How Sustainable Energy Positively Impacts Our Community

By Nvulane Nhlapo

A mosotho woman cooking. Image Credit: Technologies for Economic Development (TED)
A mosotho woman cooking. Image Credit: Technologies for Economic Development (TED)

Lesotho continues to witness some amazing strides in sustainable energy. These forces have formed new energy distribution channels and have led to improved community economic health. As a small country, it has been easy to enact some changes in the energy systems.

Over 4 million people die prematurely every year from illness attributable to household air pollution, from cooking on open fire. This represents more than AIDS and Malaria combined!

Lesotho has for a very long time relied heavily on cooking on open fire which has undeniably proven risky. Even worse, for women and children who are traditionally bound to spend more time in the household tending to domestic chores like cooking, this means they end up being disproportionately affected by this issue.

Sustainable energy projects have played a huge role in combating similar cases by introducing energy efficient stoves. A vivid example is that of African Clean Energy (ACE).

ACE focuses on enabling everybody in the world to have better and easier access to energy. ACE achieves this by manufacturing and distributing the ACE 1 Ultra Clean Biomass Energy System. This is a multi-functional cook stove that helps users with their energy needs, from cooking to mobile charging through a USB port.

This is a huge milestone particularly in the rural areas where ACE has received positive feedback. Worth celebrating is the fact that The ACE 1 Energy System is manufactured and distributed across the world from Maseru, Lesotho.

By providing alternatives to the usage of biomass fuels, the ACE 1 helps protect the environment from deforestation. Not only does the ACE 1 reduce fuel use between 50-70%, but it also opens the possibility of burning alternative biomass fuels, apart from the commonly used wood and charcoal.

Users can cook a meal using just crop waste, a handful of sticks or dried cow dung. This helps them save not only money, but also time spent every day searching for fuel for heating or cooking.

Most importantly, The ACE 1 burns without smoke, thus eliminating the toxic carbon emissions that are released in the atmosphere and are detrimental to the environment.

Switching to sustainable energy has also helped develop a lot of areas in Lesotho. With some projects hinging heavily on skills transfer and educating citizens to becoming artisans.

One such project is the Renewable Energy Based Rural Electrification Project where UNDP partnered with the government of Lesotho to provide affordable electricity to remote villages having no access to the main electricity grid.

The GEF funded project of installing solar panels light was a major success with 65 off-the-grid villages in Lesotho benefiting from the installation of solar panels to access electricity.

Even better, local artisans in these rural areas were trained to install, maintain and repair the solar PV systems to ensure continuity. In the end, about 30 000 people benefited from this sustainable energy project.

At the core of sustainable energy in Lesotho is the Lesotho highlands Water Project (LHWP). LHWP is the largest bi-national infrastructure project between Lesotho and South-Africa.

It involves the construction of intricate network of tunnels and dams to divert water from the mountains of Lesotho to South-Africa. With that came a number of hydroelectric power stations in Lesotho.

The project has heavily improved the economic state of Lesotho. It has provided water for South-Africa and money and hydroelectricity for Lesotho. As a multi-billion labour intensive project that spans many years, it has created jobs for thousands of Basotho.

With the proliferation of large dams in various districts in Lesotho, citizens continue to enjoy spoils of clean air and improved climate conditions, making agricultural practices and the way we use land to produce food more sustainable. There’s also been an increase in fish farming at a large scale which has become a commercial success.

Additionally, the construction of dams together with the hydropower component has translated into a lucrative tourism business attracting the global market.

The words of the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, are also true for us in Lesotho: “The sustainability train has left the station.”

Lesotho already has the much needed momentum of realizing the 1.5°C goal set in the Paris Agreement without relying on technology to combat global warming. Moving away from fossil fuels and investing in sustainable energy, Lesotho is not only doing what is right for the climate, but also making a smart investment.