With electricity only available 4-5 hours on a good day, poor electricity affected every sector in Warsheikh. Amina, a businesswoman who runs a grocery shop in Warsheikh couldn’t keep her vegetables fresh for more than a day. She struggled to sustain her business and fend for her extended family of six children. The effect of poor electricity was felt across the business sector. Abukar, a young fisherman, faced high spoilage rates for his fish, as 24-hour freezer facilities were unavailable.
Warsheikh is located 60 kilometers south of Mogadishu. It is a small coastal town in Middle Shabelle region with 200 households. Just like many towns in Somalia, Warsheikh has been affected by a prolonged period of insecurity and was under Al Shabaab control until 2014. One way in which prolonged insecurity has affected Warsheikh is an unreliable electricity supply. A local company provided intermittent power using a diesel-powered generator to the town for 4-5 hours from 6:00pm to 10:00pm, when fuel was available to run it. After 10pm life in Warsheikh came to a standstill, shortening business hours, reducing movement of people at night and heightening insecurity.
After Warsheikh’s liberation from Al Shabaab in 2014, SSF supported a solar project providing solar street lighting and solar panels in target areas, chosen in consultation with the community and the local administration, to electrify local amenities such as the health centre. These projects had a profound impact on security and business by lighting up streets at night and providing extra hours for businesses to operate in the town.
Building on these successes, in 2016, SSF supported the installation of a solar powered mini-grid hybrid electrification system with SOLARGEN, a Somalia based energy company to provide electricity to over 200 households in Warsheikh – the first project of its kind in Somalia. In October 2018, the project was launched allowing over 200 households in Warsheikh to access electricity 24 hours a day. Every household has an electric meter that measures the amount of power consumption and a prepaid option that allows the users to credit their accounts through mobile money transfer. Since accessing more reliable electricity many people in the town have bought electronic household goods such as washing machines, refrigerators and TV sets for the first time. Such are the levels of usage that Solargen is now considering how to expand the mini-grid system to cater for the demand.
The availability of electricity allowed Abukar to store his fish in freezers and the spoilage rate is now negligible. He expanded his market beyond Warsheikh and transports fish, lobsters and shrimp to Mogadishu.
“Before the electricity was installed, half of my catch was wasted due to lack of sufficient power for the freezers. We can now store our catch in the freezers and transport it to Mogadishu where there is a huge demand. My income has increased by 80%” says Abukar. “We thank the local administration for listening to us,” he continues.
After the project launch, Mohamed Adawi, one of the youth of Warsheikh who has a knack for entrepreneurship saw a business opportunity. Warsheikh is hot and sunny, and not many businesses sell cold drinks. He decided to open a cold drink shop.
“ When the electricity was installed, I opened a shop that sells cold drinks,” he says. “This [initiative] translates to better income and opportunities for the youth to venture into entrepreneurship” he concludes.
“I have a more reliable electricity connection available 24 hours a day, I store my vegetable in the refrigerator,” says Amina “My business has started to improve,” she continues.
To ensure sustainability of the project, SOLARGEN has conducted training for young electrical engineers from the local community to operate the system and established a committee to oversee the project. The Fund has also engaged the private electricity provider who previously ran the diesel-powered system, to manage the project once SOLARGEN’s tenure ends.
SSF commissioned an independent evaluation of the SSF investments in Warsheikh to better understand its impact. Out of the many districts that were assessed in Hirshabelle, Warsheikh was pointed out as a peaceful outlier. With increased mobility at night especially for women and business owners operating longer hours, the findings of the evaluation draw a direct correlation between the safety of the town and the SSF funded lighting projects.