Megawatts and connections improving lives — Birhan Chekene’s story

Power Africa
3 min readMar 19, 2020

With support from Power Africa, as a result of assistance provided to host country governments and the private sector, energy customers in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria gained access to new or improved electricity. Birhan’s story highlights one of the experiences households have had as a result of gaining access to that electricity.

Since getting electricity from a wind powered mini-grid, Birhan can now sell his oxen for a much higher price than before. Photo Credit: Power Africa/Integra

My name is Birhan and I live in Menz Gera, Ethiopia. My community received access to a wind powered mini-grid a year and a half ago. Prior to this electricity, I relied on coal, wood, diesel lanterns, and a battery powered flashlight.

In this community we raise cattle and poultry. Before access to the electricity, we used to sell fattened oxen cheaply in Mehal Meda, but this did not bring much of a profit. Farmers were losing a lot of money. Since having power, we are able to charge our phones and call Addis Ababa for pricing information. Now, we can sell oxen for five to six times the amount. The profits I get from selling oxen at a higher price have also helped me run other businesses. For example, I have invested this extra money to trade black stones and sheep. In this way, the information we receive because of the electricity has been a major change in our lives.

The profit that Birhan now gets from selling oxen at a higher price helps him to run other businesses. Photo Credit: Power Africa/Integra

Using this extra income, I am now able to buy other oxen and do more work on the farm. This has resulted in more produce so I don’t have to buy as much food. I have built a house using corrugated iron instead of straw and dung, and use an electric stove that now saves us from the smoke from the other cooking materials we used. I even have plans to buy land in the future near the city and open another business.

“We used to sell fattened oxen cheaply for 5,000 or 6,000 birr [172–206 USD]… but after we got connected to the power, we charge our cell phones and call Addis Ababa, and they tell us the price of oxen there. Now, we can sell it from 20,000 to 35,000 birr [688–1,204 USD]”.

The electricity has changed the lives for the community as well. Women can make injera (sourdough flatbread) whenever they want without stress using an electric stove. They can see clearly without the use of the kerosene, which relieves a larger burden. Since they can cook injera at night instead of the day, they have time to spin cotton during the day to sell.

Women in the community now have more time during the day to perform income generating tasks because they have electricity and lights to cook at night. Photo Credit: Power Africa/Integra

Many women have even opened bank accounts at the commercial bank of Ethiopia to save their money. My wife has done this as well, and has already bought a sheep with the money she has made. She is continuing to save for either an additional sheep or a cow.

Birhan plans to buy land in the future near the city and open another business with his increase in profits from selling oxen at a higher price. Photo Credit: Power Africa/Integra



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