Empowering Rural Communities
The “Lesotho Rural Energy Hubs Programme” represents a collaborative endeavour between ACE and the European Union, commencing in March 2018. Its core objective was to address the vital issue of energy accessibility in Lesotho’s rural regions. Through the incredible support of the EU we look back now on the successful conclusion of this collaborative project and share its achievements with you.
The program was conceived to tackle the pressing challenge of energy access in Lesotho’s rural areas. Its primary aim was to provide clean, cost-effective energy solutions to rural households and small-scale food entrepreneurs by establishing energy hubs across Lesotho along with associated after-sales services to ensure sustainable use, particularly in light of climate change. The second objective was to recruit local agents to offer sales and after-sales services. This initiative aimed to ensure timely and suitable maintenance services for rural communities while simultaneously generating income opportunities for the people of Lesotho.
Impacting Lives and Livelihoods
One of the most noteworthy accomplishments of this initiative was the establishment of 18 energy hubs across Lesotho. These hubs extended clean energy access to areas where it had previously been scarce or non-existent, and they did more than just distribute ACE One stoves; they created employment opportunities within local communities, benefiting both households and employees. A feat which would not have been possible without the co-funding of the European Union for this project.
Reduction in Woody Biomass Reliance
The project has far exceeded expectations, achieving an impressive 57.39% reduction in reliance on woody biomass thanks to the efficient ACE One energy system, surpassing the initial 50% target. ACE One cookstoves enable users to cook using 50-85% less fuel compared to traditional cookstoves, leading to cost savings, reduced time spent gathering fuel, and contributing to deforestation mitigation in Lesotho. This substantial decrease through the program demonstrates that it not only alleviated the burden of wood collection but also afforded rural households precious time for other productive activities, thereby improving livelihoods.
Expanding Energy Access
To ensure the sustainability of the project, 18 strategically located energy hubs were established across all nine districts of Lesotho, with a particular emphasis on rural areas. All 18 energy hubs are now fully operational, effectively delivering clean energy to rural communities. They are managed by skilled ACE employees who engage in sales, maintenance services, customer surveys, and monitoring of loan repayments.
Thanks to these hubs, Over 11,000 households across Lesotho, including those in remote rural areas, now enjoy access to clean energy through ACE One stoves. This achievement, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, underscores the growing demand for clean energy products in this region.
In addition to enhancing energy access, the project significantly contributed to environmental sustainability. Through the substantial reduction in woody biomass reliance, playing an important role in conserving Lesotho’s natural resources. Furthermore, the ACE One stove’s efficiency minimised emissions, resulting in a cleaner and healthier environment for communities.
Challenges and Resilience
It is essential to acknowledge the challenges encountered during the project, particularly the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these obstacles affecting sales targets and the establishment of energy hubs, the project demonstrated remarkable resilience. These challenges and achievements underscore the project’s positive influence on reducing woody biomass fuel consumption and enhancing the lives of rural communities. We also must thank the European Union, as without their support and co-funding this project would not be able to continue and thrive in the manner that it did.
While not formally designated as a milestone in this project, it is evident that women are the primary beneficiaries, considering their predominant role as household cooks in most sub-Saharan African countries. A case study conducted by the Lesotho Ministry of Energy has underscored the ACE One stove’s positive reception among rural women, attributed to its fuel efficiency and enhancement of cooking conditions. This external party praise serves as a compelling testament to the impact we are achieving.
The “Lesotho Rural Energy Hubs Programme” exemplifies the substantial impact achievable through collaborative efforts between organisations like the European Union and regions. By providing clean energy access to rural households, empowering women, and reducing reliance on woody biomass, this initiative has not only elevated the quality of life but also contributed to a sustainable future for the Basotho people.
As we conclude this five-year journey in February 2023, ACE remains unwavering in its commitment to providing efficient and clean cooking energy and solar electricity to rural Basotho communities. And thankful to co-funding opportunities offered by great institutions like the European Union. The path toward a brighter, cleaner future has been established, and our journey continues beyond this remarkable project.