Tanzania: Solar panels power milling business (Trust)

| May 9, 2016

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Samwel Nyakalege’s business has recently got a big boost—from the sun.

The 33-year-old owns a mill in Bwisya village, on Lake Victoria’s Ukara Island, and is benefiting from a solar power project. Mr. Nyakalege’s mill grinds millet, maize, rice, and beans. But the high cost of fuel for his diesel generator made it difficult to turn a profit.

Mr. Nyakalege explains, “I used to buy a litre of diesel for up to 3,000 Tanzanian shillings [about $1.40 US], and I needed at least 50 litres every week to run the generator. My business could hardly grow.”

But with the support of JUMEME, business is looking brighter. JUMEME is a rural power supply company that receives government support. The company is bringing solar power to many of the residents and businesses on Ukara Island.

With solar power, Mr. Nyakalege can now operate his three milling machines simultaneously. His customer base has grown to 600 a day, and he employs three people to help him.

He says, “Solar power is a blessing to us, as we can now serve more customers quicker and [more] efficiently.”

He adds, “I don’t spend a penny to buy diesel. My motors work very efficiently using solar electricity.”

The increased business means greater income for the married father of four. He now earns an average of 400,000 Tanzanian shillings a day (about $180 US), compared to less than 100,000 Tanzanian shillings (about $45 US) previously.

Before solar power, it was expensive to operate a business on Ukara because the island is not connected to the electrical grid. Farmers who couldn’t afford diesel-powered milling services often ground their cassava and maize by hand.

JUMEME plans to bring reliable solar-powered electricity to nearly 2,000 households and more than 200 businesses in Ukara, and up to one million rural Tanzanians by 2022.

A hybrid power station in Bwisya features solar power and a bank of batteries to support 250 customers. By the end of 2016, all the villages on Ukara will be connected to this mini-grid. Customers pay the installation charges in installments and pre-pay for power.

Hamisi Bujeje is excited about the new power source, which will allow his carpentry business to turn a profit. The 30-year-old helped his father build canoes and dhows as a boy, but has struggled with the business he started in 2011.

He explains: “My business has not been doing very well because of lack of power. I was incurring huge operational costs. I used to travel 29 kilometres to the nearest island of Nansio to access electricity and have some items fixed.”

But now, with cheaper power, Mr. Bujeje can expand his business.

To read the full story on which this article is based, Solar panels power business surge – not just lights, go to: http://news.trust.org/item/20160419141012-rf3lx

Photo credit: TRF/Kizito Makoye