Lessons Learnt for Community Based Pico- and Micro-hydropower Schemes

From energypedia


This article points out "Lessons (to be) Learnt" in the Different Stages of a Project:

Preliminary Assessment

Problem statement How this can be/ was improved
No motivation of community to participate in such development Before deciding on a suitable site, assess the willingness of the community to assist in such development. Additionally, identify the need and want for power.


Problem statement How this can be/ was improved
Unavailability of materials Design in accordance to what is available, using local materials and resources. This ensures sustainability. Locals can easily undertake repair works as the spare parts can be bought locally.
Wastage of materials The design should be appropriate to sizes of materials available; this saves cost and provides an easier process for replacing parts.
Difficulties in amending the design Be flexible in your design; allow for amendments on site. The groundwater level and the level of hard-core can only be determined once excavation has started. In addition, design alterations are often necessary due to the unavailability or delay of materials.


Community Organisation

Problem statement How this can be/ was improved
Corruption within the management committee Give the beneficiaries the chance to decide who should be part of the committee. They are, in general, aware of who can be trusted. Slight guidance might be necessary on what skills and level of understanding is required.
Community work unequally spread between beneficiaries Most communities will have experience in scheduling labour for community work. Delegate this task and use the expertise of the locals to arrange a time schedule. There are set ways in which each individual community handles this. Take into account the strength of individuals (e.g. the elderly, the ill and the young) and spread tasks accordingly. Separate the task into different characteristics, heavy work, medium and easy work and give credits accordingly. This keeps the morale up and ensures equal treatment.
Low debate participation of women and timid members of the community In meetings, certain people are likely to take the lead in answering questions and enforcing their opinions. Tailor your questions directly to those that are quiet or intimidated; especially women. Their opinion is often more valuable and less self-orientated.

Community Mobilisation

Problem statement How this can be/ was improved
Unavailability of locals to undertake community work Consider seasonality, many villagers are in their gardens during rainy season but available during dry season. Take into account their work habits and weather – it can be extremely hot during the day. At times, religious activities may hinder locals to work.
Poor or late attendance to meetings A very common procedure for meetings is to either pay the participants or offer some form of compensation; such as lunch or transport allowances. Otherwise attendance seems poor. Speak to the local leaders about appropriate methods to ensure attendance (on time); e.g. offer credit points. Make people feel that their opinion is extremely valuable.

Community Sensitisation

Problem statement How this can be/ was improved
Expectations of injecting money into the community Make sure that everyone, starting from the leaders, know and understand the aims and benefits of such development. Repeated explanation is required, people must understand that you are not the one benefiting, instead the community is. This removes later disappointment and erases false expectations. This cannot be achieved after a single meeting. It is advised that local leaders, such as the Community Development Officer (CDO,) are involved in the sensitisation process.
Disappointment and anger of locals when the development cannot take place or continue at any stage of the process Make sure everyone understands the difficulties involved when implementing a community scheme. At any stage the project can be dismissed. This has to be clarified right at the beginning. Remember, repeated explanation is necessary to ensure full understanding.
Ownership issues Clarify from the start that the community itself owns the scheme. This will help to motivate members of the community and ensure that they actively participate in any activities related to the development.


Problem statement How this can be/ was improved
Difficulty in identifying sites Approach the CAO or other officials in the responsible district. These can order Sub-County officials to contact the Parish Chiefs; which have a good knowledge of their responsible area. Sites should be recorded incl. height of fall, seasonality of river, distance to main beneficiaries and distance to nearest grid network. Keeping in mind that judgment of these characteristics are poor.
Payment expectations when undertaking preliminary tasks to assess the suitability of the site; such as site clearance Approach Sub-County leaders which in turn should delegate the task to the local leaders, such as LCI. These can appoint members of the community to undertake this task. Avoid being involved, this can mislead the villagers and raise false expectations.


Problem statement How this can be/ was improved
Delayed delivery of materials When materials have to be brought in from outside, take into consideration difficulties in transport. Much can go wrong, especially during periods of rain - roads are heavily affected delaying the transport time.
Unavailability of materials Materials are often not available. Hence, ensure flexibility in the type of material that can be used.
Using wrong replacement parts to safe cost Locals tend to use spare materials dependent on the price. Hence, the material chosen may be cheaper at the first instant but in the long run greatly affecting the durability. Sensitise the community on the sustainability aspect. Involve them during planning and in the decision making process. Outline why more qualitative products were chosen.


Problem statement How this can be/ was improved
Conflicts over labour input versus expectations and/or benefits

Ensure good communication over expected labour, possible changes/additional work and whether the whole community contributes or only the people living in the planned grid area.

In one Ethiopian example excavation work was harder than expected, so without proper process/planning, the people from the nextdoor community were asked to participate. This caused a conflict, since the grid then had to be extended to that community as well.


Problem statement How this can be/ was improved
Delayed financial contributions from beneficiaries Take seasonality and festivities into account. For example, before Christmas villagers need their money for celebrations. Shortly before and during dry season money is scarce as no income is generated.
Local SACCOS face sustainability problems A SACCO can be opened without much difficulty by almost anyone. Hence, the managers are often under-qualified and lack the necessary skills. The sustainability of these finance institutions is poor; in addition corruption is a big problem. Ensure that the chosen credit institution is secure. Contact the Association of Microfinance Institutions Uganda (AMFIU) and enquire about financial institutions with positive feedback.
Misuse of funds by community members Ensure transparency by involving every member of the community in the process; explain what the benefits of the scheme are - for the whole community. Let everyone know, that they are the owners of the scheme. Outline what should happen to the money earned. Allow for everyone to inspect the books.
No financial contribution from local governments When approaching a District or Sub-County don’t expect instantly financial support. Both bodies have to include such financial contributions into their budgets – a new financial period starts in May. Most Sub-Counties and Districts are willing to contribute but don’t have the means. Give them a chance to prepare for it. Outline their exact benefits and emphasise the importance of capacity building.
Money used for trivial activities Money is often used for trivial activities, such as lunch for meetings and unnecessary trips etc. These are small sums but they can sum-up. Set-up a system whereby a number of people have to approve the planned activity and hence the budget. Always involve women, these are the most trustworthy.


Problem statement How this can be/ was improved


Problem statement How this can be/ was improved
Unskilled operators Appoint an operator before starting the implementation. This ensures that the person develops a knowhow in all technical aspects and civil works. In any case of failure, they are able to undertake basic repairs. In addition, provide a maintenance manual; stating contact details, retailors for spare parts, materials used and advice on the correct way of maintenance and operation.

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