Saturday, August 27, 2011
In northern Ghana, 10 horsepower helps to fight poverty
Amadu Mahama has spent the last 20 years trying to bring modern energy services to his native village of Tamale in northern Ghana. Due to a lack of energy resources, most people in Mahama's village used to do all their work manually, and female children have often had to stay home from school to help grind and process grains by hand.
It is estimated that in Ghana's rural areas, only 17 percent of the population is connected to the national electricity grid.
In 2005, however, conditions began to improve after local non-governmental organisations, supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), introduced a three-year pilot project to improve energy access in rural Ghana.
The project, known as the Multi-Functional Platforms (MFPs) programme, aims to alleviate poverty and empower women in Ghana's rural villages by providing each community with a 10 horsepower, diesel-fueled engine to generate reliable electricity.
The engines, which cost about US$5,000, are easy to operate and can be maintained locally.
Most importantly, the engines they have multiple uses. Each one is mounted on a chassis to which a variety of processing equipment, such as a cassava grater or an oil press, can be attached.
The engines can also charge batteries, power a water pump, and light up to 200 lightbulbs.
For residents of the five districts where Mahama works, the platform engines have been a godsend.
“There is a direct connection between energy and poverty”, said Mahama. “Many women have seen their income go up from $30 to $120 a month because of the increase in agricultural production”.
Charles Kitindo, a 49-year-old farmer from the Nanumba North District, never thought it would be possible to cultivate commercial crops. He and his two wives used to work constantly just to keep their farm afloat.
But after having a well-functioning engine installed in their house, life became easier for Kitindo and his family. They increased their income and now have more food on hand, since they can process grain at home without having to travel to processing mills. Kitindo and his wives are also better able to care for their 12 children, seven of whom attend school.
According to the national statistical services, Ghana’s poverty rate has declined from 51.7 per cent in 1992 to 28.5 per cent in 2006. The proportion of people living in extreme poverty has also been reduced by half, falling from 36 percent in 1992 to 18 percent in 2006.