Tsoeu-khala village is a tiny village patched on the slopes of Semenanyane river valley in the mountainous district of Thaba-Tseka in Lesotho. Located down stream Katse dam on the Malibamatso river, this village of about 58 households has became a shinning beacon of hope that the rest of the surrounding villages intend to emulate.
At night when the darkness engulf the entire neighbouring villages of Ha Matona, Bobete and Freisitata, Tsoeu-khala stands out shining on the slopes of Semenanyane valley with lights powered through four solar panels erected within the Tsoeu-khala village, by Nchela Solar company. “We thank Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) official, Ntate Thato Konstabole for leading us,” said ‘Makhopiso Khalanyane, the village chief, who also acts as the secretary of her village development committee.
Tsoeu-khala community is among many villages downstream Malibamatso whose grazing rangelands were affected by the Lesotho Highlands Water Scheme, whose aim is to divert the waters of the south flowing Orange River northwards to Gauteng, compensated for communal rangelands. The community used the compensation money to address the energy needs. About 48 households have been connected to solar energy power source, meeting the energy needs of more than 90 percent of the village, with only 11 households out of 58 still to be connected.
Tsoeu-khale village also hosts Khalanyane primary school which enrolled 275 learners, housed in a stone and mud building, located below the village. The 180,000 worthy solar power project is a small dent in a sea of huge developmental challenge facing the community of Tsoeu-khale and surrounding area of Bobete. A flat roof of corrugated iron sheets of stones and mud school building appears to be makeshift structure, that is barely furnished and many of the learners sit on the floor and use their laps and hands as desks to write on.
“From 2017 when we first started interacting with Ntate Thato, the process of deciding on which project to pursue was not an easy one. We considered a number of projects, ranging from; poultry, carpentry, piggery to diary project. Finally with the assistant of the LHDA were settled for the idea of solar project, and we are now reaping the benefits of it. We no long buy paraffin and the problem we used to have when we wanted to charge our cell phone is now the thing of the past”, said ‘Mabonang Khalanyane, the chair lady of the committee.
The development spin-off of embarking on the solar project has not only been an impetus that enticed the surrounding communities to follow the development path pursued by Tsoeu-khala community but has positioned this community as a pioneer supplier of solar appliances like cell-phone chargers in the area.
One of the development spin-offs of the project include business opportunity as Tsoeu-khala development committee is contemplating upon introducing and stocking solar appliance devices to harness business opportunities brought about by the presence of solar power energy within the area.
Mohale Nchela, the solar technician that installed the system for the community says the system provide enough energy to meet the basic energy needs of the mountain rural community. That is 150 watts is large enough to supply 58 households with lighting, use of appliances like radio, cell phone battery chargers and 12 voltage Television sets.
“At each household we have installed Lead-Crista batteries which at the cost of R500 per battery are slightly more expensive than acid battery but have a longer life-span. Each battery can last 5 to 6 years, depending on the use of appliances by individual users,” said Nchela adding that we structured the service level agreement with the community in such way that, Nchela Solar in future will do free maintenance and repair of the batteries. In the near future the idea is to establish battery repairs workshop, which will enable community members to buy reuse-able batteries within the area.