80 percent of the population without electricity

‘Jugend Eine Welt’ and the Austrian Development Cooperation invited to a symposium regarding rural development with the focus on electrical power supply

‘Rural development in southern countries’ was the topic of a symposium which was initiated by ‘Jugend Eine Welt’ and took place on November 19th 2015 in the Don Bosco house in Vienna. Chairman Reinhard Heiserer welcomed numerous guests, international experts as well as Salesian project partners from Nepal and Mozambique.

The symposium focused on electrical power supply and renewable energies. Millions of people worldwide have no access to electricity. In Nepal, 60 percent of the residents live without electrical power. The project partners stated that in certain parts of Mozambique, the percentage of residents without electrical power supply amounts to almost 80 percent. ‘There is no oil, gas or coal in Nepal’ explained Father Jacob Punneliparambil. Especially in rural areas, solar energy is an attractive alternative. ‘Renewable energies require high initial costs but low operating costs. With Diesel generators the situation is totally different – the initial costs are relatively low but the operating costs are way higher as with renewable energy solutions’ stated Martin Lugmayr from UNIDO, an agency of the United Nations that promotes industrial development for poverty reduction, inclusive globalization and environmental sustainability. Experts calculated that the investment costs for solar energy would be amortized within a time range of about 2 years.

Several factors must be considered for a successful and sustainable implementation of a new energy source. For instance, if people in developing countries can derive maximum benefit from it and if the project respects traditions and values of the target group. Also, it must be ensured that somebody in the project area can provide service and repair of the solar panels. ‘Appropriate technical training for residents is therefore substantial’ claimed the experts. They agreed that the donation and implementation of a photovoltaic system would not be sufficient.

Martin Ledolter, CEO of the Austrian Development Agency which co-financed the symposium, underlined the good cooperation with ‘Jugend Eine Welt’. ‘Since 1999, there is a strong partnership in place which has led to impressive results so far. Together we are improving the living conditions of the poor’. Since 2004, ‘Jugend Eine Welt’ supports rural development projects in Nepal and since 2007 as well in Mozambique. With the motto ‘Education overcomes poverty’, ‘Jugend Eine Welt’ provides residents with the necessary skillset in the crop and livestock farming sector and enables them to grow new varieties of plants. Furthermore, they receive skillsets for efficient irrigation and to improve their marketing since more income goes along with increased resources for education and health. ‘Since the beginning, more than 30.000 people benefited from our work’ summarized Hannes Velik, Program Manager of ‘Jugend Eine Welt’.

Millions of people without property

Rural development is one of the key issues in our time. Three quarters of residents in rural areas of developing countries suffer from poverty. They have no income or very low revenues, poor educational levels and hardly have access to medical care. At the same time, those people who live from crop and livestock farming are strongly affected by the climate change, especially by drought, storms and floods. Lots of young people escape to urban areas in the hope of a better life which is rarely given. Deserted villages and fallow fields stay behind. Hence, the development of the rural areas must be supported with the aim to raise the agricultural productivity and to increase the proceeds. ‘This is the best investment to avoid big cities with 40 million residents and high crime rates’ explains Rainer Tump who is an experienced expert in the field of rural development and currently leader of a huge water-program in Egypt. This averts major investors from buying huge areas of land for little money which would lead to even more people being without properties.