In rural Africa, most villages are still without electricity. One of them is the village of Mphaphati in the Manzini region in the landlocked Southern African kingdom of Swaziland. The nearest electricity line is more than five kilometers away from the community, and there are no plans to extend it. In cooperation with a number of government agencies including the Ministries of Education and Natural Resources and Energy, in 1998 UNESCO selected Mphaphati for the Solar Village project. Piet Nkosi is from the Renewable Energy Office:
The Solar Village was a concept of UNESCO. They are the ones who funded the project and they asked the ministry to choose a school that would benefit from solar power.
Through batteries charged by the solar panels, there's enough power to light all classrooms of the primary school in the village for several hours a day. Teachers are also able to use audiovisual equipment in their classroom instruction. The panels also provide enough power to light the school surroundings, to discourage break-ins and vandalism. The teachers' lounge and living quarters are also supplied with electricity. And modern communications are now easy to use. The availability of solar power made it possible for the only shop in the village to install a solar-powered pay phone. This important communication service is a blessing for the local community. The community vegetable garden is another beneficiary of the solar power. For years, irrigation water had to be carried from the river to the plots. It's hard and time-consuming work. A water pump run by power generated by solar panels now pumps water from the river to a storage tank above the garden. The constant availability of irrigation water has increased the garden's yield. Members of the community are pleased with the results says Regina Hleta, chairman of the group.
With the availability of water, we are able to cultivate more. Now we have a few more vegetables at home to eat and sell the surplus.
To avoid theft and vandalism to the solar panels, the group is being provided with a portable system. The panels have to be dismantled and reinstalled when they're used. Providing basic electricity requirements to rural areas is a step in the right direction for sustainable rural development in one of the poorest countries in Africa. With continued assistance from the international community, Swaziland hopes to improve the standard of living of its rural population. This report was prepared by Kamil Taha for the United Nations.