Partnership Revives a Power Plant in Chitunga, Mozambique
It’s very early in the morning and Alima is moving quietly within her family’s hut, searching for her sandals. She is planning to slip outside to meet her female cousins. Together, they will collect water from a stream located two kilometers away from their village.
Alima, age 19, married at 15 and now has three children under the age of five. She dreamed of attending college and becoming a computer scientist. Sadly, Alima’s formal education ended when she was 12 because her local school had no bathroom facilities for girls. During her daily walks, Alima imagines a better life for her children.
Today, more than 663 million people lack access to clean water, a figure that threatens to continue rising as the world’s population grows from 7.3 billion to a projected 8.5 billion by 2030. The picture is even more extensive in the case of energy poverty, where over a billion people still do not have electricity.
Moving forward, tri-sector partnerships that bring together corporations, civil society organizations such as NGOs and nonprofits, and national, state, and local governments have the potential to ensure access to clean water, renewable energy resources, and educational opportunities for all. These partnerships represent a fundamental strategy to satisfy basic daily needs for our growing global population.
In 2015, the United Nations delivered a call to transform our world by the year 2030 by issuing 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Targets associated with each SDG provide a roadmap that specifies how to achieve the Goal. For example, SDG 7 aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all. The first target for Goal 7 states, “By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services.”
The SDGs are gradually being addressed through innovative tri-sector arrangements that pool resources to achieve a greater impact for all participating stakeholders. These endeavors are made possible through employee engagement, civil society collaboration, and government interaction with grassroots projects, which lead to sustainable community development. The SDG framework has been instrumental to catalyze actions and propel results.
The SDG framework has been instrumental to catalyze actions and propel results.
From the perspective of private sector companies, proactively targeting one or multiple SDGs supports local economic development. These actions communicate to shareholders, investors, funders, and philanthropists that corporations want to help people rise out of the marginalized communities that perpetuate a cycle of poverty.
In 2015, Bentley Systems, a US-based software company with offices in 50 countries, partnered with United Kingdom based Voluntary Service Overseas, International (VSO) to fund the refurbishment of a Micro Hydro Renewable Energy Power Plant in the village of Chitunga, Mozambique. Through Bentley Systems’ employee engagement program, 488 of its employees pledged their Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) employee benefit grant, totaling $86,000, to help fund the project. For its part, VSO provided a subsidy through its Africa Strategic Fund and obtained additional funding from Guernsey Overseas Aid Commission to make possible its successful implementation.
With the financing in place, a feasibility study conducted by local NGO Associacão Kwaedza Simukai Manica and local engineering firm Resiliência Mozambique Lda. determined the necessary improvements to revive the defunct power plant, including electricity demand requirements, a pricing strategy, and the appropriate community contribution to achieve local buy-in. As the project implementation commenced, VSO’s in-country staff, in conjunction with the collaborating partners, oversaw its management.
The power plant became operational in 2016, two years after the project began, with ownership and management directed by two local organizations. Unidade Técnica de Gestão (UTG) conducts the management and oversight of daily operations with five paid staff who are responsible for connecting households and businesses to the electrical grid, collecting monthly fees, and providing maintenance to the system. Comité Comunitário de Gestão (CCG) directs community ownership and governance through a nine-member committee comprised of residents, the local authority, and the UTG manager.
Chitunga’s population of over 6,000 residents now has access to an affordable and reliable supply of electricity. The power plant provides the village with a renewable energy source, aligns with Mozambique’s clean energy policy, and replaces environmentally damaging fuel sources such as wood, charcoal, and gas. Because of this project, power flows to 100 households, 37 small businesses, a school, a clinic, a community energy center with electrical outlets, and the local cell phone tower.
Direct benefits for the community are numerous. The local school expanded its hours of operation, allowing for evening classes to boost literacy rates. Likewise, the “Tea Room” food service operated by the women’s association has extended evening hours, putting more women to work. The Chitunga health clinic’s maternity ward, which used flashlights for illumination less than a year ago, finally has modern lighting. In a country where 70 percent of people have cell phones but only 21 percent have regular access to an energy supply for charging, resident are also now able to charge their phones to communicate and access information.
Because of the power plant, a water pump located at the stream Alima would walk to now pumps water across two kilometers to a spigot in the town center. Alima now has the time, energy, and opportunity to attend evening classes at the local school to continue her high school studies. Her aspirations to secure an IT certification through online classes are within reach.
Leveraging the strengths of diverse stakeholders, partnerships such as this make it possible to alleviate poverty in its various forms. Fortunately, examples of innovative collaboration are on the rise. For Chitunga residents, standards of living have been elevated thanks to the collaboration related to SDG 17, the global call for more cross-sector partnerships to advance sustainable development. In each case, a vibrant and growing community reaches new economic milestones by working together towards a common goal. Let the light shine upon all the good work resulting from tri-sector partnerships.
*The fictional story of Alima reflects the daily life of many adolescent girls living in Mozambique.
Feature photo courtesy of Stig Nygaard.