Period

2009 - 2011

Funding

European Commission (Programme: Environment and Sustainable Management of Natural Resources)

Project Description

The SUNGAS project aims to pilot alternative ways of generating energy. It is enrolled by three NGOs in the Niger Delta and coordinated by the UK-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). One of the Nigerian NGOs, the Niger Delta Wetlands Centre (NDWC), approached MIND to train its project team in participatory research and media strategies. These are to help the NDWC team in building grassroot ownership of the renewable energy systems to be installed by NDWC as part of the SUNGAS project.

Skills and tools that have been shared with the NDWC project team so far:

  • PLA techniques for community research (mapping, transect walks, pair wise ranking, problem trees, interview techniques, etc.);
  • Participatory drama techniques to be used for for awareness building on renewable energy, counter-balancing prevailing misconceptions*, and tackling potential community dynamics.

Future interventions may focus on:

  • Facilitating participatory choice processes at community level (Which type of solar systems do community members prefer to obtain through SUNGAS? A solar water installation? Solar refrigeration for health centres? A solar-powered phone recharging shop?)
  • Video techniques for educating end users on how to operate and maintain their solar energy systems, and informing a wider audience about the SUNGAS project achievements and lessons learned.

SUNGAS

* One misconception about solar energy systems that NDWC often is faced with in its work is the idea that these systems are inferior because they do not produce as much energy as generators. However, solar energy is much more reliable than generator power or grid-based power in Nigeria, and it doesn’t require constant investment of fuel (which is hard to obtain in the creeks and may be 'chopped’ by greedy individuals). People also are suspicious of solar energy because of the many dysfunctional solar energy systems on ground. NDWC research has shown that these failures generally are not to be blamed to the technology as such (solar systems in fact are likely to last for over 20 years without much maintenance) but rather to fallacies in the design and installation of systems (by indifferent, incompetent, or corrupt contractors), poorly informed end users who have not been told how to handle their systems, and lacking local availability of maintenance and troubleshooting skills.