a grain milling machine at Nyagasozi trading centre in Kigina Sector.

He mills cassava, soya beans, maize and sorghum.

According to him, access to electricity has doubled his earnings.

“Before we got electricity, I used a generator which was so expensive to maintain. A lot of money was spent on fuel. Also, I would spend much in case the machine got a technical problem that required changing some parts,” Kayinamura said.

He noted that he barely broke even and often times operated on losses but, today, he earns at least Rwf4,000 per week in profit, adding that electricity has also eased his work as well as led to increase in working hours.

“The number of people has increased because the machine can mill huge quantities of grain. My business has also been improving my welfare. Business is good for me and in the near future I will buy land,” he said.

Jean Marie Vianney Mazimpaka whose three children are in school, with one set to sit for Primary Leaving Examinations, said that with electricity, his children have more time to revise their studies.

“We have light in our homes that enables us to do domestic work effectively. Before, it was hard for us to do anything after dusk. We struggled with candles during the night and sometimes spent nights in darkness because we could not afford candles,” he said.

Martin Nduwumwami has started a saloon. He started saving and plans to start more projects.

Also, residents would have to make long distances to other trading centres to access services as simple as charging their phones.

“Now I use my phone to listen to radio unlike in the past where I had to sparingly use batteries for lack of where to charge them from”, he said.

Martin Nduwumwami who has started a saloon in the same trading centre plans to save for the future as well as prepare a wedding, courtesy to a steady income he is now getting from his new venture.

“I was involved in farming but the production was just not enough for me to plan a good future; it was basically subsistence.

“When we were connected to electricity, I decided to start my own saloon since I already had the skills to shave,” he said, adding that he can now save, which was never the case before.

From his daily earnings of Rwf3000, Nduwumwami wants to buy a plot and build a house.

“My business helps me to cater for basic needs. I can earn Rwf3,000 per day. Since I am still a youth, I want to achieve more in the future. I want to get married. I started saving on my mobile money accounts as the easiest way for me. My dreams are to establish other projects,” he added.

Clement Rushingabigwi, the manager of Rwanda Energy Group, Kirehe branch, says that the development has changed the lives of beneficiaries, adding that, last year, a total of 6,043 were connected against the target of 5,544 households.

“Kirehe branch is new because initially this area was served by the branch in Ngoma District. So, in the process to scale up our presence in all districts, Kirehe branch was born in 2015,” he explained.

Jean Marie Vianney Mazimpaka said that electicity helps his children to revise their studies.

In the ongoing effort to reach the target of connecting all households in Rwanda by 2024, the percentage of access to electricity in Kirehe District today stands at 30 per cent.

For Rushingabigwi, the percentage of connections will soon significantly go up, owing to the different partners who have come together to offer on and off-grid energy solutions across the district.

All twelve sectors of the district can access the grid.

He encouraged the beneficiaries to make use of the electricity to sustain their self-reliance, adding that there are so many activities one can do to not only generate income but also employ other citizens.

He also cautioned them against fraud and illegal activities.

He said that, so far, three people have been caught in illegal activities during which they were masquerading as REG staff to con unsuspecting residents.

“Residents should be vigilant and alert us about such people. They should let us know in case of technical support. Anyone who will come to them and ask for money for any service, they should know that is not our staff because our staff are not supposed to charge money,” he said, adding that the ways through which their services are paid for are laid out and known to the public.

During the 2018/2019 fiscal year, REG targets to connect 6,291 households across the district.

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