More than three months have passed since Madiba, the great icon of the South African rainbow nation, died and was buried, aged 95. The land at the Cape of Good Hope now looks into an uncertain future.
The developments of the two decades since the end of the Apartheid regime have included many highs and lows. On the one hand there is an improving infrastructure, rising school enrolment numbers and improved electricity coverage. The other side of the coin is a growing gap between rich and poor, a wide-ranging network on corruption penetrating into the highest levels of government, lower than average achievement on the part of the education system and the persistent problem of HIV. Indeed, Madiba knew the path would be a long one. “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb”. This quotation also applies to the Heiveld co-operative in Suid Bokkeveld. After the completion of the first stage, installing solar energy systems for 20 families, it is now time to set the stage for further activity. Our partners, the „Indigo Development & Change“ NGO, have produced a year-end report about this and thus once more summarised the details of the last twelve months. In addition, we have discussed and agreed plans with them for the coming year.
Before we get to the details, first of all the good news – all of the solar energy systems we installed are working well and providing the 20 families of the Heiveld co-operative with light and electricity. Here and there, a solar panel had to be repaired, and one or two batteries needed replacing. Apart from that, there were no problems. Quite the opposite – our partners, the „Indigo Development & Change“ NGO, tells us that many other families in the co-operative want further solar energy systems. The region is still not adequately connected to the electricity network. At the same time, families who received a solar module in the first round of the project are interested in receiving further modules in order to generate the necessary electricity. During the workshop discussions, a lot of participants also expressed a further wish – for radios. Radios are a vital everyday piece of equipment for a lot of farmers. Not just to listen to music or keep up with the news. Particularly important for smallholders is, of course, the weather forecast. It helps them to make important decisions about the use of their land. A small radio can make their work easier, or even improve yields. Therefore, we have acquired three solar radios for experimental purposes.
Another problem that was discussed concerns water quality and is particularly acute in the summer months. On some of the farms, the water is undrinkable in this period. It is often heavily polluted by sediment. Simple filters can help to clean the water and make it drinkable again. The plan is to test some water filters made by Berkey. These simple filters promise to clean water for up to 16 people of bacteria, viruses and other harmful substances. Initially, three families whose water quality is particularly badly affected in summer will be equipped with water filters. After discussion with „Indigo Development & Change“, we have decided to take our work with the Heiveld co-operative into the second phase. Therefore, part of the club’s available funds will continue to reach South Africa, in order to support more equipment for the smallholders of Suid Bokkevelt.
A total of 60 new solar modules will be purchased. Half of them will be small moules that provide electricity for lamps and small electrical equipment such as mobile phones. The other 30 are more powerful and can provide energy for four lamps simultaneously. They also have USB connections so that mobile phones and other devices can be charged. In addition to the new solar modules, radios and water filters, we also had the idea of providing children and young people with information about solar energy. Experiment and learning boxes will enable young people to gain a more intensive knowledge of solar energy. The total planned budget for this year is 7900 EUR.