Zimbabwe faces a severe energy crisis with less than 5% of households in rural areas having access to modern forms of energy. SNV helps address the issue by offering vocational and business skills training on solar photovoltaics to youth and by building the capacity of solar companies to encourage expansion of business in rural and high density urban markets.
In 2014 we started a Rural Solar Market Development project and we scaled it up in 2015. The project aims to improve access to and use of renewable energy in rural areas, increase employment among youth, and decrease the negative environmental impact resulting from the use of other conventional energy sources.
We focus primarily on the training component of the project. The rural youth skills programme intends to train 360 rural and peri-urban based youth in solar technologies and business skills. Participating youth is between 15 and 35 years of age. 70% are female, which is exciting for a sector in which women were previously underrepresented. In the second year of implementation, the objective was to have at least 280 of the trained youth self- or wage employed and generating income from conducting solar-related business. As a result, we expect to reach over 2,100 households with cleaner energy for lighting, thereby curbing the negative impact on the environment.
In addition to training in technology and business skills, we facilitate networking platforms between established solar companies and the trained youth. These networking sessions allow companies to select trained youth to become marketing agents for their products. Skilled youth can help take down two of the main barriers to the uptake of solar technologies in rural areas: the shortage of information on technologies and the lack of expertise to carry out quality installations, repairs, maintenance and troubleshooting.
For the implementation of the Rural Solar Market Development project, SNV has partnered with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Zimbabwean Ministry of Youth, Indigenisation & Economic Empowerment (MYIEE). The ILO provides funds for skills training, technical advice and monitoring and evaluation, whereas the MYIEE has been involved in identifying and selecting youth to participate in the project through its district youth offices. Local capacity builders also provide capacity development support to the youth and solar companies involved in the project.