Life in refugee camps is full of challenges, including lack of critical amenities such as housing, clean water and electricity.
In Kenya’s Turkana County, refugees at a settlement camp in Kakuma have seen their prospects change, thanks to a U.S. company.
In collaboration with other organizations, Renewvia energy has put up an off-grid electricity network in Kalobeyei settlement camp, which hosts thousands of refugees who fled their countries mainly due t conflict.
Renewvia has taken advantage of the radiant solar heat available in the region most period of the year.
Through an elaborate process, the multi-million shilling project generates 60 kWh from 162 solar panels, serving more than 600 households and business entities.
The availability of electricity in the camp has enabled the availability of vital services such as hospital services, grooming services, entertainment, security and much more.
With just Ksh 1,050 (about $10), residents can be connected onto the grid and enjoy the benefits of having a stable source of power.
“Firstly, I use the electricity to light my house. Secondly, I use it to watch television, and thirdly, when my phone runs out of power, I can charge it,” said Josephine Ndayisaba, a resident of Kalobeyei Settlement camp.
“This project is very good in my opinion. It should continue so that those who don’t have electricity should get it. They also want electricity like we have here,” she added.
At a hospital within the camp, officials attribute their ability to provide critical health services to the availability of the electricity.
“This facility has got a well-equipped laboratory. A laboratory uses a lot of power. With the help of that power being available, we are able to run various tests at any given time,” said Robert Wabwire, the Hospital Administrator, Kalobeyei Main Medical Center.
“We also have reagents which require that we use our fridge which runs 24 hours and we are likely able to use power 24 hours as well. The facility is operating under a 24-hour system in which if it were not for Renewvia Energy, we wouldn’t be able to manage night duties,” he added.
Another resident of the camp, Bakanibona Mussa, hails Renewvia’s project since it has allowed him to venture into business, which then enables him to eke a living amidst the tough conditions in the camp.
Mussa runs an ice plant, where he produces ice for purchase as well as ice pop. He is also able to offer cold drinks, which are a favorite for residents who seek to cool their bodies from the hot temperatures.
“Electricity is very important because without it, we cannot produce ice. The ice maker cannot operate. Electricity is very important. It helps us produce the ice so that we are able to make all the ice-related products,” said Mussa.
On his part, Renewvia Energy CEO Trey Jarrard is impressed by the impact the mini-grid has had on the lives of residents of Kalobeyei.
He looks forward to having even more people get connected so that the quality of their lives can also improve.
“We understand more and more every day the specific impact because we are getting feedback from individuals and business owners and also different stakeholders in the community, that as far as the quantification and just the level of impact and the different ways, is becoming better known to us,” said Jarrard.
“For example, businesses are able to increase their revenue because they are able to stay open longer. Something as simple as keeping a light on allows them to operate for two or three hours after most people are finishing whatever their job is and they are coming back to their house.
“And they are able to transact in whatever form, that is, in times that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to transact. So, it’s lifting the quality of life because people are able to generate more income.”