Solar energy is the key to development in rural Congo. There are no power grids to provide electricity. And gasoline and diesel used to generate electricity are too expensive for it to be sustainable.
Congo Helping Hands was established to improve the quality of life for rural poor Congolese. We chose to work in the areas of education, health, and development. Frankly, development activities were delayed due to its complexity. Also, it was more convenient to assist and support an existing education system and health system.
But the time has come to jump into community development in the rural villages in central Congo. Every time we look to or propose a project, the lack of electricity is limiting factor. Electricity enables community development. Also, it enables and extends health and education, too.
Our reference hospital uses some solar energy. But primarily, it relies upon diesel-generated electricity out of necessity. The installed solar electric systems are generally used for lighting only. The solar energy is not stored or used to power equipment.
In the past year, we have looked at the successes of the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF). "For the past 20 years, the Solar Electric Light Fund has worked to deliver solar power to rural villages in Africa, Asia, and Latin America by facilitating a new generation of “whole village” solar electrification projects." I concur with their belief, 'energy is a human right.' SELF’s Solar Integrated Development Maturity Model is their 5-level framework for understanding how energy poverty can be tackled at the local level, sustainably, one village at a time. The five levels include water, food, health, education, and enterprise.
Starting next year (2011), Congo Helping Hands plans to implement its Congo Water Project Download Congo Water Project - Flyer - June 2010. The center piece of the project is the establishment of a rural water company. Solar energy will be critical to power planned water wells for drinking, domestic and agricultural use.
In the future, solar energy projects will improve the hospital and clinics use of solar energy. Finally, solar energy is being considered as part of the Vinyl School Project . The project will construct semi-permanent classrooms made out of used vinyl billboards.