Tsere lamba – solar for trees initiative
MAIGOBO sub-district (Hawzen) – in Geralta
The first 100% kerosene and indoor smoke free zone in rural Tigray / Ethiopia
Follow-up Report # 5 - September 2016
A ) Gheralta pictures:
B) Field activities, problems and practical solutions:
As usual, this brief report follows my post dated 27 May, 2016 on Talk Energy Ethiopia ( TEA – Ethiopiahttps://www.facebook.com/groups/TEA.ethiopia/), relative proposal of “Picking the right products/solutions for energy poverty” in pictures, and Report # 4 – Dec. 2015 . (Please view below post and illustrative pictures):-
It is indeed a pleasure to note that this year’s Ethiopian Meskel festivity (27 Sept.2016) marked exactly two years from the start of this small project. By now, in particular, the triangular combination where solar lighting, improved cookstoves and trees’ planting form the basis of our solar for trees initiative, as planned from the very outset in the MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the villagers in Maigobo.
At this stage, having almost realized what was intended in about two years , additional support shall be made to ensure impacts take deep root and last long.
Accordingly, I spent the entire month of July and August right in the project area to follow up the overall and actual situation.
Current major activities include:
- Planting of trees in and around every household (about 700) in Maigobo.
1. As planned before and attempted with no success last rainy season, July-September, this time we managed to procure and distribute a total of 18200 seedlings. Most came from seedling centers in Howzen and Koraro. Distributed seedlings include (local names) : 1 orange, 2 avocado, 3 zeitun, 3 ghesho, 5 neem tree, 2 Dire-Dawa tree, 5 eucalyptus, 5 “Granville” tree. Total 26 seedlings for each household. “Beles” cactus shall be also planted around every house, to make sure no “Agame village” should be left without it, as per tradition.
Fortunately, we have now reached the optimal situation of the intended objective of the “solar for trees” initiative to practically benefit all villagers at household level.
As concerned villagers in Maigobo are quite happy to work hard for the sustainability of this initiative, having tested the multiple benefits of solar lanterns and charcoal saving cookstoves for about 2 years, sustained assistance and follow up will go on until, it is hoped, fruits will be seen forming part of their diversified diet, eventually selling the surplus, in due course.
2. On the other hand, the search for the much sought after apple-mango seedlings will go on wherever possible. We tried hard in Adiha, Tembien, Woukro and Mekelle, but failed in this season. Nevertheless, more suitable seedlings (like casimiroa etc...) will be provided for free in the coming years.
3. Unfortunately, access to adequate level of water (clean or not) remain a major practical problem in the area where, in good parts, the daily ration is only 25 liters per family. No wonder then that searching for water takes a lot of women’s (young and old) efforts and time. Another serious problem are the numerous goats who constitute a real menace for whatever is or looks green.
4. On this occasion, I have also noted the surprising enthusiasm and involvement of most women and children, in particular, in the village who already understand what it all means for them – no longer kerosene fumes at night - and have practical interest in planting and taking care of their respective share of seedlings. Thus, just to encourage the kids, 1000 pens and 1000 exercise books were given to the local administration for fair distribution. More will go their way as long as they will make sure plants grow in and around their homes.
5. Now that we have established the scope of our work, and made some practical efforts to convince and encourage local villagers to do their utmost in this connection, attention and actions shall be directed to make sure the desired sustainability is attained in the coming years, with visible impacts that can be measured accordingly.
So far our assistance has been general and covering every household. No doubt some individuals will move and improve faster than others, but of course those who fail won’t have nobody else to blame. Boozing (sewa and beer) and wasting time and meager resources playing pool, billiard (kerembola) the whole day (exclusively by men) add additional misery to poor families.
- Replacing damaged solar lanterns
1. We collected and replaced some damaged solar lanterns as carried out on previous occasions. This time No. 30 D.light S2 and No. 3 S20 were replaced by the dealer in Hawzen, while No. 25 S2 lanterns were brought back to the distributor in Addis Ababa, as we have been promised a positive consideration recognizing the very harsh environment and extreme level of poverty where they are being used.
Now, it may be helpful to remember that D.light products are designed to withstand extreme conditions, like when they are tested having a car running over an S2 or dropping an S20 from the third floor. Clearly, the rough handling of such products by unsophisticated villagers - net of intentional mischief - need to be understood and tolerated. The vast majority here are enjoying great satisfaction, in any case.
2. We must add here that, once again, getting replacements from the dealer in Hawzen (Mai Hafti) has been extremely long and frustrating, for unnecessary bureaucratic and unclear motives. In fact, increasingly, many frustrated and discouraged customers/villagers prefer not to waste their time trying. Gladly, the prompt intervention of the Head Administrator of Woreda Hawzen in addition to D.light’s distributor in Addis solved the issue, which had no reason to be complicated in the first place.
Fact is that the prompt and easy replacement of products covered by legal guarantee is a serious problem to solve everywhere, making sure after sales service is equally serious and real. No point in blaming the poor villagers/customers for the poor after sales services.
3. However troublesome, as of today we have managed to replace No. 151 (98+9+19+25) S2 lanterns and No.3 S20. Thus our factual recorded failure rate is more than 10 % over just 2 years (of expected life span of 5 years). Clearly well above ‘insignificant’ theoretical failure rates being trumpeted around by many. Not to forget that we are dealing here with one (or the) best quality certified brand.
C) Lessons learned (or reconfirmed on the ground) :
1. Stay the course even under negative pressures and difficulties.
Local villagers teach us how to withstand difficulties, strive to survive and overcome every sort of hardship for long, often with little or inadequate outside assistance. When some sort of useful assistance comes their way they make things easy by cooperating to the full.
2. Consistent assistance is critical, rather than one time sales or donations
As a matter of fact, too many well intentioned projects failed here, making no difference on the long run. Thus, real and fair after-sales services or assistance are necessary as a remedy. Poor villagers should not be blamed for incompetence of suppliers, distributers or dishonest administrators. At this level of extreme poverty, falling back to square one is a risk to be avoided all along.
3. Solar for trees works fine in combination
Once villagers establish what is best for them, and their surrounding world, they strive and work hard to change their lives with opportunities coming their way. The combination of such an opportunity to have both solar lighting, improved cookstoves and planting trees (fruits and other), has been welcome and worth “fighting for” (kinekaless ina) as one local elder just put it, knowing full well the water scarcity around there.
4. Actual utilization of products and services matter most.
Providing (free or not) or selling certain product is one thing. Actual consistent use is another (example: most useless biogas facilities here). As much as access to various products/services is necessary, their appropriate, consistent and actual utilization is what changes life conditions. Providing mere numbers (often cooked to deceive) is the easiest part. Maybe an independent and honest RCT (randomized controlled trial) will do. Real and sustained impacts over a fairly long span of time are what we value most over here.
Therefore, actual progress is quite encouraging, making it worth pushing ahead, simply because …..…… it works!
Salvatore Chester (Addis Ababa, 28.09.2016) Tsere lamba – solar energy (initiative)
Attachments: - Pictures of current field activities in Maigobo