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Tanzania: church turns energy supplier

An Anglican diocese in Tanzania is helping its congregation get access to clean energy – after predictions showed they could have been left in the dark for at least another decade.

The Diocese of Rift Valley, based in central Tanzania, is working with the Christian international development charity Tearfund to provide solar panels in the village of Sasajila. The decision to help local people invest in solar panels was made after the diocese noticed an increase in the number of admissions for burns injuries at the local hospital it runs.

Tearfund Tanzania Country Representative Justin Nyamoga said: “People were coming to the hospital with horrific burns caused by the kerosene lamps they were forced to use just so they could have some light at night. It was then that the diocese and Tearfund decided to scale up savings groups and loans for the locals so they could afford to buy solar panels.”

More than 200 solar panel packs are now in use in Sasajila alone, bringing clean electricity to thousands of people. The panels can power interior lights, radios and charge mobile phones.

Under the default approach by governments and development banks like the World Bank, villages like this one could be left without any access to electricity beyond the year 2030. Tearfund has been calling on the World Bank to stop spending money on fossil fuels and instead use the money to support renewable energy like solar panels to reach the poorest and remote areas much quicker.

Nyamoga added: “If the World Bank does not significantly increase its spending on off-grid renewables to the recommended 70% of energy access funding, millions will be left behind without electricity and business opportunities. Under business as usual, over 670 million people will still be without electricity in 2030, mostly in Africa.

“This is about more than just having solar-powered light at night. The people I work with here in Tanzania are able to open a small business, send their children to school and start to find their way out of poverty.”

Gabriel Musa, 32 (pictured right), now has solar panels on his house after joining a self help savings group. He said: “Before joining the group, I was living a difficult life. But then I was able to get solar. So for me I do appreciate those people who brought this project to our community.

“Solar is good because it gives light and the other thing with it is that I’m able to charge my phone, so for security purposes that’s another advantage of having the solar panel. It’s also good for my small business where I buy and sell goats and cows.”

Main photo: A local from Sasajila installs a solar panel on his roof. Photo: Tearfund/ Toby Lewis Thomas

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