Rubicon lights up rural Lesotho community

Energy and Storage Off-grid

A small community in the middle of mountainous Lesotho recently received power for the first time. Rubicon supplied solar power kits to the Makhangoa Community Camp. This has changed the lives of the villagers who now have lights and can charge their phones and radios.

The project was initiated by African Waters – a fishing travel and guiding company. It was funded by US non-profit Indifly.

The client’s requirements

African Waters runs a lodge near Makhangoa. The organisation has implemented numerous sustainable community projects in the past. The Makhangoa community consists of around 70 families who rely on subsistence agriculture and bartering. They live 25km away from the nearest electricity.

When African Waters consulted with community members, they mentioned their desire for some form of power.

Indifly uses flyfishing tourism to benefit local communities. They agreed to provide the funding for this particular project. Rubicon needed to ensure that the solution it proposed fitted within the budget that was available. The solar solution also needed to be portable.

The solution

Based on the requirements, Rubicon chose a kit. Each of the 65 kits contained a 30W solar module, 89Wh lithium battery with a LCD screen display, and four LED sunflower lamps. The kit also contained a radio, a cellphone charger set, USB port, four light ports, one solar charging port, 3m of cables, and a switch for lights.

The solar module, or panel, is mounted on the roof of a hut or other building. It is plugged directly into the tubular battery. Users can plug their phones, the lights, or radios directly into the battery. The LCD screen on the battery shows how much power is left.

Rubicon project lead, Ruan Smith, said this was the best option because it is plug and play. This meant it could be installed quickly and easily. It is a portable system which is straightforward to move from one place to another.   

The battery lasts for around eight hours if all four lights are used at once. Many users charged their radios and phones during the day, which meant the power came directly from the solar panel and didn’t use up battery power.

Rubicon’s technical team travelled to Lesotho to train community members on how to install and maintain the simple system themselves. “We didn’t want to give them a system where, if something goes wrong, they can’t rectify it or get spare parts because of their remote location,” said Smith. “We wanted them to be able to do everything themselves.”

Zimpertec Kit on Hut

Smith said that another exciting aspect of the Zimpertec kit is how compact it is. “The kit comes in a really small box that’s about 30cm wide. It’s so small that it wasn’t an issue to ship it to the community at all,” he said.

Smith added that seeing the smiles on the community members faces after the installation of the solar kits has made his year. “Rubicon’s goal is to create sustainability and to showcase what we as a company can do for the people around us. And this was a perfect example of it. So, it’s a very proud moment. Even though it’s a small project, it’s a big project in our hearts that we’re excited to be a part of.”

Client feedback

African Waters director Keith Clover commented on the Makhangoa community’s reaction to the solar power. “The community is over the moon. The joy and happiness at what was achieved is still tangible in the air. It’s amazing driving through the village in the evening and seeing lights in the houses. Now they can operate and do daily tasks, which they’d normally have to do in daylight hours.”

Clover added that the community is very in tune with the news and having solar power allowed them to listen to music and the news on the radio. It also means they can charge their feature phones to receive government notices on weather warnings or political updates.

Clover added: “They are the envy of the other small villages around them. And our guides at the camp had only wonderful things to say about Rubicon and how hard the guys worked while they were there.

“Your commitment and contribution to this solar project has not only helped in fulfilling basic human needs, but it has positively reinforced the benefits of this community tourism and fly-fishing partnership,” Clover told Rubicon.

Makhangoa community member, Levina, said: “Everybody is happy, even the kids, because they’ve been waiting for this for a long time and they can’t believe it’s happening.”

Rubicon Lesotho

 

The future

Based on the success of this project, other villages surrounding Makhangoa have asked African Waters about the solar kits. Rubicon is working with African Waters to come up with a cost-effective quote for the other communities that are interested in the Zimpertec solar solution.


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