Solar electricity introduced to an ‘informal’ South African settlement


SA shack14% of South Africans live in shacks providing very basic accommodation. There are 2,000 shacks at Enkanini near an industrial estate at Stellenbosch, 40km from Cape Town, in an ‘unserviced informal settlement’.

The shack shown here was built by Victor Mthalo and his family in May 2011. In October 2011 they agreed to participate in an ‘iShack’ (improved shack) experiment initiated by Stellenbosch University’s TsamaHub, the HOPE Project and the Sustainability Institute at Lynedoch outside Stellenbosch, in collaboration with the Stellenbosch Municipality.

His zinc-sheeted shack was lined with cardboard sheets and empty flattened milk cartons. A window was enlarged and a solar panel installed on his roof. A light bulb was fitted together with a socket so that he could charge his mobile phone. Victor commented: “My shack became much more pleasant. It used to get very cold in winter and so hot in summer – 45C – that you could not stay indoors in the daytime. Now it is bearable.”

ishackRecently the university researchers added further solar panels capable of powering a DVD player, television, outside light, radio and also a fridge freezer. Six Enkanini residents have been trained to install, operate, maintain and repair the solar power system.

Mark Swilling, Stellenbosch University’s professor of sustainable development pointed out that it shows what can be achieved: “Getting people organised around their own wellbeing and improvements builds capacity. Building them houses with no input from them does not.” It is hoped that, as the iShack project expands, people will be able to hire purchase the solar panels.

The next step: attempting to develop eco-friendly sanitation projects in the locality.

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