JIMMY CHIBUYE – Chavuma
â€œNO more buying of batteries and solar panels as was the case before. We are already celebrating our 50 years jubilee and why wait for October 24thâ€
These were the words of Chief Sanjongo of the Luvale people of Chavuma when the Rural Electrification Authority (REA) launched the K3, 724, 601. 63 Lukokwe-Sanjongo grid extension project.
Two other grid extension projects were launched namely the Chivombo-Kamusamba rural electrification (K1.5 million) and the Kambuya project (K8, 990, 056. 086).
The traditional leaderâ€™s words reflect not only his excitement but sentiments of many people living in rural Zambia who have not had access to electricity.
The benefits of electricity are immeasurable and critical to both the development of the economy and improvement ofÂ education level of in any given country.
Studies have shown that rural electrification significantly improves the quality of life for many people living in rural places.
The World Bank notes in a 2008 report titled, â€œWelfare Impact of Rural Electrification: A Reassessment of the Costs and Benefits,â€ thatÂ lighting alone brings benefits such as increased study time and improved study environment for school children, extended hours for small businesses, and greater security.
The reasons and benefits of rural electrification as noted by the World Bank explain the excitement Chief Sanjongo exhibited when REA connected the rural place to electricity.
Chivombo Basic School and the rural health centre in Kalombo area, Kamusamba Basic School, Kakoma area, Kakanga Community School and residential areas are some of the beneficiaries.
Other places are Lukolwe mission, K-Village, Chambi, Mavili and Mandalo Primary School. Kambuya Basic School, Chief Sefuâ€™s palace, shops and Kambuya rural health centre also got connected.
The traditional leader noted that electricity has brought more joy to the residents who can now sit and enjoy the benefits of power.
â€œLet me not forget to mention that the sweetness electric power has brought is not something I can ask from others. This is because we as chiefs are also enjoying the facility.
â€œAs chief, when my traditional assignments are less, I sit in the comfort of my home and enjoy watching television or listening to educative music,â€ he said.
Teachers and pupils are also happy with the â€œarrivalâ€ of electricity in Chavuma.
Priscah Mufundi, a grade eleven pupil at Sangonjo Day Secondary School, said she was â€œextremely happyâ€ that the school has been electrified.
Ms Mufundi said electricity will mitigate the challenges learners faced when studying at night.
She said her life and that of her colleagues in school will improve positively.
â€œThis is a dream come true. I am very happy because electricity will help us to remain for prep-studies which in turn will help us improve our performance towards studies,â€ she said.
John Ngandwe, a local teacher and Sanjongo school head teacher Grace Kanema are also happy with the development.
â€œPupils at the school have potential to go to high heights but their abilities were being hampered by the little time of study, noted Mrs Kanema.
â€œThe school is able to conduct classes for the pupils from 19:00 hours to 21:00 hours. This has improved the performance of the pupils in various disciplines,â€ she said
Mr Ngandwe, a business and information technology and communications (ICT) teacher, said electricity has lessened the pressure he was going through to prepare his work plans and conducting ICT lessons.
People in rural areas have been lagging behind development-wise but this is about to change because Government has realised that the benefits of rural electrification are immense.
Government has embarked on a vigorous programme of providing electricity to all rural areas in Zambia.
Deputy Minister of Mines, Energy and Water Development Charles Zulu said the people of Chavuma had lost hope regarding the electrification of their district.
â€œI wish to say that we, as Government share your joy of experiencing the benefits of having electricity in our school, rural health centres, shops, homes and other facilities,â€ Mr Zulu said.
Lack of electricity in rural areas has been a key obstacle to the economic and social development in most places.
It is for this reason that the Government wants to make the rural electrification programme in Zambia more effective by allocating more resources to REA.
The minister noted that the transformation of livelihoods in places where electricity has been installed is remarkable. He said economic activities and social sectors like health and education in villages have improved.
â€œWe have seen local people set up small-scale enterprises by taking advantage of business opportunities that come with electricity. Hammer mills, metal fabrication, carpentry, poultry, salons and barbershops are some of the examples that ordinary local people have gotten involved in,â€ Mr Zulu said.
Electricity, undoubtedly, enables communities to enjoy increased interaction through the use of radios, television sets, internet connectivity and cell phones.
The three projects commissioned in Chavuma, according to REA chief executive officer Geoffrey Musonda, are part of the 1, 217 rural growth centres across the country that have been identified by GovernmentÂ and earmarked for electrification by 2030.
â€œYou will appreciate that since the inception of the authority in 2004 and subsequent operation in 2006, the access rate to electricity in rural areas was only three per cent. Out target is to raise this percentage to 51 percent by 2030,â€ Mr Musonda said.
He said the 51 percent target will be achieved by electrifying all the 1, 217 rural growth centres that have been identified throughout the country.
REA was created by Government as a deliberate move to provide electricity infrastructure to all rural areas in Zambia and increase access to electricity in these communities which is currently at 4.5 percent.
JIMMY CHIBUYE – Chavuma