John Sayilence led his community in building a hydropower plant that currently provides electricity to about 100 households at Mantchewe, Traditional Authority Kachulu in Rumphi.
Sayilence, a secondary school dropout, built the Chipopoma hydropower plant with the help of the community. Under the leadership of Sayilence, community members descended more than 250 meters down the cliff to install locally made power generation equipment at Mantchewe Water Falls.
With funding from local social enterprise business owners, Sayilence had managed to procure a 50 KW generator, a locally made turbine, PVC pipes and two maize mills. The system started to operate by powering the maize mill in the community.
According to Minister of Energy, Ibrahim Matola who visited Sayilence on Saturday, Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) recommended the system to be supported by stakeholders to make it safe.
United Nations Development Programme – UNDP also came in and through the increasing access to energy project and the successor ACRE Project, in conjunction with the Ministry of Energy, it upgraded the power plant and developed a mini grid that can now power a Maize mill, a Home Craft Cooperative, Primary School, Yewo jewellery Centre and Mushroom Farm tourist attraction Centre.
Speaking to the local media, Sayilence thanked UNDP for supporting the initiative with the construction of a 3.5 kilometre power distribution network and a 9.5 kilometre mini-volt power line network.
“We, however, have some shortfalls which include but not limited to lack of calibrated billing system. We don’t have an office neither do we have computers which we can use for developing a computerised billing system,” said Sayilence.
According to Matola, the UNDP is assisting in the procurement and installation of a proper billing system that would allow the sell of tokens.
“Currently, they charge a fixed monthly fee of Mk2,500 per connected household for unlimited usage. This is insufficient to fund the project because it costs more to fix the machines when they malfunctioned than what is being raised,” said Matola.