It was in the middle of my first week as an intern at three mountains when our director informed me that I was going to be part of an assignment on the BE-EARP project (Belgium Contribution to Electricity Access Roll-out Programme). The BE-EARP connects thousands of Rwandan households to the National Electricity Grid. It is building new power lines in four districts: Rwamagana, Kayonza, Ngoma and Kirehe. Three Mountains had won a contract with BE-EARP to design a booklet telling a number of Stories of Significant Change about the beneficiaries who were now connected to the Grid.
I was to be part of the team going to collect those stories during a two-week field trip, away from the office, and our directors who were going to be away on a short holiday to the Netherlands. I felt really excited about this assignment because I enjoy traveling and having adventures.
We travelled together by bus and moto-taxis, as a team of six. Each time we arrived in each district, we first visited the District Office to tell them we were there, and to get the official stamps for our recommendation letters. Then we went to the Rwanda Electricity Group (REG) office to ask for directions and assistance as to where and how to find the right beneficiaries to interview. The REG technicians were very helpful; they pointed out where to find the right people to interview. For example, we wanted to interview an entrepreneur who had benefitted a lot from being connected to the Grid, the technicians showed us places where a lot of new services had started up after the BE-EARP electricity power lines had been installed.
It was really interesting to hear people talk about how the electricity lines had impacted on their lives. We interviewed households, different types of businesses, churches, schools, health-posts and public offices. Almost everyone we interviewed said, “We were in great darkness (Icuraburindi) and our neighborhoods were dead, without any liveliness.” Many people said that now they had electricity, it was no longer scary to walk around their neighborhood at night; the numbers of thefts had reduced, and many services were now available closer to their homes. To my surprise, not a single person complained about the loud noise coming from the bars late into the night. (Not surprisingly, the first thing bar-owners do when they get an electricity connection is buy a fridge and a sound system!) It was clear that everybody was happy about all the changes and developments that electricity had brought to their neighbourhoods.
Our team of six met at the end of each day to discuss the experiences we had had. At the end of our field visits, we had collected a total of 122 stories about the beneficiaries of the BE-EARP. From these stories, I realized very well how important electricity is for people and for supporting local development. This may not be a very new or exciting insight, but until now I had rarely given it any attention.
Those two weeks in the field were not only hard work, lots of learning and fun, but also was a great way for me to get to know my Three Mountains colleagues. Kudos to my new team for their great team spirit. You really make me feel at home in Three Mountains!