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East AfricaRwanda

How Rwanda’s Village Farmer Built a Hydropower Plant with no Formal Education

Story Highlights

  • Bizimungu Claver's Story
  • How He Built the Hydropower Plant
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Africa Facts Zone presents Rwanda’s Village Farmer who built a hydropower plant with no formal education.

The Muhanga district in Rwanda is a remote, mountainous parcel of eastern Africa where not having electricity from the grid is a norm. The district has been dependant on diesel generators for years.

More than 50 families in one village now have access to electricity, thanks to a man who has no formal education, Bizimungu Claver.

Claver created the hydropower plant from scratch, harnessing the energy through a natural waterfall then using wires from scrap metal to electrify his village in the Rwandan mountains.

Bizimungu Claver’s Story

Given an opportunity, Claver Bizimungu would have probably chosen the path many travel: education.

The 47-year-old says during his time when growing up, it was a norm for children to follow their parent’s ways of life, which is what he did.

“If a man was a cattle keeper, most likely his children will become cattle keepers. The chances of parents taking their kids to school were minimal and so I found myself missing the opportunity of stepping in a class,” he says.

The father of two said that as a result, he became a farmer just like his parents, which he says has seen him miss out on many opportunities that came along his way.

Claver says neither he can barely read nor write. However, he says six years ago, he decided to turn things around and start an initiative that he believes was a solution to people around his area.

Also Read: Rwanda to Build Africa’s First ‘Silicon Valley’ 

How He Built the Hydropower Plant

After paying a visit to Ngororero District Western Province Rwanda, Claver said he came back with a new skill that he says was a life changer.

In Ngororero, he said, he observed how people (experts) were using the Hydropower plant to generate electricity for some people.

Claver realized the same gap in his area which is in the high plateaus of Rongi sector in Muhanga District, he decided to apply what he had observed.

“I started with my own home and after it came out successfully, I decided to extend it to others as well,” he says.

He says there was no electricity in the region and they had little hopes for getting support from the utility provider.

After getting the required materials from Kigali for the hydropower plant, with minimal knowledge, he set out to create a mini waterfall on a stream in his home area.

“I, therefore, decided to divert the waters of the Gifurwe River, by digging 47 meters [about 150 feet] in a hill to create a steep place that could allow high volume waters down to a power generator I put in this brick forged house,” he said, pointing to his creation.

His neighbors were skeptical of the man who has never seen the inside of a classroom. “Most of them told me it is impossible, as they knew my background, but after proving them wrong I started charging them 1,000 Rwandan francs [$1 US], which I used to buy spare parts in case of damage,” he said.

The Gifurwe River flows in the rolling mountains of the Rongi sector, where it cascades over a natural waterfall.

Claver redirected the flow through pipes he laid in a steep tunnel, powering a generator powerful enough to serve customers 4 kilometers away [roughly 2.5 miles] in the adjacent Nyagasozi sector.

He created what is called a hydraulic turbine which converts the energy of flowing water into mechanical energy by the use of a hydroelectric generator which converts this mechanical energy into electricity; therefore managing to make electricity from flowing water.

In general, hydropower plant generate electricity using the energy from flowing water, called ‘linear kinetic energy’, and energy from pressure, called ‘pressure potential energy.

The water flow may be natural in an existing waterway, created by what is referred to as a water cycle or hydrologic cycle.

The project is at a capacity to provide 12 Kilowatts per hour. To date, more than 40 homes connected to electricity, which according to him is a huge step in changing the livelihood of people in the community.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, he had reached out to 60 homes.

Each family that is connected to electricity pays only Rwf 1000 per month for all the services they get from Claver’s electricity initiative.

He explains that he has set a low price to ensure affordability in his local community.

Since he started the project, apart from helping the community, he has as well developed as an individual.

He has managed to build a house for his family from the proceeds of the project as well as purchased a small piece of land that he anticipates using for agricultural activities.

Claver said the hydropower plant has the capacity to produce 15 kilowatts, but he believes only about 40% of that power reaches town.

He blames makeshift transmission wires he forged from scrap. If he can upgrade that wiring, he said, twice as many people could upgrade their daily lives.

Also Read :Tutsi & Hutu People of Rwanda and Burundi: Origin, Facts & Conflicts

Testimonials

Tugirimana Jean is a firm believer of Claver’s hydropower plant. He sells groceries, cooking oil, rice, sugar and other goods in a small store. “If someone shifts from using a torch [flashlight] with dry cells to using a light bulb, they can light the outside, turn on a TV or listen to music on the radio, all of which makes us happy,” said Jean.

“Before being connected to hydropower plant, we used petrol lamps, but now I just press the wall switch and light my house nowadays by 7 p.m. or 8 p.m., so my children can do their schoolwork,” said Niyitegeka Mark, a father of three.

Mark’s three-room house is powered by Clave’s invention. He’s also a pastor. When he plugged in his church he stopped traveling long distances to charge batteries.

Challenges

Claver cited challenges such as lightning strikes and heavy rains, which often destroy his electric cables installation.

“My cables are not of good quality because I lack the finance to afford the ones that are durable. Most of the ones I use are not resistant to such natural calamities,” he said.

He also attributed some of the challenges to the fact that he doesn’t have any knowledge in this specific area, which to some extent limits him to do greater things.

Claver however noted that at this stage, any training, and facilitation will help make bigger changes to his community as he believes this will enhance his thinking capability to help solve emerging problems as far as what he does is concerned.

His future plans he says is to be able to connect at least 300 households in the shortest time possible, if he gets the support needed to manage his major challenges.

Conclusion

Only 52% of Rwanda’s 12 million people have electricity, either on-grid or off-grid, according to data from the country’s Ministry of Infrastructure.

The World Bank has lined up billions in public and private funding for subsidized solar projects in remote areas, which will bring more than 400,000 Rwandans into the 21st century.

The Government of Rwanda is planning on connecting every rwandese to power by 2024.

 

Credit Source: The New Times

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