In November 2015, the SOGERV team carried out a Needs Assessment in each of the targeted villages: Kandeu, Mandrade, Gola, and Thendo.  As part of the planning stage of the overall project, this information gathering phase is critical for ensuring that any deployed technology is addressing a need which has been identified by the community.   This post describes the process and a few interesting results — and includes the full report.

The process entailed capturing the importance and priority of a range of needs which were identified by the community sub groups: men, women, elderly, leadership, businesses, youths, chiefs, etc.  Using a simple scale, a ranking of needs can be determined by averaging the scores.

Comcern Universal’s Mathias Zimba trains community members on the use of the scale while Sithembile Tembo discusses priorities with the Village Development Committee members

From the needs assessment we learned that there are many challenges that all the villages face, outside of provision of electricity.   Electricity itself featured quite high in our results. However, needs expressed for other development areas could be improved through an electricity service, such as improved health services, educational services, power at businesses, etc.  As a result of the expressed needs, the implementation plan has confirmed its intention to provide power at schools and health facilities, and explored new marketable opportunities (i.e. power at businesses for productive uses).

The results of the Gola Needs Assessment is shown below.  Averages for each need is shown in blue, while the average, per need category, for all 4 villages is shown in orange.  The overall average priority of all needs was roughly 6.5 indicating that there were many challenges in the community that are not being met.  The highest non-electricity need identified was ‘loans’.  As part of SOGERV, a village savings and loan associations (VSLA) development activity has been planned to train existing VSLAs and hopefully provide more effective means for finance in the community.  In addition to the general benefits of having financial tools, SOGERV will sensitize the VSLAs on the logic for purchasing pico-solar-products (such as solar lanterns).

Gola p-index
Gola P-Index results

More directly, the needs assessment revealed several issues at the Gola health centre which could be solved in part by access to electricity as planned in SOGERV.  Lack of a maternity wing at the centre leads to increased maternal deaths and other complications.  In SOGERV, by providing lighting at the clinic a maternity wing can be established which improves this situation.  Lighting in the village (in staff homes) may also play a role in retaining staff at the health post which has been cited as a challenge.

SOGERV_Gola HC portrait
Health Assistant David Scova at the Gola Health Centre

Results from the Needs Assessment have fed into the SOGERV project design; any items which can feasibly be addressed through access to electricity will be considered for the sustainable energy businesses being installed.  However, not all needs can be addressed. Therefore, the Needs Assessment results have also be presented to the Chikhwawa District Commissioner and the Village Development Committees (VDCs) and Area Development Committees (ADCs) so they can be addressed in due course.  The Needs Assessment can be used as a valuable tool in the periodic creation of District Development Plans (DDPs).

For more information on the Needs Assessment see the report: SOGERV Needs Assessment

For more information on the process, visit the Scotland Chikwawa Health Initiative (SCHI) blog.