Sustainable Transformation of Africa with Renewable Technologies (START) is primarily built on a foundation of hybrid renewable energy micro-grids. The particular technologies are solar PV, biogas generation, micro-hydro power and small wind turbines. The micro-grid provides power to meet the needs of an entire village.
This power will be used to drive boreholes that fill up water storage tanks, provide lighting in improved homesteads, and power for other small appliances including IT equipment.
The economic viability and sustainability of START hinges on the adoption of Conservation Agriculture (CA) techniques by all villagers contracted to the programme. Yields will be greatly improved through use of CA, augmented by drip irrigation.
A variety of cash crops will be farmed in addition to the minimum food crop needed. Thus the contracted homesteads will be turned into efficient profit generating agricultural small-holders, using locally available labour and land.
The revenue generated by the remarkably scaled up productivity and yield is sufficient to amortise the financing in a few years (<4). Thereafter all households in the village will be in a significant surplus position, creating sustainable prosperity, and the ability to transform all aspects of the quality of life in the village. There will be significant cascading improvements in the whole economy.
START has made inroads into securing the necessary marketing and distribution channels for a wide variety of high value cash crops to local and international markets, thus providing an ‘end to end’ solution that covers every technical and agricultural element of concept.
All the interventions will make optimum use of mobile telephony and emerging technologies in order to have a dramatic impact on how the programme is efficiently and effectively executed, managed and monitored, much of this being done remotely.
The Status Quo
Life in rural Africa is predicated on the certainty that
- Small holder land and low cost labour are available and in most cases abundant.
- Small-holder agricultural output and productivity is generally very low, because of poor farming methods and poor soil conservation.
- The great majority of citizens living in villages rely solely on incomes mainly from agriculture which fall well below the extreme poverty benchmark of $1.25 a day.
- Most households do not have access to basic amenities such as electrical power and water, and cooking methods are unhealthy and environmentally damaging.
- Services available at Heath Clinics are generally woefully inadequate, and the state of health and nutrition of villagers, especially young children, leaves much to be desired.
- Great environmental damage is occurring at an increasing scale as soils are increasingly depleted and trees cut down.
- The consequence of all this is that life in the home and village is so arduous that many villagers opt to migrate to urban centres and cities in the frequently vain search for work and a better life.
- This leads to overcrowding in the cities and towns, the creation of very poor living conditions, ultimately giving rise to a range of adverse social and health consequences.
However it does not have to be like this and START is a programme that is set to change all of the above. It will do so through an integrated set of interventions which are illustrated on the schematic diagram.
The Benefits of START
Life in the villages will be truly transformed, and the best indicator of this will be the reverse migration of citizens from towns to villages. All of this ultimately gives rise to improved cash and prosperity generated in local communities, which in turn spawns the emergence of small scale local business, higher overall economic growth, and a directly attributable reduction in poverty. This indeed meets one of the core clarion calls of Africa, and addresses the great majority of the 16 Sustainable Development Goals.