How a local organisation is lighting up remote villages in Siaya

Magoya Power Generating plant in Ugunja. The locals came up with their own electricity after failing to meet the exorbitant costs of getting it.

Photo credit: Kassim Adinasi | Nation Media Group.

A local organisation in Siaya is lighting up villages in a trend-setting venture that could see remote parts of the county benefit from cheaper electricity.

The Magoya Konjra Hareka community-based organisation in Ugunja has helped provide electricity to its members who were unable to finance connections by Kenya Power.

Most of the members come from three villages: Magoya, Konjra and Hareka. They are widows who previously depended on kerosene lamps for lighting and firewood for domestic energy.

The group has transformed the village by supplying clean energy from a 35kW mini-hydropower generating plant established on the River Nzoia a few months ago.

They used Sh12.3 million they received from the United States Africa Development Foundation (USADAF) to purchase and install a 35kW turbine unit.

They also bought a 23kW solar panel meant to guarantee constant power flow during scheduled maintenance or unforeseen hitches in production.

Ms Monica Omondi, 47, is a member of the group and one of the beneficiaries of the investment that has attracted the attention of stakeholders and other potential investors.

“This is a dream come true. Getting electricity was a nightmare before. I did not know that one day I would have electricity in my house. My children can now study and do their homework without any problem,” said Ms Omondi, a widow and a mother of five.

Can connect 300 households

The power plant is linked to a 5000 KVA transformer designed to reach 300 households, though it currently supplies only 125 homes, most of them headed by widows who live below the poverty line.

“Compared to the other solar lamps and electricity, our power is way better because there are no frequent blackouts. Our streets are well lit at night, thus improving security, which was terrible before,” Ms Omondi added.

She went on: “Our markets and trading centres are well lit at night and people do business until very late. This is an achievement not only for our community but also the entire county of Siaya. We look forward to having a bigger turbine that will increase the area of coverage.”

To get connected, members of the community only have to meet the cost of wiring their houses and pay low monthly maintenance fees.

Extensive use of kerosene lamps and firewood exposes people to the risk of developing eye cataracts and tuberculosis, said Dr Ishmael Abbas, an eye specialist in the region.

“Clean energy is recommended at all times because the fine particles from the kerosene lamps and firewood like carbon monoxide, nitric oxide and sulphur oxides are harmful to humans,” he said.

Siaya Governor James Orengo said similar projects should be started in other parts of the county.

“This is a unique project. We are going to enter into agreements that will change the lives of people in our county. Together we can achieve greater things, and this is possible,” Mr Orengo said.