Submitted by: International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
Implemented country: Mauritania
Title: Solar Energy Enlightens Schools in Mauritania
Today’s young Europeans know much about climate change, at least in theory. But only few of them can imagine the disastrous effects that climate change can really have, for example, on African countries. Of course these effects are also “helped along” as a result of self-induced causes such as deforestation, soil erosion, using drinking water for irrigation, etc. Creating a sense of awareness for these real-life problems in the young people of Italy is Cristiana Sparacino’s mission. The Italian economics expert with a degree from the London School of Economics in agriculture and development aid-policy is program coordinator of IFAD. Her goal is to take solar energy to selected villages in Mauretania by means of school partnerships between Italian and Mauritanian schools within the framework of a joint program between IFAD and ENEA (= the Italian Agency for New Technologies, Energy, and Sustainable Economy). Their project is called Educarsi a Futuro – educating oneself for the future.
The level of electrification in Mauretania is at approximately 25 percent. The situation is somewhat better in the cities. Most rural households still use petroleum lamps for lighting. Only 1 per cent of all rural households have access to electricity, and then mainly through diesel engines. 95 per cent of the energy needs in Mauretania are covered through oil. There is a great potential for solar energy. At 8 hours of sun every day, this potential lies at 4 to 6 kilowatt hours per square meter and day. For Sparacino this is one more reason to help Mauretania switch from fossil energies to renewable energies. The first challenge was choosing the right partner schools to be outfitted with solar panels. Then came organizing the right groups for coordination and support. And of course there was a lot of red tape to care of as far as working is ENEA was concerned.
Today, 10 schools in Mauretania profit from solar panels on their roof. One photovoltaic system the size of 10 square meters costs approximately 5,000 U.S. dollars. The money came from ENEA. Now the students can experience the pleasures of sunshine in a completely different way: Through clean, safe, and affordable energy. The project also fits the new energy concept established by the Mauritanian government who wants clear framework conditions for renewable energies especially for the electrification of rural areas. Solar energy is supposed to play a very important role. By 2020 very big objectives need to be met: Electrification of the villages should have reached 40 per cent by then. The percentage of renewable as compared to the entire energy mix is supposed to reach 15 per cent by 2015 and 20 per cent by 2020. This is a very positive signal for the IFAD/ENEA project and an incentive to continue in in their efforts. Ten schools in Burkina Faso have been outfitted as well. Now IFAD/ENEA wants to support other countries in the Sub-Sahara region to use sun as a clean energy source. Despite all these plans Cristiana Sparacina still finds time to teach rural development at the University of Rome III. Her motto is: Nothing ever happens by chance. Cristiana also enjoys traveling, spending time with her partner as well as with her five nieces and nephews.
“Invest in the youth for a better tomorrow.”