Transforming our communities from within; let there be light
By John Magiro
Let there be light; and there was light (Genesis 1:3)
When your village is in a remote area, when your village is far, very far away from the national electric grid in your country, what happens? Darkness happens!
All you get to know is surrounding darkness and there comes a time when somewhere in your heart, you acclimatize to the darkness and begin to accept and love your “dark lot in life”.
Then you watch your people as you grow, they settle for the age-old burning of wood, charcoal, kerosene lamps and the use of batteries to wade off their “dark lot in life” when darkness envelopes the land sunset after sunset.
The people are happy. Life continues. After all, what you do not know does not kill you. In the cities, electricity is present. It may be erratic but at least it is present. The Government of the day is struggling to make electricity constant in the cities…a project that drives most campaign promises on the African continent. Why would they bother with lighting up the remote villages when even the cities are yet to have stable supply?
So it is, that you grow up on the side of the divide where darkness is okay. A place, where water thunders down the hills and rocks, creating sights and sounds that are the beauty of nature. These natural beauties are abundant in your village…. there are about 10 of such waterfalls. Every day, you look at the amazing force that is the waterfalls and you marvel at the energy in nature.
Then you gradually begin to get discontented with the comfort that is darkness. The burning of your village forests, the cost of kerosene and batteries as well as your glimpse of the life on the other side of the divide (cities and other countries) begins to haunt your thoughts. This darkness is no longer okay……. a glimmer of light strikes your previously acclimatized heart. You begin to resent the darkness. Then bang, you get the “eureka moment” ……you decide that: Let there be light and you generate light……for your village must be dark no more.
My name is John Magiro and I built a mini hydro-power station from scratch for my village in Murang’a, Kenya. My next goal is to build another hydropower station in the next small village that is still without electricity and then the next and the next, until all of rural Kenyan is lit. Let there be light, and we generate it.
My project seeks to empower the local communities to have better-living conditions by increasing their opportunities for making productive economic investments while promoting a culture that uses eco-friendly power. To date, I have connected 350 households in my village to electricity. But this is not enough; there are many more households that still use lanterns for their lighting. These people live below the poverty line and cannot afford to seek other alternatives but we are determined to transform our communities from within. We have decided that there will be light, and we generate it.
My team and I desire to see each and every household lit up with clean, reliable and affordable energy. We want to see a world where even the rural poor are empowered to alter their realities. We want to see children read at night. They do not need to suffer like we did, using candles and kerosene lamps.
We do not want to see trees cut and women and girls walk long distances in search of wood fuel. We must conserve our natural forests and other resources. We want to see our village look like the big towns. We desire a world where the energy poverty gap is so minimal it cannot form a statistic anymore. So we have decided that there must be light, and we generate it.
I alone cannot change the world. Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the change that we seek and we must leave our mark in making the world a better place. There is light now in our little village but more villages need light; and together, we generate it.
In 2014, my project won first place in the NETFUND (National Environment Trust Fund) Green Innovation Awards Individual category that saw my team and I join the NETFUND Incubation Program. The incubation centre is a platform where I got linked with a team of experts, received a seed funding for the project and developed business plans.
With this support from the Kenyan government through the NETFUND, I now employ over ten youths from my village and together, we produce electricity while conserving the environment. This incubation support has seen us increase our power generation capacity from 75kwh to 300kwh translating to 400% increase in productivity. This has enabled us to expand our mini grid connectivity by 267% from an initial 30 households to 110 households. When I joined the program in 2015 my expectations were to connect at least 266 households by 2022, but because of the massive progress experienced, I am planning to connect 500 households in the next two years. Let there be light, and we generate it.
If you want to see more on how we generate this light, click on this link below. Today we tell all of us on the continent of Africa that we will be called the dark continent no more because, once we all decide that let there be light; then, we surely will generate light for Africa by Africans.
John Magiro Wanguri is now 23 years old. Raised by an “ever-present single mother” Jennifer Wangari Githinji and an “absentee dad”, John is the last of 5 children. Growing-up for them was not easy because the family had very little resources. He attended Njumbi primary school and dropped out of Mihuti secondary school in standard four. When John recounted in fluent Swahili via an interpreter, how he had to drop out of school early because his mother could not afford his school fees, LR Team members were overwhelmed with emotion. However, this man did not give up on teaching himself or pursuing his dreams. Today he is an entrepreneur and inventor who has lit up seven villages in Kenya and is counting. His team and himself are not relenting.
At Team LR HQ, we are all inspired by this man who is a multi-award winner and life changer despite his lack of proper formal education. A man who has beaten many a professor of engineering to the end goal of practical implementation of theoretical principles to make life better for people. A man who exemplifies the fact, that our communities will change when we decide to take the steps required.
The contributions of John Magiro to his can be summed up by one of our readers who said:
“Formal education will make you a living. It does not mean there are no limits to what you can be, have or do. What breaks your limitations is your heart knowledge…. which stems from your desire to push boundaries and better humanity. So head knowledge is good, but heart knowledge is indispensable” (ANDY BOND, 2017)
We kindly request your help in sharing this article with your friends, family and networks. There is the urgent need for us to know that whatever this man is doing in Kenya, can be replicated everywhere else in Africa.
Please share, that there may be light, and we will generate it.
**This article was produced for your motivational pleasure by Loretta Ogboro-Okor, John Magiro and Nelson Mapesa**