Diepsloot is fraught with abject poverty, lack of electricity and water. Like many informal settlements in South Africa residents struggle with the daily challenge of bread and butter but above the rest, Diepsloot has built its reputation on crime. The inhabitants live completely off the grid and are deprived of the benefits of street and home lighting. The murky streets deny residents a sense of safety during the dark hours of the night, and leaves them with a strong sense of deprivation and insecurity. Dark streets and crime work well together – crime rate is rife. Community safety is a daily burden for people living in marginalised communities like Diepsloot. But installing bright, reliable, solar-powered streetlights could turn things around.
The need behind Project Sunshine
Project Sunshine is a project initiated by Greenpeace Africa, in support of The Philile Foundation (that runs the Diepsloot Philile crèche). The project seeks to bring clean and sustainable energy to the Diepsloot community. The Philile Foundation provides early childhood development education to needy and disadvantaged communities. The effort by the foundation is very much needed in South Africa. However, the Diepsloot Philile crèche is off-grid, having partial access to energy only. This situation is challenging and restricts the daily use of lighting amenities as well as the ability to prepare meals for the children.
Greenpeace Africa has partnered with the community of Diepsloot, The Philile Foundation and relevant contractors to provide renewable energy to the Philile crèche. The project is divided into three phases, to date twelve (12) rooftop solar panels and an anaerobic bio-digester covering phases 1 & 2 have been installed. The final phase will be the installation of solar streetlights around the crèche by the end of July 2017. Direct funding, crowdfunding and SMS donations are needed to complete the third part of the project. The support of the Diepsloot local community and the broader South African public is necessary.
Engaging with the Diepsloot community
Before the installation of the rooftop solar panels, the Greenpeace Africa team engaged with The Philile Foundation staff and crèche teachers. This engagement was later followed by several meetings with the parents of the children as well as neighbours of the crèche to profile the project. It was an opportunity to get buy-in, and most importantly, community ownership of Project Sunshine.
Building on the community engagement, Greenpeace Africa will continue to partner with local civil society-based organisations and sister partners such as Earthlife Africa Johannesburg. Together, they will carry out a cleaning campaign in Diepsloot (in the extension 12 area). The cleaning campaign approach is meant to achieve two main objectives. To create awareness on maintaining and sustaining a clean and healthy environment for the community and to educate the community on using waste, especially food waste, to service the bio-digester at the Philile crèche. This in turn will provide cooking-gas to prepare meals for the children at the crèche.
A national potential
Project Sunshine has a potential for replication and for serving as an excellent and achievable case study. The project will prove that it is possible to bring sustainable energy to off-grid communities. The awareness created through community participation, teacher participation as well as engagement with the school children will develop buy-in and a sense of ownership of the project. Moreover, there lies an opportunity to influence local authorities (e.g. City of Johannesburg – City Power), provincial government (e.g. Gauteng) and the South African national government to direct their efforts towards energy access, by allowing off-grid renewable energy technologies to be used in disadvantaged communities. In doing so, communities will have immediate access to energy.
Renewable energy projects to date have proven to be built in far less time than it takes to construct coal or nuclear-powered plants. Allowing the use of off-grid renewable energy technologies in disadvantaged communities will provide residents with energy much sooner.
>> You can help provide public lightning to disadvantaged communities by supporting Project Sunshine today!