University of Fort Hare and the Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform give light and energy to rural communities
The University of Fort Hare and the Eastern Cape Provincial Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform are involved in a Renewable Energy Project, which involves the supply and installation of 100 Solar Home Systems and 28 biogas digesters at Dangershoek and Nomlengane villages on the border between South Africa and Lesotho, and also at Krwakrwa village in Alice.
The department made available funding to the tune of R5million for the project, so far an amount of R3million has been transferred to the University and tremendous progress has been made at the project sites. The biogas digesters part is an ongoing project funded by the National Department of Energy (DoE) through their subsidiary, the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI), DoE made available funding to the tune of R3, 740,000 for the initiative. The project is meant to provide a total of 110 biogas digesters in the rural areas of the Eastern Cape with special reference to villages around the University of Fort Hare, Alice campus. So far a total of 100 solar home lighting systems have been installed in houses at Dangershoek and Nomlengane villages. More than 20 biogas digesters have been constructed at Melani village, Frances Daycare centre, Sompondo Daycare centre, Lovedale daycare centre as well as Krwakrwa village.
The MEC for the Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, honourable Mlibo Qoboshiyane launched the Solar Energy project in Dangershoek on 05 October 2016. In his speech he said that the people of Dangershoek and Nomlengane village will see light now that government has arrived to take care of their needs. The Project Leader Professor Sampson Mamphweli from the Fort Hare Institute of Technology also thanked the MEC and the department for the collaborative efforts in the project. The community members who delivered messages on behalf of the community during the project launch expressed their happiness with one saying he stayed in Dangershoek for more than 50 years but he has never seen a situation where government and the University decided to assist the community. He further indicated that he was not entirely convinced that the project will continue even after Professor Mamphweli visited the area with the departmental delegation to introduce the project. The school learners at Dangershoek and Nomlengane are also excited about the project because they now have clear bright light for reading at night.
The biogas digesters are also replacing firewood that is normally burnt in open fires producing smoke that exposes particularly women and children to health risks. The digesters convert animal dung into biogas that burns in a clean manner. The biogas is a source of renewable energy. The second phase of the project launch will take place at Krwakrwa village in May 2017. The MEC for Rural Development and the University of Fort Hare Vice Chancellor will lead the launch with the ignition of biogas at one of the beneficiary’s houses. The project employs a total of 25 young people who are trained on the installation/construction and maintenance of biogas digesters as well as installation and operation of solar home lighting systems.
The Director of the Fort Hare Institute of Technology, Professor Edson Meyer said: This is one of our community engagement projects in which we take our technologies from pure research to public benefit initiatives. This is our way of immediately improving the quality of life, sustainably so, for the majority of people who do not have access to conventional energy services, without compromising on the quality and sustainability of these renewable energy services.