Here in Kirehe a local electrician has harnessed hydroelectric power to create a new future for his neighbours.
These dams circumvent rivers into waterways that feed a dam which is fed through a pipeline to a small plant that creates power.
It’s two and a half kilometres from the water basin to the Nyagakoma hydropower plant set up by Israel Habimana.
The Rwandan government hopes that allowing small independent power producers to set up homes without power will get electricity without being on the country’s main grid.
Habimana’s hydroelectric plant employs about 15 people.
He says it has yet to reap the rewards of investment in the company, but it’s already changing people’s lives.
Habimana got the idea for hydroelectricity after seeing a similar set-up elsewhere near the capital Kigali.
He says: ”It is not long since people here have known electricity, many died without having seen it. The idea of building this infrastructure came to me when I saw a lot of lamps in Kibungo and then a small power station that I had seen at the religious house.”
”I never went to school, but that didn’t stop me from doing what I wanted to do, even if it was very difficult for me. I often visited the mini hydroelectric plant of religious people without telling them my objective, and I observed how the machines worked and I did the same thing,” says Habimana.
Although he’s received investment from the government owned Rwanda Energy Group (REG), Habimana says there have been some obstacles.
“The challenges I have are mostly related to the availability of materials, especially cables. Often REG (Rwanda Energy Group) gives me these materials but not all the time. Also, it is difficult for me to increase the capacity of my infrastructure because the demand is high and my revenues are not significant,” he explains.
According to statistics provided by the Rwanda Energy Group (REG), the number of households with access to electricity in the country has increased from 10% in 2010 to 75% in 2022.
The total number of connected households across the country is now over two million, but at least 1.4 million families don’t yet have access.
Jacqueline Nyirahirwa’s family is among those who are getting power from the Habimana’s hydroelectric plant.
They’ve been without electricity for about 15 years.
Nyirahirwa, a teacher says that life without electricity in her family has been difficult.
”As we live far from public facilities, it’s difficult to live here and we were trapped. Even the basic activities that allow a person to lead a moderate life are not possible without electricity, so life was impossible here,” she says.
According to Nyirahirwa the family is looking forward to a new future.
“With the arrival of electricity in my family a lot will change. We will start watching television, my children will study in the evening without any problem and even safety is there when there is lighting in a house,” she says.
Until now the children here have had to ensure their homework was completed during daylight.
The Rwanda Energy Group is a government owned holding set up to import, export, generate and distribute electricity in the country.
It’s CEO Ron Weiss says at the time Habimana was the only person offering the hope of electricity to the neighbourhood.
“We supported him (Israel Habimana), we even helped him in different ways, even we encourage him to continue because this specific area of Kirehe in that time we need electricity and the grid is not yet coming nearby,” he says.
Since the arrival of electricity in the area, new businesses have sprung up, but in Nyawera, at least 120 families are still waiting for electricity because the plant is too small to generate enough power for everyone who needs it.