Smart Village Limited is piloting formation of Community Based Financial Institutions (CBFIs) with support from RUFEP while promoting use of solar energy targeting the rural people of Ngabwe District.
Ngabwe is a remote rural area located about 170 Kilometers from Kabwe off the national grid and was accorded the district status by the late President of Zambia, Mr. Michael Sata on 13th April 2013.
While promoting the adoption and use of solar energy solutions targeting rural people off the national grid as the core business, Smart Villlage is piloting formation of savings groups to increase financial inclusion and incomes of the rural people in Ngabwe.
In April 2018, Smart Village accessed a grant from RUFEP under the Rural Finance Equity and Innovation Window (III) of the Innovation and Outreach Facility (IOF) matching grants to pilot formation of CBFIs in Ngabwe district.
The IOF grant from RUFEP worth US$25,000 to Smart Village Limited targets the formation of 15 savings groups in the newly created remote rural district of Ngabwe by November, 2019.
By 10th June, 2019, when RUFEP conducted field visits to assess progress by the implementing partner, Smart Village Limited had formed 5 Savings Groups in Ngabwe District.
Speaking during the field visit, Smart Village Project Manager Thandiwe Tembo said the formation of savings groups or CBFIs using the Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) model has been well received by the rural people of Ngabwe.
Ms. Tembo said Smart Village conducted a survey to assess how much the rural people of Ngabwe were willing to pay for the solar lighting products which indicated that 150 connections to the off grid home solar system were possible.
“So far 5 CBFI groups have been formed and we are targeting 10 more groups by the end of the year. From the pilot and the survey conducted by Smart Village Limited, so far at least 105 connections to the home solar system are possible”, she said.
Ms. Tembo said findings of the survey indicated that the rural people of Ngabwe will be able to afford the cost of the home solar system based on what they are currently paying for to light their homes and to charge their mobile phones.
Meanwhile, Smart Village Limited has connected Ngabwe Secondary School to the solar system to demonstrate how the home solar system works to the Ngabwe community by lighting the classrooms, boarding houses, and the school administration block.
Ngabwe Secondary School Headmistress Maureen Mpundu thanked RUFEP and Smart Village for their initiatives and support particularly to Ngabwe Secondary School. Mrs Mpundu said the solar system has now made it possible for pupils to study at night and made life much easier for the school.
She pleaded for more support from well-wishers as a number of school projects were abandoned by contractors citing high transport costs due to the remoteness of Ngabwe district.