ArsoAmba is a village located 230 km far from Addis Ababa in North Shoa Zone, Amhara Regional State. It has an estimated population of 5000 people. However, the community, by virtue of its location, has limited access to basic infrastructure, such as roads, water and electricity.
The Solar Energy Foundation (SEF) is an International NGO established in Germany in 2005 and registered in Ethiopia in 2007. The objective of the foundation is to create access to renewable energy for rural households in Ethiopia. Since its registration, it signed different project agreements with regional and federal bureaus. So far, it disseminated over 30,000 different sized solar lighting systems and trained and employed 64 staff in the foundation’s training centre. The foundation has also provided several trainings to officials from different energy bureaus’ staff, microfinance institution groups, and others.
In 2014, the foundation signed a project agreement with Amhara Regional State to electrify one village per year, and ArsoAmba was the first village selected for this project. The beneficiary had to contribute 25% of the material cost, while the foundation covered 75%. The project began to operate in September 2014 and ended in May 2015. For targeted 800 households, 712 solar lighting systems where installed on credit instalment and cash payment bases and each system comprised 4 lamps, a mobile charging system and radio use options. Other partners engaged in this project were The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) through the DFID- TERI Clean Energy Project, in partnership with HoA-REC&N in Ethiopia.
ArsoAmba’s dwellers are now using the solar lights in their homes in various ways. Before they purchased the solar lights, their main sources of lighting were kerosene lamps and burning firewood. The laborious task of sourcing firewood is assigned to women and girls in the community. In the case of kerosene, the current high costs, coupled with the low light intensity; smoke fumes and smell made it less attractive for communities. Most residents of the village own mobile phones, but have no power supply to charge their phones. As a result, they had to send their phones to the nearest electrified village and pay a fee to charge them.
Mrs. Memo Masresha, 38, a resident of ArsoAmba, has four children. She says her household is much happier today since installing the solar home system in their home. She had had many problems before because of “kuraz”- a device that burns kerosene in a bottle. “Our house was unsecured,” she said, “Many houses burnt down in this village, even kids died because of fire set from the “kuraz” or burning firewood.” Her health was also at risk, as she had to walk a very long distance to fetch water.
Mrs. Memo’s daughters also had to collect firewood several times a week, so they could hardly go to school regularly and concentrate on their studies. But now, she and her children have cleaner and better lighting at home. “Our kids can study in the evening and also help us in our daily activities. We don’t worry about the dangers posed by fire. No additional costs from purchasing kerosene, and its bad smells do not affect us,” said Mrs. Memo.
Mrs. Memo also added that these days she is able to spend more time with the family in the evenings. “When our kids got sick in the dark, it was very difficult to find our Kuraz and the matchsticks. But today we just switch on the solar light in case of emergency,” she said.
Today, shop owners in ArsoAmba could manage to extend their opening hours to 10 pm. However, before the installation of the solar lights, they had to close their shops immediately after sunset. But now they earn more income because they are open later.
Besides, the foundation also equipped health clinics in ArsoAmba with a solar cooling system that allows pharmacists to store medicines for emergency cases. Since its inception in Ethiopia, SEF has successfully installed 2,400 solar home systems in Rema on an initial aid bases; 5400 systems in 15 rural villages in 4 major regions namely: Amhara, Oromiya, SNNPR and Tigray. As a result, the Foundation has replaced 7,800 kerosene lamps with solar lighting systems. In doing so, it has contributed to the reduction of carbon emission. It also established a Solar Valley Campus, which hosts the first International Solar Energy School in Ethiopia, the foundation’s offices, and a solar assembling plant.
Samson Tsegaye is CEO of STM Solar Technologies Manufacturing (Addis Ababa) and Country Director of Stiftung Solarenergie Ethiopia.