UNDP, ECN projects rekindle hope for renewable energy in rural areas
EUNICE Samson, who is 18, journeyed home after her first semester last month with a newly hatched plan. She would feign sickness to avoid going to fetch firewood, which is a daily routine in Zhiko Village.
The mother was taken aback as the daughter showed no sign of ill health. She stared at her shell-shocked for five seconds, and then she started laughing. “My dear daughter, don’t worry, God has answered our prayers,” she said as she led her to the kitchen, where a cement baked cook stove with a protruding pipe to remove smoke from the fire place was constructed. “We now fetch fire wood once a week, the cook stove takes three sticks of firewood instead of eight.
We longer shed tears or experience pains in our eyes while cooking our food. The cook stoves even burn faster than the conventional ones,” Mrs. Emani Samson said. “I was like, oh, we will still go to the stream to fetch water, the suffering continues,” she said.
But the mother read her mind, “No my daughter, the government has also given us pipe borne water. We now drink clean water. Days of trekking several kilometers to the stream are all over.
Thanks to some good hearted people.” Eunice and the mother are part of several households in Tokulo, Zhiko, Sunape, Yaupe and Goipe of Bwari Local Government Area, who recently befitted from the Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN) Rural Energy Access project, undertaken with the financial support of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The project comes under the United Nations fledging Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) scheme, which is targeted at expanding access to modern energy services, and reorienting majority of the population that is heavily dependent on the traditional solid fuels -wood, crop residues – for cooking and local kerosene lamps for lighting.
The Director General, ECN, Prof. Eli Bala, told a team of media personnel, recently, “We have been UNDP’s focal point for sustainable energy development in Nigeria and this particular project really is to provide some basic amenities to the rural communities around the FCT that will change their lives styles, improve on their standard of living.
Unfortunately, these rural communities are not grid-connected and even those, which are grid-connected; supply is epileptic and not regular to sustain a good standard of living.
Fortunately, these areas are endowed with some energy sources within their own communities and these are referred to as renewable energy, like the sun, wind and the biomass that are available to them within the area.
He continued, “Deliveries were done in the night without electricity and of course this is injurious to health and dangerous to our mothers and sisters.”
Currently, over 65 per cent of the energy utilised in the country is for cooking and derived from biomass, which necessitates deforestation.
The ECN director general disclosed that the outfit’s challenge was the sustenance of the project due to under funding by the Federal Government. He therefore, called on government to support its drive towards providing alternative energy to rural communities, expand and undertake the maintenance of the projects.
Under the project, ECN installed 400 clay-based cook stoves and trained local potters on the production, 400 solar home systems for lighting and mobile phone charging in every household; equipped two primary health centres with solar PVC for the provision of electricity, designed and installed solar powered water supply with 10,000 litres storage tank in the five communities as well as installed 14 solar street lights.
Silas Jagaba, a Junior Community Health Extension Worker (JCHEW), who operates the health centre at Tokulo, said that before the hospital was provided with power and a fridge, he used lantern or torchlight to attend to patients at night – which were usually emergency cases such as delivery of a baby.
He said: “It wasn’t a pleasant experience and the situation didn’t allow us to give our best. Also, we used to store our drugs in Bwari or Abuja. It takes about two hours to get to Bwari and it is usually a difficult and expensive journey because the roads are bad. Sometimes, the delay in getting the vaccines to Tokulo reduces the potency of the drugs.
Chief of Zhiko, Bulus Wakil, who expressed happiness over the gesture, noted that the lights, cook stove, borehole were given to them free of charge. He appealed for the grading and construction of the road linking the community to Bwari and Kubwa. He said a committee has been set up to ensure that the facilities are well maintained.