SOLAR ENERGY: RENEWABLE HOPE, RENEWABLE SECURE LIVELIHOODS
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. ~George Bernard Shaw
Most renewable energy comes either directly or indirectly from the sun. Sunlight, or solar energy, can be used directly for heating and lighting homes and other buildings, for generating electricity, and for hot water heating, solar cooling, and a variety of commercial and industrial uses. Fossil fuels are non-renewable, that is, they draw on finite resources that will eventually dwindle, becoming too expensive or too environmentally damaging to retrieve. In contrast, renewable energy resources-such as wind and solar energy-are constantly replenished and will never run out.
Climate change is of the utmost importance today. Even while we stress about a struggling global economy and rising energy costs, the rapid onset of climate change and global warming threatens our very livelihood. Undoubtedly, at this point our only option is to move away from greenhouse-gas-emitting fossil fuels and into clean, renewable energy sources.
Three years ago renewable energy and secure livelihoods were jargons used by the most educated academicians according to my perception and stereotype. I avoided anyone who spoke NGO Tongue because it will unveil my ignorance and little knowledge leading to my bruised ego, I felt safe watching from a distance and being a very harsh critique. Now am in the pond and I feel more knowledgeable and have enough diplomatic answers for critiques
Namibia is a desert country with lots and lots of sunshine; Khorixas is the hottest town I have lived for two years. The communities there are poor and at times not able to cook food for two days due to lack of money to buy paraffin or electricity. In addition to that harvesting of dead firewood is punishable by law unless you get a license from the DOF (Directorate of Forestry). The yellow bulb lit on me one sunny day in January 2010 while sitting in my tin-roofed house. I was literally cooking inside this shelter that was to protect me from natural external forces(Sunshine, heat wave, rain, hot and cold winds, sand storms, scorpions and the list is endless).
I went outside to catch some fresh air, the second house on my left side is inhabited by an old grandmother with more than 10 grandchildren, and she was just sitting outside her house staring at space, the cooking space cold with ashes that hot coals went out ages and inside the house no electricity. “Matisa Ouma? Are you ok?” I asked, she responded in Afrikaans which is Greek to me. One of her grand children came to translate. They had slept hungry for two days and this day will be the third due to lack of any form of energy to cook. Pity clouded my thoughts, went back to my house and goggled for donors supporting solar projects in Africa. Alas! They were numerous, hope transcended in me that from all the requests I had sent at least I will get responses the following day. I was wrong, it took four months for one response to come through which was shaky from one Dr. Deli Saavedra from Sol Soldari Spain. His e-mail read “We would like to partner with Welwitschia Development Trust in solar related projects, unfortunately we rely on donations too and partners who produce the solar equipments, I have not received any response from the few proposals I wrote………..i will keep you posted in case anything comes up”. Questions ran in my mind, haven’t people in developed countries heard of Namibia where the Namib Desert is? How do solar manufacturers not know of Namibia? This is the country they should test their inventions practically to know if they are long term or short term products.
Late August was a month of reckoning; Dr. Deli got a response from one Mr. John Grandinetti founder of Developing Solar World –Hawaii and inventor of enough solar cooker technologies for the past thirty years. He sent a questionnaire for needs analysis. Light at the end of a dark tunnel was what became a reality to WDT as an institution geared towards sustainable development and building capacities for the rural poor. After a lot of research, paper work, e-mails, calls, creating new relationships with Ministries I never thought of working with, I became a guru in logistics. I came to know of shipping lines terms and the feeling was magnificent, not just for me but for the rural poor of Khorixas. Yes this time my Ouma in the location will not starve to death with her grandchildren.
Fast forward November, 2010 from Hongkong China a 40’ container with 124 units of solar cooker equipments was in high seas destined to Namibia of all places Khorixas…….Yaay. These are donations from people I have never met but took a leap of faith and invested millions of dollars for these communities. Travel arrangements from both Hawaii and Barcelona were made. Despite Snow blizzards in New York, terrible floods in Spain, these wonderful people flew more than 20 hours to come to Namibia to meet the deserving beneficiaries in Khorixas Constituency.
“Welwitschia Development Trust welcomes you to this auspicious occasion today for the launching of Khorixas Solar Cooker Project” echoed Mr. Tjombe’s Voice to the crowd. The faces of the attendees were full of joy and renewed hope for a sustained renewable secure livelihood venture. Newly elected councilors, mayor and his deputy, political parties, churches and Traditional leaders were all present to witness this new phase of technology in their town. Damara songs were the in thing that day and everyone was walking on cloud nine. A demonstration was done and Voila! The blazing solar cooker bakes, boils and barbeques. One lady from the crowd shouted, “I will borrow from my neighbor who is a beneficiary to cook food at auctions for sale to the people” that was an enterprising statement. What am I trying to say in simple terms?
BENEFITS OF SOLAR COOKERS:
Brings people together: sharing of these units with others strengthens peace and friendships
Income Generating: baking, braais for the people and selling creates financial freedom for members
Healthy living: the days of getting heart conditions due to smoke from firewood coals are being reduced
Environmental safety: Climate change is being tackled by less carbon emissions to the air
Security: Women who walk long distances for firewood are vulnerable to evils such as rape, wild animal attacks; this is reduced since they will be at home
Job creation: these units have created jobs and training for the selected technicians who will visit their areas of distribution to attend to any technical issues arising from the beneficiaries.
Fighting Hunger: three days of uncooked meals due to lack of energy are being cut down.
There is no conclusion……this is just the beginning a Luta continua in fighting poverty with renewable energy. My appreciation goes out to
VSO: Creating an enabling environment for me to share my skills and change lives
WDT: Giving me an opportunity to explore internationally for new projects
DSW: Inventing this technology and bringing it to Khorixas, Namibia as a pilot site
Sol Soldari: For making it a reality, partnering with us and implementing the project and offering technical assistance.
Hon. Sebastiaan! Gobs: The support for new projects to come into the constituency and logistical arrangements for easy distribution of the units to areas out of town.
Fellow Volunteers: Making a difference in places far away from home.