A few weeks ago, Asher and I from DHE and Joanis and Rushabh from e.quinox along with Longin, a student at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology, set out to survey the villages that will be served by the hydropower system. Our goal was to gather enough information to develop a business plan, specifically how to price the electricity produced by our system. We designed the survey to measure the economic activity of the village and to determine how much people spend currently on electricity or electrical substitutes. With Longin translating, we spent a day each in the villages of Nyamirambo, Rugusa, and Rugote.
With the exception of a few shopkeepers, bartenders, and teachers, everyone is a farmer. Nearly everyone owns their own home. Average cash income is less than $10 per month. As farmers, their cash income does not accurately represent their economic activity, because so much of their income is in the form of consumable foodstuffs. However, this area is still one of the poorest in Rwanda.
We found that many people used candles and flashlights powered by AA or D-cell batteries. Others had LED lights with a homemade wiring set-up leading to a row of D-cell batteries. A few relatively wealthy people even had small solar panels which would charge flashlights or cell phones. Approximately 5 people in Rugote have car batteries that they charge in the sector capital of Ruramba, which is around a 2 hour round trip or so by foot from Rugote. They use them for charging cell phones and lighting. The man we met who owned a car battery was a teacher. Teachers tend to be relatively wealthy because they have government salaries.
Many people have cell phones, but depending on which village they live in, they have anywhere from a 2-4 hour round trip walk to get them charged.
One of the villagers at an interview
Longin (right), our translator and a Kigali Institute of Science and Technology student, helps conduct an interview