Earlier this year, the Schneider Electric Foundation donated €7,000 to the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) ‘Project Connect’ endeavour in Gwakwani Village, a remote rural village in Limpopo, almost 300kms from the capital, Polokwane. This hand-over ceremony took place on 17 September 2017.
The university and Schneider Electric South Africa have been in partnership on this project since 2015 – when solar lighting solutions were installed in 30 homes. Part of Schneider’s Access to Education strategy is focused on the large need for practical skills development within the field of energy and the group has made remarkable strides in initiating sustainable development initiatives globally. The University of Johannesburg (UJ) delivered the project as an educational initiative with an opportunity for student training and on the job experience.
Through Project Connect, the UJ students are exposed to real-life engineering projects and opportunities, to solve critical issues where they are needed most. They identified a high quality and multifunctional water system as a core need for the village, as water supplied from a borehole for drip irrigation in the village was insufficient for daily use.
“A second borehole pump was installed and Schneider Electric South Africa assisted to make this a reality by donating its ‘Water of the Sun’ solution, which consists of its variable speed drives to power the water pump, with a 4Kw solar panel solution that UJ provided. Now this community not only has access to reliable water supply for everyday use, but can also plant and grow vegetables to support itself and sell to surrounding villages as drip irrigation has been installed for the excess water.
“Initially, we trained entrepreneurs to sell and maintain our solar powered portable LED lamps, with its mobile phone charger, the Mobiya TS 120S,” said Zanelle Dalglish, Head of Sustainable Development for Schneider Electric Anglophone Africa. “The original donation enabled access to energy, so the community no longer has to rely on candles, as their primary source of lighting and one of the Mobiya entrepreneurs has built a complete house with the funds that he has raised though Mobiya sales”
“Furthermore, Schneider Electric South Africa were also involved with the setup of a solar powered and containerised solution for a bakery and crèche erected by UJ. This contributed to wealth creation and education as the bakery solution had to be designed and installed in a very remote location with very limited access to telecommunication. The bakery is now fully operational delivering more than 100 loaves of bread per day which generates income for the community, whilst UJ continues to monitor the performance of the solar system and implements continuous improvements to the system.
The villagers have expressed their gratitude for these life-changing ventures as they used to refer to themselves as “the forgotten people” and they now have access to energy with a full range of solar solutions from the Schneider Electric access to energy offer.
“We are very proud of the work that the University of Johannesburg have done with their students and we are very grateful to the Schneider Electric Foundation for their large contribution to this project,” concludes Dalglish.
Schneider Electric’s Foundation aims to contribute to the development of people and societies through education, innovation, awareness-raising and vocational training related to energy. It acts anywhere in the world where the company is present, through its three programmes – access to energy through vocational training; emergency and rebuilding actions; and sustainable development awareness.