By Robert Manyara MIGORI
(Xinhua) -- Hot sunny days can cause an
economic havoc to the Kenyan fisher folks at Lake Victoria, the
largest fishing waters in East Africa shared among Kenya, Uganda and
With too much heat, fish rot so quickly if they
are not preserved or reach the consumer as soon as they harvested.
But this all-year round sunlight is turning out to be a solution
to their preservation problems: solar energy.
With the help of four development oriented partners, fishing
communities at Muhuru Bay, a stretched out section of the larger
Lake Victoria lying on Migori County in Western Kenya have access to
a solar micro-grid distributing the energy they need to power deep
To set up the 2 kW micro-grid, a British charity, Renewable World
partnered with Osienala and Family Support Community based
Initiatives (Fascia), both non-governmental organizations and an
energy technologies’ provider firm, Access Energy which has so far
been rebranded SteamaCo.
Lake Victoria covers four counties in the lakeside region mainly
Kisumu, Homabay, Siaya and Migori, providing a main source of
livelihood and water to hundreds of locals.
"This area (Muhuru Bay) is not covered with electricity and so we
have no means of refrigerating fish," said Lucas Odhiambo, a
beneficiary of the solar power.
"We now have deep freezers using the solar and we are happy we
can preserve our fish without much worry," Odhiambo told Xinhua on
Ngore Renewable Energy and Auxiliary Project (REAP) runs the grid
which includes connecting the power to new customers and accounting
for its use.
Odhiambo, also the chairperson of REAP said more than 1,000
people are beneficiaries of the grid, saving them from long journeys
of searching for electricity connected shops to charge their phones.
The fishermen are equally happy to have the micro-grid since they
can comfortably charge their newly acquired solar lamps at a lower
cost than paraffin refills.
"It is not just expensive to use paraffin but also dangerous as
it can fall and burn someone unlike solar lamps," said Odhiambo.
"Fishermen need four lamps for fishing at night and each paraffin
lamp has to be filled with paraffin worth 2 U.S. dollars.
"These days you only need 0.50 dollars to charge each of the four
solar lamps," he added.
Charles Wantaro, who manages the Muhuru Bay’s micro-grid, said
subscribers pay 20 dollars to be connected, more than seven times of
what the State utility distribution firm charges for tapping into
the national grid.
"The connection fee is manageable for the locals and they can use
the solar to do business like charging phones or powering public
address systems," he said.
Those already connected are charged 1.4 dollars kilowatt per
hour, Wantaro said.
For these communities on the shores of Lake Victoria, connection
to solar energy is a platform to improving lives while for the
government it is a step towards enhancing attainment of universal
access and utilization of clean energy, a target it hopes to reach
Production of solar energy in Kenya is still small, presently at
less than one percent of the total power generated but the
government is encouraging initiatives such as Muhuru Bay’s to
increase the output.
Peter Mireri, project officer with Osienala, one of Renewable
World’s partners said the solar power has expanded the economic
opportunities of the locals.
"Lives have changed here.
"The fishermen can afford a smile since they are now able to
store fish while they scout for a profitable market," Mireri said.
"There are people who are currently managing various businesses
courtesy of solar power.
"In the end their economic status will improve and they will live
better lives," he added.