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Renewable Energy - Solar Energy

Over 6million Zimbabweans have no access to the electricity grid, over 83% of rural households rely on traditional biomass for cooking and over 70% rely on paraffin for lighting. Traditional biomass sources have detrimental impacts on health, gender and income poverty in Zimbabwe. On average rural households spend US$26 per month on lighting, communication and entertainment.

 Solar Power systems are, due to their modular nature, uniquely suited to addressing the energy needs of decentralised population distribution patterns prevalent in rural areas. However the cost of the systems represents a fairly large up-front investment for the rural poor. In the absence of tailor made financing instruments and the availability of products with good quality standards and local technical back up these products will remain out of reach to the bulk of the rural poor. Most solar companies have refrained from entering the rural market due to perceived high risk and transaction costs.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) are targeting to train 360 rural and peri-urban youth based in solar technologies and business skills. 70 percent of the youth to be trained will be females. This will increase the participation of females in a sector where they are currently significantly under represented. The objective is to have at least 288 of the trained youth generating income from conducting solar related business. The project will take place in Mutasa, Mutare, Gokwe South, Nkayi, Gwanda, Mount Darwin, Mutoko, Hurungwe, Harare peri-urban and Bulawayo peri-urban. In addition to proving training in solar technologies to the youth, the project will also offer business skills training and facilitate networking platforms between established solar companies and the trained youth. The networking sessions will provide a platform for the companies to select trained youth who would be engaged as marketing agents for the companies in rural areas after receiving additional trainings from the companies.

 The Rural Youth Solar Training Project will equip the youth with the skills they will need to create income generating activities in the solar market value chain. The youth who are to be trained do not need to have had any previous exposure to solar technologies. The idea is to train youth including those from very disadvantaged areas and provide them with an opportunity to earn sustainable income dealing in solar. The selected districts are in the process of identifying the youth for the project and ensuring the buy in into the project by the provincial and district structures. A project roll out plan has been agreed to by SNV and Ministry of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment officials.

A local university that will offer technical training has already been identified and a training contract has been signed. The university has developed training materials which will focus on providing practical skills to the youth tailored to enable them to utilise the acquired knowledge to engage in income generating pursuits. A number of solar companies have expressed their willingness to engage the youth as marketing agents and installers in rural areas as this would significantly increase their presence and sales in new markets in a very cost effective manner. To date up to ten companies are waiting for the youth to undergo the training before engaging them. One company is considering working with the youth to set up a technopark that will assemble solar lanterns for the local market. In addition to the training solar technologies and business skills and to linking the youth to established solar companies, the project will also provide hands on support by assisting the youth in negotiating with partners, preparing proposals where they need to apply for financing from financial institution and creating platforms for peer review processes where they will be able to share experiences and inspire each other to succeed in their chosen career options.

In addition to creating green jobs in the country, the project will also help address the energy challenge issues in the country and the resultant negative impact they are having on the economy. The country is facing a severe energy crisis with less than 5 percent of the households in the rural areas having access to modern forms of energy. This project will present huge income generating opportunities for the youth in the sector as their skills will be in huge demand. The acquired skills will address two of the main barriers to the uptake of solar technologies in rural areas which are the shortage of information on the technologies and the lack of expertise to carry out quality installations, repairs and maintenance and troubleshooting.