A shining example

In a village in southern Tanzania, just four extra hours of light a day is leading to significant social and economic gains in the local community, and is changing lives.

A mini-grid, set up by ABB, has allowed small businesses to grow, the health clinic and school to remain open after dark, and has improved the standard of living for many in the village. Those four additional hours of light per night allow businesses to remain open longer, children to study more at school, and patients to receive treatment at the clinic.

After teaming up with local authorities and global conservation organization WWF, ABB set up a mini-grid powered by a diesel generator. As well as installing the generator, underground cables and low-voltage equipment, ABB trained local people to run the power supply. WWF provided guidance on issues ranging from reducing deforestation to healthcare and environmental education.

Up until a few years ago, when the sun went down in Ngarambe, businesses would close for the day and families would turn to kerosene and wood for lighting and cooking – expensive and unhealthy options.

The advent of electricity generated new business. An electricity-driven sawmill opened, providing employment for 30 people and a sunflower and sesame press, which can operate after dark, is increasing the incomes of small farmers.

Electricity was initially sold at a highly subsidized rate with local users deciding with the authorities what price they could afford to pay. The plan was that as the economic benefits of having power became tangible over time, electricity prices would be raised correspondingly to match incomes and eventually resemble the market rate. Currently, this goal has not yet been reached, mainly as a result of drought and recession. Nonetheless, clear social and economic progress has been made.

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