July 2, 2024

Kenyan Refugee Camp Powered With Solar Energy

Kakuma Three, a section of the Kakuma refugee camp in northwestern Kenya, stands out for its use of solar energy. This area is brightly illuminated by a mini-grid powered by advanced solar technology from China, symbolizing hope and progress through sustainable energy solutions.

A Beacon of Hope Through Solar Energy

In the sprawling expanse of the Kakuma refugee camp, nestled in northwestern Kenya, a particular section stands out, not for its size or facilities, but for the serene glow that illuminates its landscape at dusk. This section, Kakuma Three, is a beacon of progress, symbolizing hope and innovation through its adoption of green energy, powered by a mini-grid made possible by China's advanced solar technology.

Vasco Hamisi, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), fled his home in 2010, seeking safety and a new beginning in Kakuma. Over the years, he has transformed from a refugee seeking solace to a pivotal figure in the camp's quest for renewable energy. Despite Kakuma's lack of connection to Kenya's main electricity grid, Hamisi saw an opportunity in the camp's abundant sunshine.

Inspired by the region's endless sunlight, Hamisi dreamed of harnessing solar power to light up the lives of his fellow refugees. However, funding this ambitious vision posed a significant challenge. The turning point came in 2018 when Hamisi participated in a grant challenge competition. Emerging as one of the winners, he secured $275,000 in funding to bring his green energy dream to life.

"I began looking for a viable solution to supply electricity and discovered that China has developed affordable and reliable technology to convert sunshine into electricity," Hamisi shared in a recent interview.

The Birth of Okapi Green Energy

With the funds in hand, Hamisi embarked on a journey to transform his dream into reality. He established Okapi Green Energy, a solar power plant in the heart of Kakuma refugee camp. The project received necessary approvals from the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority, the National Environmental Management Authority, and the county government of Turkana.

Hamisi partnered with Chinese solar firm Jinko Solar, procuring solar panels and other essential accessories to set up a 20-kilowatt power plant. By 2021, Okapi Green Energy began connecting households and businesses within the camp to a reliable source of electricity.

"So far, I have 150 households and 50 businesses as customers of my mini electricity grid at the Kakuma refugee camp," Hamisi proudly stated.

The success of Okapi Green Energy has been overwhelming. Encouraged by this achievement, Hamisi is in discussions with Xiamen Hithium Energy Storage Technology Co., Ltd, a stationary battery manufacturer based in China's Fujian Province. The goal is to expand the plant's capacity to 2.4 megawatts in the coming months, a significant leap from its current output.

Transforming Lives Through Solar Energy

The impact of this green energy revolution extends far beyond providing light. For many refugees, it has transformed their quality of life and business operations. Desantos Theophile Byizigiro, a Rwandan refugee who fled his homeland in 1997, is one such beneficiary. Byizigiro operates a bustling entertainment joint in the camp. Before accessing solar power, he relied on a generator, which was both costly and disruptive.

"The generator produced a lot of smoke and noise, which interfered with the comfort of my clients," Byizigiro explained. Since connecting to the solar grid, his expenses have plummeted. The cost of electricity has decreased from $15.50 daily to just $3.90, significantly boosting his profit margins.

The green energy initiative in Kakuma Three is a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of refugees like Hamisi. Through the support of advanced solar technology and strategic partnerships, they are not only lighting up their homes but also illuminating a path to a more sustainable and prosperous future. As Kakuma refugee camp continues to shine, it serves as a powerful reminder of what can be achieved when dreams are fueled by innovation and unwavering determination.

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