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The Tungu-Kabiri community micro hydo power project in the rural area around Mount Kenya demonstrates how the use of micro hydropower can bring development to rural areas in Africa.
About 96% of the rural population in Kenya still lack access to grid-based electricity. A pilot project initiated by Practical Action (previously Intermediate Technology Development Group ITDG) in Kenya has shown the potential for decentralised micro hydro schemes to provide access to electricity. In Tungu-Kabiri, rural Kenya, almost 200 households came together and formed a commercial enterprise to own and operate a micro hydropower plant, which they constructed and continue to maintain themselves. The micro hydro plant now supplies electricity to a number of local enterprises and households, greatly improving quality of life in the area.
Only 4% of people in rural Kenya currently have access to grid-based electricity. Families instead mainly rely on kerosene for lighting, woodfuel and dung for cooking, and diesel-powered systems for tasks such as milling grain. Cooking with traditional biomass causes severe air-pollution and health problems and takes considerable time and effort to collect fuel. Purchasing kerosene may take up about 1/3 of a rural family's income.
In 1998 ITDG in collaboration with the Kenyan Ministry Energy (MoE) and with funding from the UNDP, undertook a pilot project to illustrate the potential for decentralised micro hydro schemes to address the lack of electricity. After an initial feasibility study, the Tungu-Kabiti community 185 km north of Nairobi was chosen as the site for the pilot project.
About 200 members of this community came together and formed a commercial enterprise to own, operate and maintain a micro hydropower plant. Each individual bought a share in the company, with a maximum share value of about US$50. The members also contributed labour, dedicating every Tuesday for over a year to the construction work, which was overseen by the MoE and ITDG. Involving the community in all aspects of project development from the start was critical to reduce local technical barriers and it ensured that the community could effectively maintain and repair the micro hydropower system themselves.
The micro hydropower plant is owned and managed by the community, and this complete community ownership has been central to the project's success. The day-to-day operations of the plant are managed by a 10-member community power committee, and this committee also conducts consultations with the wider community about how the power generated from the system should be used. The electricity is currently used mainly for micro-enterprises, such as a welding unit, a battery-charging station and a beauty salon.
This project has shown that micro hydropower
can effectively meet the energy needs of poor off-grid communities. It
has demonstrated that communities are willing to invest time and money
for improved energy services, and can organise themselves to build and
operate a micro hydropower plant.
More information about the project can be found here: