Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Solar Street Lighting Project Boosts Trade in Homa Bay

Homa Bay County Governor Cyprian Awiti (r), his deputy
Hammilton Orata and politician Mark Matunga at Sena Market
during the launch of the solar strret lights.
It is 8pm. Women are busy serving customers at a busy Shauri Yako open air market in Homa Bay town using small tin lamps as the only source of light.

Boda boda operators are eagerly waiting for customers at a dark packing lot ready to transport them home.

This has been the situation in a number of market centres within Homa Bay County. This has exposed the women and boda boda operators to various security challenges. However, traders in various sectors ranging from shopkeepers, boda boda operators, mama mbogas, butchers among others can now smile — thanks to the "Okonyo welo" street lighting project.

"Okonyo Welo" — which literally means 'save visitors' — has been introduced in various shopping centres and its aim is to extend working hours and improve the region's economy.
The solar lights which have been introduced in Homa Bay
County to curb insecurity and to extend business hours.

In Homa Bay town, the solar lights have been erected at Shauri Yako open air market, Homa Bay market and several other streets.

The solar lights, with rechargeable batteries, usually charge during the day but immediately the sun sets they automatically switch on. The turn off when the day breaks.

Traders and boda boda operators, who used to close their businesses as early as 8pm due to the darkness within the town, are now able to extend their working hours as late as midnight.

Mary Atieno, a fishmonger at Homa Bay Municipal Market, says she now works till 10pm.

"I used to close my business at exactly half past eight due to lack of proper lighting, attacks from stray dogs and even the street children," she said.

"Since the installation of the solar street lights I can now extend my business working hours without worrying about my security or even power blackout."

She said a number of her customers usually come from work late but she is now able to serve them, adding that her income has since improved.

Monica Achieng, a mama mboga at Soko Mjinga market, says these days she registers minimal losses in her business.

"A lot of my vegetables used to go to waste. I used to go home as early as 7.30pm because of insecurity. The steet lighting has greatly improved the security in the area," she said.

Boda boda operators have always been targeted by thugs — a number of them have been murdered in cold blood in the past.

Gabriel Omondi, who operates at Stage Miwa, said the lights have enhanced security in the town and its environs.

He said they can now operate within the town until late hours without attack from thugs.

"Some of our customers rave until late but nowadays we transport them home without any fear," he said.

The Sh240 million street solar project, which is being implemented in 285 market centers in the whole county, is funded by the Homa Bay County government and a privately owned company, Horizon Media Ltd. The project will be implemented in two phases in the next three years.

The project is expected to enhance security and improve the county's economic growth and to save the environment by using renewable energies.

Speaking recently during the launch at Sena market within Mfangano Island, Homa Bay Governor Cyprian Awiti said the project’s objective is to extend market hours to help improve trade and security.

"We are targeting a 24-hour economy and the project is a move towards that direction; we want to drive away the darkness that has restricted business hours in our towns," he said.

"The mama mbogas and boda boda operators will extend their business hours without worrying about their security," Awiti said.

Besides the 285 market centers, the project is expected to be rolled out to major townships such as Mbita, Sindo Magunga, Kendu Bay, Oyugis, Ndhiwa and Rangwe.

Around 450 solar street light masts have been erected in the in the first phase.

"We are starting with 450 street light masts which have been erected in designated market places in the first phase while another 350 will be erected in the second phase," Awiti added.

The county energy and natural resources executive secretary Phares Ratego said Horizon Media Ltd will use the electricity polls to post advertisements.

He said the advertising revenue will be used to provide low interest loans to women and youth to start small businesses.

"This is a long term development project with far reaching benefits to the people," said Ratego.

Homa Bay traders union secretary Jackson Nyambega hailed the initiative but asked the county government to consider rehabilitating the Sh40 million modern market in the town which has been since been abandoned by traders.

"The programme is a good initiative but for traders and their goods to be more secure we appeal to the county government to rehabilitate the market so that we can carry out our activities inside," he said.


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