UNDP helps to set up solar villages in Benin
Until recently, the villages of Hon and Koussoukpa, like many others, (100 kilometers from Cotonou, Benin’s economic capital) got their light from oil lamps and candles, suffering all the damage to health and the environment. The darkness also emphasized the sense of danger and rural isolation.
Today, solar energy supplies 308 households in Hon and Koussoukpa. It is easy for residents to light their homes, charge their mobile telephones and even access educational community television .
The project is the result of a partnership between UNDP, the Association béninoise pour l’éveil et le développement, the Global Environment Facility’s microfinance programme and Barefoot College, an NGO. UNDP plans to expand the initiative to a number of villages in Benin, creating rural electrification centers using solar energy or renewable energy sources.
In a few days Koussoukpa will enjoy full solar electricity coverage when another 500 hundred households get solar energy. To ensure that the initiative is continued and equipment maintained, training will be provided to students and local tradespeople.
There are also plans to create a research and development centre for solar electricity technology in partnership with the University of Abomey Calavi in Cotonou.
In Koussoukpa, each subscriber pays a monthly fee of 1,500 CFA francs (US$3.50). The subscription is managed by a committee responsible for operating the network and for maintaining and replacing equipment (solar panels, batteries, etc.)
In Hon, two residents, Julienne Loko and Azouassi Togbé, have been trained to install and maintain the solar network. After a six-month stint in India, they now know how to install and maintain solar panels. They work on an almost full-time basis in the electronic workshops built for the villages.
In Benin, despite the enormous potential for development of solar energy, rural electricity coverage still stands at just 3 percent. Given the high cost of linking up to the conventional electricity, photovoltaic solar energy is one of the most realistic technological alternatives available to isolated areas.
Furthermore, global electrical energy coverage has increased from 25.7 percent in 2006 to 27.9 percent in 2008 and should reach 40.09 percent in 2011, according to Government projections.