Infrastructure development

Light from the earth at night.

The Trust believes that the development of infrastructure is key to the sustainable long-term development of any community and the alleviation of poverty. Of the various infrastructure utilities, electrical power is perhaps the most essential to development – energy enables work on which society is built. Increasingly it is being recognised that there is a present and increasing energy povery in the world with the African continent being the most affected. A satelite montage of the world at night shows that the moniker of the Dark Continent applies to more than the spiritual realm.

The lack of infrastructure, and electricity in particular, has been written about by Thomas L Friedman in his book “Hot, Flat and Crowded”. He maintains that one problem for Africa that never gets the spotlight is the shortage of light because energy poverty has no champion. We believe that this is because the development of sustainable energy production cannot be done on a fully commercial basis due to poverity and that to help the poor there initially needs to be electrical power without the burden of debt. Only if the capital cost is gifted can the electricity tarrif be low enough for the local population to avail themselves of the power.

The first and largest infrastructure project of the Trust was the development of a run-of-river hydro-electric scheme on the Zambezi river, seven kilometres from Kalene mission Hospital.

This corner of Zambia has a classic poverty cycle. With almost no employment or prospects, the local people struggle from day to day against HIV/AIDS, malnutrition and malaria. They exist by slash-and-burn subsistence farming and, as the population has grown in the last 100 years, so the environment has degraded.

There is an established local hospital and secondary school, but lack of electricity, or reliance on intermittent and expensive diesel generators, has limited their services. With the national grid 380km away, another solution was required. In colonial times, 42 years ago, a hydroelectric site on the Zambezi River, only 6km away, was surveyed, but until now had not been developed.

The electricity junction.

A source of sustainable electric power was judged the priority as a trigger to the other forms of development and the Zambezi Rapids Hydro-Electric Scheme has just been completed. It is now run by the Zengamina Power Company Limited, a company formed and owned by the NWZDT for this purpose.