A number of rural electrification programs have been proposed with minimal progress being made. Although most rural folk have found ways of surviving without electricity, electricity based industries and businesses have remained few and almost non-existent thus abridging economic development in the areas. With Zimbabwe's power utility company also struggling to pay its debts coupled with repeated droughts affecting hydro-power, urban areas have also been hit with 15 to 18 hour daily load shedding schedules.
In 2016, the NGO Practical Action began a project to electrify social and economic institutions in the Mashaba village, one of the furthest villages in Gwanda South District. Using solar mini-grids, the project supplies electricity to irrigation schemes, a clinic, a school and business centres through new power lines. About 40% of the Mashaba community is hooked up to the mini-grids.
Most people here rely heavily on agriculture and cattle ranching. However, with the droughts affecting farmlands and business, employment and job creation have remained low. The prospects of seeking better opportunities in urban settlements or even outside the country seem inevitable. However, after the installation of the solar grid, new business opportunities and developments are now being mulled.
Mashaba primary school which is connected to the grid is now boasting with pride in awe of what it has been able to achieve and for future outlooks. The availability of the solar has meant that they can now have a computer lab where children can also operate ipads and smartphones. Not only has this attracted the attention of children who rarely go to school, the school has also managed to retain its teaching stuff stationed at the school.
The availability of frequent electricity at the school also has the potential of promoting productivity, more exposure to new technologies and job opportunities. Taking into account that the rural population in Zimbabwe has been largely greater than that of urban areas, this exposure and growth in knowledge could also open up more opportunities and development.
The movement towards the use of solar energy in the country also the potential of promoting sustainable electricity based businesses in rural areas thus preventing rapid rural to urban migration.