Lilongwe, In the past, people used to migrate from rural areas to urban settings in search for better life with electricity being the major driving force to attaining the life’s wellbeing.
Many people resorted to moving to the urban areas to, among other things, start using electronic gadgets either for commercial or domestic purpose besides living in a bulb-lit house.
However, with the coming in of the Malawi Rural Electrification Programme (Marep), the trend is gradually but surely changing.
In fact, it is Marep that has come to arrest the urban migration by bringing to people’s door step services that were deemed to be a monopoly of the urban dwellers.
Marep was instituted in 1980 to ensure even remotest parts of the country are connected to the national grid and eventually prevent rural people from migrating to urban areas.
Many rural communities today are all smiles following the electrification of their areas under the Marep initiative which has spurred socio-economic stimulation for poverty reduction.
People acknowledge that there have been remarkable improvements in their social and economic lives and that is conspicuously clear when one visits the areas.
Patricia Namale, a divorcee, is a proud owner of ‘Aunt Susan Salon’ situated at Ngolowera Trading Centre in the area of Chief Chikumbu in Mulanje District.
Although I am a divorcee, I don’t really feel it because I am able to fend for myself and take care of my only child with the proceeds I get from my salon.
I owe this to Marep which brought electricity to our area; otherwise, I couldn’t have opened this salon, says Namale who came to the village from Blantyre in 2017.
Initially, life was tough. I could not find any means of sourcing money to fend for myself and my two-year-old daughter.
Upon realising the potential I had in hair dressing, which I learnt in town through interaction with fellow women, I decided to open this salon to generate some money for my household, Namale explains.
She adds that the idea of salon came about following the switching on of Marep Phase 8 power line by State President Arthur Peter Mutharika in 2017 at Ngolowera Primary School in Traditional Authority (TA) Chikumbu.
Mutharika switched on the power line on April 5, 2017 to allow people of Ngolowera and surrounding areas have access to affordable electricity for household and commercial use.
In his power line inauguration speech, Mutharika described Marep as the cornerstone of national development.
He said Marep is part of the bigger development agenda of the country hence his commitment in advancing the energy sector.
Our goal is to take development to the people everywhere in Malawi. I want to see every community centre with electricity in this country.
Every district will now have more access to electricity than ever before. That is why under this Marep phase, every district has at least three trading centres to receive electricity, Mutharika said.
As the switching on of Ngolowera power line marked the rolling out of Marep phase 8 electrification programme throughout the country, subsequent switching on of other power lines totaling 336 followed across the country.
Minister of Natural Resources Energy and Mining Aggrey Masi said access to electricity was key to economic wellbeing when he switched on Marep Phase 8 Chinguluwe Power Line in Salima District in May last year.
Electricity enhances economic activities both at household and national level thereby making people have more money in their pockets to improve their livelihoods, Masi said.
The power connection to Chinguluwe and surrounding areas provided fertile ground for the mushrooming of small-scale businesses at Chinguluwe trading centre in Salima.
They included salons, welding shops, sale of cold drinks and operation of video show rooms.
Alexander Ngongondo, a welder plying his trade at Chinguluwe Trading Centre in TA Kalonga in the district, says life is now bearable for him courtesy of Marep.
I could hardly fend for my family before I opened this shop. I had the welding skills which I acquired from Salima Technical College but could not put them to use due to lack of electricity in our area.
But today, here I am operating this welding shop, Ngongondo says.
He explains that people bring to his shop for welding, broken bicycle frames, farm carts and that he also makes bicycles carriers.
I make about K3, 000 per day on average after offering my services to various clients and this money helps me meet various family needs, he says.
Now Ngongondo intends to turn into a large-scale entrepreneur who can be making door and window frames, burglar bars and other welding requirements.
Chief Director in the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Chimwemwe Banda says the Marep initiative has helped transform many rural areas and that the programme will continue until the whole country is covered.
People in rural areas are now enjoying the luxury of electricity which used to be a monopoly of urban dwellers.
Marep has brought many benefits such as improvement of health in the community members as they move away from cooking using biomass, which made them inhale smoke, to cooking using electricity.
This will in a way help conserve the environment as people shift from using fuel wood, she says.
Banda adds that Marep has also facilitated the electrification of various institutions such as schools and health facilities.
She says schools that have since been electrified have registered improvement in the overall performance of learners.
The learners are able to study even at night which makes it possible for them to compete favorably with their counterparts in the urban setting.
It is easier for the teachers as well to prepare lessons or mark learners’ work because they can also do that at night after resting from the long day’s work, Banda says.
Source: MANA Online