For those still unfamiliar with the odd sounding acronym EWSC, it stands for Energy and Water Secure Communities, which is a programme that (of course) focuses on water and energy security, particularly for poor communities. The aim is to achieve improved livelihoods through the lens of energy and water security.
Learning from our Demonstration Sites project in 2010, we decided to embark on a deeper process of engagement with the beneficiary communities. We would like to ensure that there is a deep enough engagement at the start so that energy and water changes made fit actual needs, and continue to be used in the longer-term.
So how do we do this? We have drawn on many research and engagement methodologies and philosophies, including participatory research and asset-based engagement. Using the wisdom out there along with our own insights and collective experience, we are pioneering an approach called Participatory Community Engagement (PCE) with a specific emphasis on the participatory elements that ensure long term uptake of energy & water technology changes.
The model intends to give proper attention to the totality of what it is to be a community member, uncovering needs both apparent and obscure. Any kind of change is a complex matter and when the goal is to improve lives and well-being via technologies, one is wise to approach the whole community as a complex inter-dependent system. We are becoming more and more aware that transformation happens on both sides of the partnership. We set out to assist others, and in so doing, find ourselves learning important lessons from those we’ve aimed to help.
We have been working with the Eastern Cape community of Msobomvu since August 2012. This is a rural community of approximately 250 homes. They currently have no access to electricity and very limited access to water – delivered to communal JoJo tanks every few weeks by the local authority. Project 90’s aim is to provide access to low carbon and renewable energy technologies to improve the daily lives of community members and enable them to become self sufficient for their energy and water needs.
We hosted two workshops with the community where we identified a number of potential solutions and the community then decided on the technologies they felt would be most beneficial for them. They have chosen to focus specifically on cooking and lighting needs for the immediate term.
The first stage of rolling-out the chosen solutions took place at the end of November 2012. Highly efficient cook-stoves and Wonderbags were delivered by Project 90 staff and volunteers and the community participated in the process of introducing these in each household. Check out our facebook photos here.
An innovative solar home lighting kit (that can also charge mobile phones) has been designed in partnership with Grey Green Engineering, and will be assembled and installed by the villagers themselves later this month. We look forward to sharing this story with you, along with news from the community of Amandus Hill KZN.
Candice Pelser, Programme Coordinator