THE Rural Electrification Fund (REF) is continuing with its efforts to provide alternative energy in rural areas having electrified more than 9 800 public institutions across the country since its inception in 2002.
In an interview at the just ended 60th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, REF marketing and public relations executive Mr Johannes Nyamayedenga said: “We have made meaningful progress in the provision of energy in the rural areas. I can safely say we have managed to extend the grid to more than 9 800 public institutions countrywide and these include schools, hospitals, clinics, Government extension offices, chiefs’ homesteads and villages.
“The institutions, which we have electrified are now enjoying a new lease of life in the sense that if it’s a school, students now have access to computers just like their counterparts in urban areas, they are able to use the Internet for studying.”
As at March 31, 2019 the electrification agency had recorded 9 806 institutions. Primary schools electrified totalled 2 697, secondary schools (1 358), rural health centres (874), Government extension offices (411), chieftainships (244), solar (21), solar mini-grid (422), biogas (75), business centres (951), small-scale farms (774), villages (1 175), and others (803).
Work in progress projects totalled 334.
“At hospitals or rural health centres I can safely say the environment has greatly improved unlike in the past when expecting mothers especially those about to give birth in the evening, were asked to bring their own lighting but now that there is electricity at their clinics, everything is done in a professional way.
“Let me tell you that once we extend the grid to a public institution, we hand it over to ZETDC, then the beneficiaries are expected to raise money for internal wiring or tubing, or for payment of connection fees to ZETDC but now REF board has made a decision to ensure that as an entity once electricity reaches that school, we light the administration block, science and computer laboratories then we require teachers to raise money for lighting their own houses,” he said.
This, Mr Nyamayedenga said, has made work much easier for rural communities because many of them were not able to raise money and payment of connection fees to ZETDC.
As a result the beneficiaries were not benefiting from most of completed projects. Government through an Act of Parliament established the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), which changed its name to REF a few years ago as part of efforts to spearhead the electrification programme in rural areas.
“As REF we are into grid electricity but we have managed to diversify to exploit other renewable energy technologies. We are into biogas energy and also solar energy.
“We are saying by 2030 every household in the village, every school or public institution in Zimbabwe must have access to one form of energy,” he said.