DJAFFAR AL KATANTY
SISTER Alphonsine Ciza spends most of her day in gumboots, a white veil tucked under a builder’s hat, manning the micro-hydroelectric plant she built to overcome daily electricity cuts in her town of Miti in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
She works around the clock with a team of nuns and engineers, greasing machinery and checking the dials of a generator that is fed from a nearby reservoir and lights up a convent, church, two schools and a clinic free of charge.
Without the plant, residents would only have electricity two or three days a week for a few hours.
“We sisters… cannot function this way because we have to provide a lot of services,” said Ciza, 55, a portable voltage meter slung around her neck in the town of about 300,000 inhabitants near the border with Rwanda.
Blackouts are a daily disruption in the Congo, a vast central African country of around 90 million people that sources most of its electricity from a run-down and mismanaged hydropower system.
The government has worked with foreign partners in an effort to increase the capacity of the mineral-rich nation’s ailing grid. Critics say the new projects focus too much on powering mines and exporting electricity to neighbouring countries.