Dream Renewables

Location: Ghana

Dream Renewables is a non-profit organisation which is part of the Dream Big Ghana NGO. Dream Renewables’ mission is to educate and inspire young Ghanaians about renewable energy through practical hands-on learning. This is done by encouraging and facilitating locally-led renewable energy projects; equipping young adults with practical skills to enhance their employability in the renewable energy sector; and, increasing awareness of renewable energy amongst the wider community.

Dream Renewables provides education and training programmes across the three subject areas of solar power, biomass briquettes and energy efficiency to students in Dzita, a rural fishing community in the south of the Volta Region, and Kumasi, Ghana’s second biggest city. NextEnergy Foundation supported the solar power programme, a three-week course which provided a comprehensive introduction to solar power design and installation. Students ultimately designed and developed a business case for a solar energy system in their community, learning to connect up a DC system and a small off-grid AC system. There was an element of circularity to the programmes because after completing them, students formed small groups and ran at least one workshop at a local school or community centre related to the programme subject areas. These workshops were designed to educate the wider community about renewable energy and sustainability, increasing acceptance and uptake of such technologies in communities.

Overall, 120 students partook in the three programmes provided by Dream Renewables between July and September 2021. From the workshops which the students then designed and held for the wider communities, 500 additional individuals learnt about renewable energy, thus increasing awareness about the technologies.

September 2021 Update: Dream Renewables provided the following update on the programme in Dzita:

  • 24 students in total (16 attending daytime training and 8 attending virtual evening classes)
  • Learning outcomes included, amongst others, the installation of a 200w 1kWh solar power system for a small government clinic and conducting renewable energy advocacy at 3 local schools and in two community areas

October 2021 Final Project Update: Following the completion of the project and having now received feedback from the programme’s trainees, Dream Renewables provided the following information:

During the solar programmes, trainees learnt about the theoretical and practical elements of solar power from experts in the industry. They also worked alongside a professional installation team for the design and installation of an 8kW solar hybrid system; installed two DC solar hybrid systems to provide power for local community spaces; and, worked in groups to design and pitch a solar power system for a local business. Towards the end of the training, groups of trainees visited churches, schools and community centres to spread the word about climate change and the various benefits of solar energy and clean cooking technologies. In total, over 500 people were reached through these sessions.

A 24-year-old female trainee said, “Before attending this course I thought it would just teach me how to install solar systems. However, when I arrived, I realised it was really nice. They taught us how to manage our energy and perform energy audits. Afterwards, we did practicals, and trust me, now I can install a solar system! Also, I urge my lady colleagues out there to engage with courses like this – this is not only for men.

An impact summary of the Foundation’s support is below:

  • 40 students trained in solar power and energy efficiency
  • Two solar systems installed in rural communities
  • Over 500 people impacted through the ‘students become the teachers’ model
  • Eight solar home systems sold to Trainees at reduced rates
  • 16 alumni applied for internships with Dream Renewables’ industrial partners
  • Two groups of alumni are now working on renewable energy projects in their communities
  • Formation of a solar power and clean cooking advocacy group
  • Ongoing maintenance and repair of three solar power systems in rural communities
  • Distribution of 20 fuel-efficient stoves for community members to trial

Location: Ghana

In 2021, NEF supported Dream Renewables’ solar power programme – a three-week course which provided a comprehensive introduction to solar power design and installation – in Dzita, a rural fishing community, and Kumasi, Ghana’s second biggest city. More details about the project and its impacts can be found here.

This year, we are rolling-out a solar-powered irrigation pilot for 10 small-holding farmers in the Ditza community.

These systems will eliminate the use of diesel generators and high-carbon grid electricity, while also increasing farmers’ yields and reducing farming time. After conducting an assessment with local renewable energy companies in Ghana, Dream Renewables concluded that drip irrigation systems are best placed to meet the need of farmers in Dzita. Dream Renewables has partnered with SunCulture, which has 20 years of experience delivering solar irrigation projects across East Africa, to run the pilot.

The irrigation systems will be installed in 2023 and monitored for one year thereafter. Learning from the monitoring phase will inform the larger-scale adoption of solar irrigation in rural Ghana.

June 2023 Update: The first phase of the project involved a stakeholder mapping and engagement to mitigate any challenges which may be faced throughout the project and to decide how to select the farmers participating in the pilot. This phase is now complete and key outcomes are below:

  • Working team created for the project – includes a project manager and delivery manager, as well as two technicians (one of whom is an intern who participated in one of Dream Renewables’ training programmes which NEF supported in the past), and a project officer; all team members are local to the South Volta region and speak Ewe fluently so will be able to communicate effectively with the farmers
  • Dream Renewables’ Director, Samuel Yeboah, and two volunteers met with the Dream Big Ghana NGO and the Agricultural Director of the Keta Municipal Assembly – Dream Big Ghana put Dream Renewables in contact with a small-scale agricultural expert in south Ghana who recommended altering the design of the irrigation systems to make them more mobile and cost-effective, as well as to ensure that they are suitable for farmers in both coastal and inland areas
  • Farm selection criteria – the Agricultural Director agreed to support Dream Renewables to select farms; key considerations in the wider selection criteria include farms that are part of an active local agricultural association which communicated with the Ministry of Agriculture, and farms that have successfully participated in an innovation project with one of the stakeholders before
  • Next steps – the project will be communicated to the Dzita community in June and followed by a meeting organised by the project officer and a local assemblyman where farmers can learn more

September 2023 Update: The second stage of the project is now complete. It involved demonstrations of the drip irrigation system and the selection process for the farmers. Over 150 farmers attended community meetings organised by Dream Renewables where the types of solar-powered irrigation systems available and their benefit to different types of farms were explained. These meetings were attended by representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture for the Keta Municipality and Dream Big Ghana NGO, of which Dream Renewables is a subsidiary.

