Self-taught Rwandan Electrician Brings Electricity to His Village

By Mark Kawalya

In the leafy village of Kirehe, in Rwanda, lives a famous village electrician. Israel Habimana, a man who does not have any formal education, got tired of living in the dark and taught himself how to generate electricity using hydropower. 

Currently, he runs his own power station that employs 15 people and supplies electricity to his village

“It is not long since people here have known electricity, many died without having seen it,” Habimana said in an interview with Reuters.” I never went to school, but that didn’t stop me from doing what I wanted to do, even if it was very difficult for me.”

Habimana was inspired after seeing a similar hydroelectricity set up at the Mwendo Catholic Missionary Center in western Rwanda. He observed how the mini hydroelectric plant worked and visited the site many times to learn more about the system. When he was certain he had gained enough knowledge, he went back to try implement what he had learned.

“In 2012, I sold my house and land for $17,000 and used the proceeds to buy used engines and water pipes in Kigali, which I assembled to make a hydroelectric plant,” he explained to the Africanmirror.

After facing a number of setbacks, he registered some success and was able to connect 50 homes to electricity for the first time ever. However, after only four months, he had to closed the project.

“I lit this community for four months. But due to a failure to regulate electricity, it burned people’s electronics, and I decided to stop it,” Habimana says.

To find a workaround for this, Habimana solicited the help of the Rwanda Energy Group (REG) in 2017, to get the necessary training to gain more skills in running his project. He was linked to Energy4Impact, a Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency that worked with him in upgrading his 24 Nyankorogoma hydropower plant.

Currently, the plant supplies 221 households and 25 businesses spread out in five villages. An additional 300 homes and businesses are on the waiting list to get connected to the Nyankorogoma electricity grid.

To access electricity, each household needs to pay a set-up fee of $45 and a flat monthly rate of $1 for household consumption and $5 for a business.

Since the arrival of electricity in the area, new businesses have sprung up, giving more people a source of livelihood and improving their quality of life.

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