Offgrid power projects lift Nigeria rural communities

With support from international development institutions, off-grid power projects in Nigeria are changing the face of rural communities, creating new jobs and enterprises, reducing crime rates, empowering rural women and positively impacting class attendance in public schools.
In less than two years, companies like Rubitec Solar, Havenhill Energy Ltd, GVE Nigeria, Ajima farms, Azuri technologies, Energy Ltd and others have attracted close to N1billion in financing for biogas, solar home systems and mini-grid projects in rural communities in Nigeria, BusinessDay investigations show.

These projects are setting off a quiet revolution in creating new enterprises, ramping up financial inclusion through the adoption of mobile money systems and creating a pool of new businesses BusinessDay findings in communities in Kaduna and Abuja showed after visits to project sites last week.
Ajima farms managed by Fatima Ademoh is powering Ridge village in Kuje Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, with 20 kilowatts of biogas from generators.

READ ALSO: 300 markets to benefit from Nigeria’s solar power project- Osinbajo

With a $150,000 grant from the United States African Development Foundation, USADF, the project, called Ajima Farms Biogas Digester Off-Grid, commissioned in June, converts huge volumes of wastes generated from large poultry farms around the communities into power.
“We were presented with two problems, agricultural wastes and villages that are not connected to the national grid. They need electricity and the gases released by these wastes into the atmosphere is 24 times dangerous more than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas,” said Ademoh in an interview.

The solution was to convert the waste to watts. “Poultry, human and vegetable wastes are collected in a biogas digester, which generates gas and in turn powers a biogas generator and electricity generated from the generator is distributed by a mini-grid system to power over five hundred people in the community,” Danladi, who mans the plant tells BusinessDay.
A largely agrarian community with about a hundred houses, a quarter being mud house, residents enjoy between 12 and 15 hours of power supply every day and pay less than N2,000 monthly.

“The light has been a blessing to my business,” says Augustine Iliah, who runs a sparsely stocked local pharmacy in the community. “I can open my place till 10pm, there is security with street lights and people come in to buy at night.”
Meanwhile, in Ba’awa and Kadabo farming communities in Makarfi Local government area of Kaduna State, farmers lose nearly 40 percent of the peppers they plant while trying to dry them by spreading them along the road. Birds, rodents and the elements are responsible for these losses.

READ ALSO: Biden’s clean energy plan opens an opportunity for Nigerian off-grid companies

Habiba Ali, the MD/CEO of Sosai Renewable Energies Company, has intervened to solve the problem. With 12,000 euros, Ali acquired Innotech 18 Meter Tunnel Solar Dryer, through a grant from USDF which dries the pepper in half the time and for minimal cost.
“Baawa and Kadabo communities have over 500 able-bodied men and they all have farming as their major economic activity. Pepper farming is the key crop in this region that the people depend on for cash so this will be about 400 farmers who benefit from the dryer as each and everyone wants to dry their peppers on the dryer even if it’s just a little of it.

Habiba says the business is addressing a critical need. “First and quite importantly is that these dryers save time, saving them 2.5 days of the 5days it would normally take to dry the peppers. This has ensured that they get their peppers on time to the market and they do a better bid because they now have cleaner peppers ensuring they sell at a 20 per cent premium now.”
Apart from these dryers, the company has Solar Pay as You go products in Kaduna, Niger and Kano states. “We also have installed units to support people who charge phones and women who sell ice blocks.”

BusinessDay observed the innovative solar kiosks built by Sosai – a self-functioning system that not only produces its own energy but also adds energy to charge other products. The charged products are then rented out or sold to the customers. The kiosks are powered by photovoltaic panels and come equipped with batteries for energy storage when sunshine is low.
These solar kiosks offer a variety of services ranging from charging stations (for lamps, lanterns and mobile phones) to providing other services such as cooling of drinks, and selling retail products and in many cases offering a haircut using an electronic razor, creating an entirely new ecosystem.
For companies like Azuri and Energy Ltd, they are improving the quality of lives of rural communities through pay-go solar home systems.

READ ALSO: Off-grid market emerging Nigeria’s biggest hope for FDI

In January, Yemi Osinbajo, then Acting President, launched the Solar Home system powered by Azuri Ltd in Wuna village, Gwagwalada Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory.
Months later, a new industry has been born. Lawal Yakubu along with a half a dozen others now eke a living as installers of the solar component. Residents pay N1, 000 fees to top up power which lasts an average of 8 hours daily. They are issued a pin code which they input into the solar box. After 36 months, the solar infrastructure becomes theirs.
“Though I have not been here very long, I can see the positive effect this is having on class attendance, many can now read in the night and their grades are up,” said Olusola Omolara, the headteacher of the local primary school.

Aisha Mohammad Yusuf, the wife of the Elsu of Wuna, the local traditional ruler tells BusinssDay that their lives in the community have taken a different turn with the deployment of rooftop solar systems.
“Please tell them to bring the ones with a bigger capacity to carry fridges and television,” Yusuf said. Wuna has never had the power supply.”
Two hours away from Wuna by rail to Kaduna, a 24kw micro-grid solar system in Charwa/Chakun, an off-grid community in Markafi Local Government Area of Kaduna State installed by Anergy Ltd has changed the face of the community.

On arrival, one notices the mud houses with zinc roofs, and the storage silos dotted on farming plots with animals grazing around. The closest power line is 3km away, and mobile telephone coverage is very poor.
Arnegy Ltd which secured funding last year from the Bank of Industry now has several people in the community who work as local installers and or sell units of solar power.