Some farmers were concerned about the effectiveness of solar drip irrigation in the area, particularly for farms directly on the coast. As a result, NextEnergy Foundation agreed to amend the scope of the project and fund two types of systems – drip and sprinkler – in order to facilitate a direct comparison of the two systems in this pilot and therefore provide a more solid base for the wider roll-out of solar-powered irrigation systems in future.

Following from the community meetings, over 25 farmers expressed an interest in taking part on the pilot. The final 10 successful applicants were selected based on a criteria to determine each farmers’ eligibility; 1-to-1 interviews with each farmer; a visit to the farm; and, a written questionnaire (usually completed orally in Ewe, the local language and translated into English by the Dream Renewables team).

Two project committees have been formed by the farmers participating in the pilot. Each committee has a elected a Chair who will be the main point of contact with the Dream Renewables team in the long-term. The committees will meet monthly to collect the monthly stipend which covers system maintenance and repair costs, and discuss any challenges they may be having with their new systems. The committees will also be responsible for collecting data on the irrigation systems for NextEnergy Foundation and Dream Renewables to evaluate the impact of the pilot.

Phase three of the project involves purchasing the materials for the installations; training the installation team; and, putting in place risk assessments. An update will be provided in January 2024.

February 2024 Update: Last September, Dzita and Woe, the communities where the irrigation systems are to be installed, were affected by unexpected extended floods. This exceptional circumstance affected the project, as some farmers were forced to pull out of it and others could no longer afford to pay the upfront admittance fee.

Dream Renewables undertook an unplanned visit to the area with the aim to put the project back on track by replacing the farmers who pulled out and reconsider the rules on the farmer’s financial contribution to the project. The visit was successful and Dream Renewables achieved to have 10 farmers committed to the project.

With three technical phases completed in the meantime (see details of Stages 3, 4 and 5 below), the project is now ready to kick off the installation phase expected to run from the end of February until the end of March 2024. Such phase will include completion of final tests, collection of baseline data and holding of a committee meeting with all participants to the project.

Details of completed Stages 3, 4 and 5:

  • Stage 3 – Design: The electrical design is the same for each drip and sprinkler system and covers a farm of up to 1 Acre. The towers were designed by local tradespeople using methods and materials commonly used locally (galvanised steel when farms are more than a mile from the coast, and hardwood within a mile of the coast)
  • Stage 4 – Procurement and Logistics: All the equipment was shipped to Ghana on time and stored in Accra and will be transported to the Volta Region by the end of February
  • Stage 5 – Fieldwork Preparation: A vehicle was purchased, the project team was set up (a project manager, a technical lead, 3 project officers and Dream Renewables trainees) and trained, a demonstration sprinkler irrigation system was built at training center, an equipment review and a risk and assessment were conducted

May 2024 Update: the installation phase of the Solar Powered Irrigation Systems took place between February and March 2024. The 10 systems, aimed to help farmers increase their crop yields, reduce time spent on the farm and lower operational costs, are now operating.

Installed systems are of the following types:

  • 2 Solar-Powered Sprinkler Systems: Sprinkler systems, that require a large array of solar panels, but no tower, water tank, or drip kit is needed
  • 8 Solar-Powered Drip Irrigation Systems: very innovative in the area, these systems require only a single solar panel, but a water tank and water tower are necessary. The project focuses on these systems based on feedback from the Agricultural Ministry and Care Internationals Ghana Branch who believe it has significant potential due to its water efficiency and lower upfront cost

As few examples of solar powered irrigation systems are present in Volta region, this project will provide local examples of such systems and build local knowledge and understanding of their operation. In addition, this project includes a research element: the systems will be monitored for one year to determine the most impactful use of solar irrigation in the area.

Before leaving the area, the Dream Renewables team commissioned the systems and conducted final testing. A group of people from each farm were trained on the effective and sustainable use of their new irrigation system.

Jessica and Awugi, two trainees from the local area who were trained by Dream Renewables in 2023, have been selected as the local maintenance team. They will conduct routine maintenance on the systems and provide feedback on their use to the core Dream Renewables team.

Positive impacts on local community participating to the trial:

  • total area served by the systems: 11 acres
  • total beneficiaries: 133
  • expected saving in average daily irrigation time: almost 5 hours
  • expected saving in average monthly fuel cost: about £28, corresponding to a 1 or 2 weeks of local wage.

The project monitoring phase is now starting and social and environmental benefits of the project will be evaluated for one year, until May 2025.