MANAMA, Gwanda South — Three years ago, in 2015, when the 200-panel mini-grid solar energy power plant was established in this remote and hot rural community, 140km south of Gwanda town and about 20km to the Botswana border, there was a lot of fan and pomp as the community’s electricity supply needs seemed to have been solved.

Before the installation of the plant, about a third of the population around this part of the district, of about 5 000 inhabitants, lived in isolation, cut off from access to a power grid and infrastructure that can bring vital economic opportunities.

However, as a team of journalists and civil society organizations’ representatives, discovered during a recent tour of the site organised by the Zimbabwe Women Resource Centre and Network, nothing much has changed in terms of accessing the much-needed power by the communities in wards 19 and 24.

Only a handful of local farmers are benefiting through three flood irrigation schemes being carried out along two major rivers, Shashe and Tuli, because a majority of the household members, one of the major intended beneficiaries, cannot afford the high tariffs being charged per kilowatt.

Five households belonging to local primary school teachers, are also benefitting from the energy plant, together with Mashaba Clinic and two business centres, Musendami and Mashaba business centres.

However, the irrigation schemes have not been properly functioning since the last days of the devastating Cyclone Eline early this year, with local women have been largely left in charge while most men have drifted down south in search of greener pastures due to the moribund economy.

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