Happy New Year! Join me in congratulating my old friends Ibrahim Togola and Tom Burrel, as well as the hardworking folks at the Mali-Folkecenter. What for? Well, in partnership with local people, the Malian government and a couple of international organizations, they've taken a giant step towards jatropha-fueled electrification for poverty eradication in the West African country of Mali. Don't know what jatropha is? Read about it here and here. Tom broke the exciting news about the new project to me and several others on December 18, 2006, just a day before i went on vacation. i had somehow missed the October 16th press release! The purpose of this initiative, he wrote, is to:
...provide electricity for domestic and light industrial use in the Municipality of Garalo, in the Sikasso Region of southern Mali. This electricity will be generated from clean CO2 neutral Jatropha oil, produced locally from Jatropha plantations. The project, implemented with ACCESS (a Malian rural energy service provision company), the Municipality of Garalo, FACT Foundation, and the SHGW Foundation, will improve living conditions and combat poverty in the area. The project launch was attended by the Malian Minister of Mines, Energy & Water, who said the project was the beginning of energy independence for Mali.
The project involves the cultivation of about 1000 hectares of jatropha over a 3 year period. 115 hectares have already been planted. A 245 kW generator will be producing electricity by March 2007, serving about 8000 people in Garalo commune. All this has been achieved at the cost of about 600,000 Euro. i will provide further details and updates as these become available in the coming weeks and months.
From all indications, this new project has got the sustainability idea down pat in terms of: a proven energy technology deployed via a social enterprise that is responsive to local markets for energy services; a relatively low-risk fuel supply chain; affordability of the energy services delivered to end-users; strong local ownership and government support. Then there is that cool carbon-neutrality aspect. Folks, this is "thinking globally, acting locally" in action! An olympian leap towards energy for sustainable development in Africa that gladdens our hearts here at UNEP Energy Branch. It demands careful study by the energy and development community for the purpose of maximum learning, context-sensitive replication and scale-up. As for me, i'll keep tracking it closely over the coming months.
And on that note, may i wish regular and first-time readers of this blog happiness and inner peace and light in the coming year.