, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 10 – The pastoralist community of Dertu, set in the drought-prone Northeastern province of Kenya, is on the road to becoming fossil fuel free and developing sustainable small-businesses, thanks to a renewable energy project.
The Sh19 million project, partly funded by the French government, was initiated by The MDG Centre, East and Southern Africa, which includes in its business development agenda the provision of reliable and sustainable energies. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by both parties on Friday
‘We chose to work with this project for its holistic approach and the fact that it targets a rural community. The Embassy of France in Kenya has a strong, proven commitment to such communities, especially to their environmental sustainability and to rural electrification as a cornerstone to sustained development,’ said Elisabeth Barbier, the French Ambassador to Kenya.
‘At a time when the worldwide economic crisis spells possible reductions in aid from donor countries, this project renews France’s commitment to Sub-Saharan Africa and brings hope to a community struggling to face climate change,’ she added.
Set in a difficult area that has been off the development map in Kenya, Dertu has been facing the energy challenge for years, mostly relying on costly and highly polluting generators. But at the same time, the community was sitting on a gold mine: manure from thousands of livestock.
‘We believe that the development of business in the region, and more generally in Africa, is severely constrained by the lack of reliable power. With this project, Dertu will not only be able to generate power and support businesses, schools and clinics, but also to preserve the environment and achieve one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG),’ said Glenn Denning, the director of The MDG Centre.
Not only will the four phase project bring power to vital institutions, like a clinic and a school, including a cybercafé open to community members, but it will also help the people of Dertu set up small businesses and diversify their income sources. The project will also provide biodigester cookstoves at household level, at a time when firewood used for cooking is becoming a scarce and valuable item.
The project will have its first state-of-the-art school dining hall and kitchen, and a 12 bed in-patient clinic built with eco-friendly sustainable technologies.
The announcement of this partnership comes on the same week of the release by the United Nations of the 2009 MDG report which states that ‘greater priority must be given to preserving our natural resource base, on which we all depend. We have not acted forcefully enough – or in a unified way – to combat climate change,’ the report lamented, calling for the development of ‘more efficient green technologies.’
The project is also timely given the enegy crisis in the country and news that power rationing is set to start in September.
The report also states that the MDGs implementation needs to include ‘areas and population groups that have clearly been left behind – rural communities (and) the poorest household’, two conditions that apply to the Dertu community. With this project, the partners once again reiterate their commitment to achieving the MDGs in line with UN recommendations.