Kasugho Micro-Hydro Plant
Description / Objective(s):
Thanks to the efforts of the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) and its partners, a micro-hydro power plant is delivering critical electricity to the Tayna Center for Conservation Biology (TCCB), a maternal and child health care center and other facilities in Kasugho (Lubero territory in North Kivu), in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Background / Issues:
Prior to construction of the power plant, what little electricity was available in the community was supplied by expensive diesel generators at high cost. In these remote communities, diesel supply is intermittent. It is also quite costly and increases the village’s dependence on imported fuel, which requires foreign exchange.
DRC has only exploited a small fraction of its enormous hydro-power potential. Power supply is scarce and irregular in urban areas and non-existent in rural areas.
During the 1990s, residents of Kasugho suffered from insecurity due to the presence of armed groups in the area. Villagers had to flee many times and all income-generating activities were abandoned. When security improved and villagers returned, many residents had no economic means of support. Consequently, many people deployed unsustainable agricultural practices such as shift-and-burn agriculture, cultivating steep hillsides, overharvesting firewood for heating and cooking (due to the use of inefficient stoves) and polluting water sources (due to poor sanitation and washing clothes and doing dishes in local waterways).
Key Project Activities:
The initiative to establish this micro-hydro plant came from within the community. Labor and locally available materials needed for construction were freely provided by the villagers. In fact, at the project’s start in 2005, more than 200 villagers carried the sand and stones necessary for building most of the infrastructure.
JGI worked with community representatives to create a management committee for the long-term sustainability of the micro-hydro plant. The committee members were voted on by village members and village leaders. The members were elected in 2007 for a two-year term. The committee includes village leaders and teachers, as well as representatives from TCCB and the health center.
The electricity committee determines the distribution of power from the plant. Every user contributes a fee according to the amount of power consumed. These fees will pay for maintenance costs and technicians as needed. In addition, fees collected from end-users will pay the salaries of two villagers trained as maintenance electricians.
One of the committee’s earliest accomplishments was mobilizing villagers to build 600 meters of road to enable access to the power plant. With the committee’s guidance, villagers also helped the electric company, Proeliki, install electrical equipment on the lines and carry all the heavy equipment such as transformers and wires.
A Congolese non-governmental organization (NGO), CEREBA (Center for Studies in Basic Education Research), worked with JGI to provide qualified technicians to assess the area, construct water channels, build a retention wall and install pipes and the core equipment necessary.
JGI is working to promote livelihood activities that decrease reliance on unsustainable practices. It was during JGI’s initial community assessment that talk of the power plant began. JGI is also working with local residents on health activities and construction of fish ponds and chicken coops since many people stopped keeping animals due to past political instability.
JGI is part of a consortium with CI and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI) that supports the efforts of eight tribal groups to establish officially recognized community nature reserves. JGI’s local partner, DFGFI, helped the communities within Kasugho and seven other neighboring territories create the Tayna Gorilla Reserve. DFGFI is also working with the communities to develop a corridor of future nature reserves between the Maiko and Kahuzi-Biega national parks. The Tayna Gorilla
Reserve is the first community reserve fully recognized by the DRC as a “National Nature Reserve.”
Additionally, due to ongoing conversations between DFGFI, local leaders and the eight tribal groups (known as UGADEC or Union des Associations de Conservation des Gorilles pour le Developpement Communautaire a l’Est de la Republique Democratique de Congo), the villagers in Kasugho set aside land for the establishment of the Tayna Center for Conservation Biology (TCCB) – the first conservation college in the DRC.
In concert with the construction of the micro-hydro plant, JGI has made continuous efforts to sensitize residents to the importance of conservation through its local partner UGADEC. These efforts include radio programming and training sessions to teach villagers alternative livelihood possibilities.
On November 6, 2007, the power plant delivered light to the village of Kasugho for the first time. The plant is capable of generating 35kVA that will be used for public lighting covering a distance of 1,500 meters. Even in the dry season, the facility is capable of generating up to 30kVA.
The facility brings power to a rural village far from the national power grid and is transforming the lives of more than 16,000 people.
Not only does the power plant provide light for a previously unlit village, it also contributes directly to one of JGI's main objectives in Africa: the encouragement of sustainable, income-generating activities that are not dependent on unsustainable natural resource exploitation.
And because Kasugho is located near the Tayna Gorilla Reserve, which is home to endangered chimpanzees and eastern lowland gorillas, eliminating unsustainable practices will help ensure the long-term survival of great apes in the area.
After one visit to the site, Dario Kasuko, JGI's community-centered conservation project coordinator in DRC, reported: “The power plant project is magnificent. Poles are already lighting the streets and the market of the village, and the villagers are preparing additional poles. The health center, hotel, the university, the radio and the laboratories are totally lit.”
- TCCB, which offers a university level two-year course in conservation biology to more than 500 area youth.
- For the first time, TCCB classes can be offered after dark, and computers and other information technology resources are available to more students for longer periods of time.
- Because students come from neighboring communities, they will also be able to promote this innovative energy source back in their own villages.
- The primary school, which will also be able to stay open late for adult-education activities.
- A community radio station, operated by the TCCB, that broadcasts a wide array of educational programs focused on agriculture, health and conservation.
- Several workshops and other businesses in the village center, including the village mill, which processes much of the grain and cassava consumed in the area.
- The village health center, which specializes in maternal health care and has a maternity ward capable of providing pre- and post-natal care to 30 women.
- Infant mortality in the DRC is at 13 percent and those infants who do survive only have an 80 percent chance of making it to adulthood. “This plant will give area children a better chance at leading full lives,” said JGI’s Keith Brown, former executive vice president of Africa Programs.