Women and youth a driving force in solar thermal activities in Zimbabwe


Submitted by Samson Mhlanga
Published 2 weeks, 3 days ago

Involving women in the dissemination of solar thermal technologies will go a long way towards solving Zimbabwe’s energy-related challenges of shortage and pollution. This was one of the conclusions from Sustenergy and Statix Electrical’s initiative of partnering with SOLTRAIN in training women and youth in solar thermal technologies at the Eastern and Southern Africa Management Institute in Harare in April.

Dissemination workshop group photo involving women and youth

The training started with solar thermal fundamentals and moved on to more advanced topics such as the sizing of solar water heaters in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors.

Practical components of the course reinforced the theory and provided the opportunity for some hands-on experience, with the University of Zimbabwe's SOLTRAIN trailer proving extremely useful in this regard.

More about the participants and some outcomes from the training:

Dr. Fortunate Farirai is a chemical engineer and founder of Sustenergy, an energy company focusing on renewable energy technologies to provide clean, sustainable and affordable energy globally. Following the training, Sustenergy in partnership with UNDP, Ministry of Energy and Power Development, ZERA and SACREE, submitted a bankable proposal for solar thermal technologies in Zimbabwe. The proposal arises from the need to support the 2019 Solar Thermal Roadmap and Implementation Plan for Zimbabwe, targeting 2 000 000 m2 of solar thermal collector area to be installed by 2030. Through its training academy, Sustenergy now offers training on solar thermal technologies through capacity building, empowering more women and youth to be skilled installers and entrepreneurs. The company also proposed installing a solar thermal demonstration unit at the Eastern and Southern Africa Management Institute in Harare for trainees.

Dr. Chipo Shonhiwa is a physicist and is the chairperson of the Engineering and Physics Department of Bindura University of Science Education. Soon after the training, she formed BENCHI Reenpower Pvt Ltd. The company is collaborating with established solar thermal companies in disseminating information on solar thermal. BENCHI, in collaboration with Crano Technology, has completed the sizing and design of a 146m2 solar water heating system for Prince Edward High School to be submitted to SOLTRAN for co-funding. At the university, she is working with women students in solar thermal technologies aiming to empower women financially through solar thermal technology.

Jenipher Chigerwe is a mechanical engineer at Midlands State University. She presented the potential benefits of solar thermal to the University management and suggested that the technology be considered for the functioning of the pathology laboratory. She formed a project team and developed a proposal for the project and has also initiated talks to retrofit electrical geysers at Mbuya Nehanda Maternity Wing of the Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals in Harare.

These motivated women concede that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented some challenges towards the implementation of their solar thermal endeavors, but remain determined with the knowledge that they'll have SOLTRAIN's continued support. They look forward to continuing the collaborative efforts among themselves as well as fostering the inclusion and mentoring of girls and fellow women in the renewable energy field.

Participants writing the final exam