Fondazione Madre Agnese Manzoni is an Italian non-profit organisation recognised by the Governments of Italy and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Foundation develops solidarity projects in the fields of social welfare, nature, renewable energies, water collection and distribution, sewage techniques, food and water safety.
In the hilly region of the Lower Congo, the water sources flow at the bottom of deep valleys while the population lives on the top of the ridges. In order to obtain drinkable water and to bring it to the households, a minimum of 2,000 W per 100 m of rise difference is required. The principal technical difficulty lies in recharging the batteries during the dry months and in conducting training programmes.
Three types of renewable energy have been used: solar photovoltaic (PV), wind and hydro. Solar energy has been used to recharge the batteries and to directly feed the water pumps from a lower tank to an upper one. Wind is used at night to compensate for the lack of sun.
The project consists of the installation of a base system of solar panels (approx. 2 x 90 Wp), electrochemical batteries (60-80 Ah) and low consumption pumps, which results in reduced hydraulic head (approx. 15 m).The systems are constructed in huts that are strategically located perpendicular to the source. These huts are connected to other huts through pipelines which are placed laterally or on a slightly lower level. Trained locals have the task of running the pipeline and the installation of solar panels. This enables them to verify if the system has been properly maintained and can therefore be sustained.
The total investment depends on the implementation phase because the project is based on a modular intervention depending on the zones where water sources are found. Every module requires the installation of at least 10 to 15 systems in as many main huts as chief points for water storage and redistribution. Each unit cost is approx. 540 USD, and a total of approx. 5,800-9,800 USD, depending on the difference in height. All the costs of primary material are fully met by the Foundation, while transport and installation costs are borne by the end-users. The project will be serviced by each user-family, which will contribute a weekly fee in return of the water received. Each family can make use of the funds coming from the sale of vegetables, whose cost increases considerably in markets found along the ridge during the dry months.
Each module benefits 400 to 500 people, with an initial specific cost for hardware material of about 18 USD per person. The project can be replicated. Furthermore, the population feels involved in the global functioning of the system. To improve its efficiency, it would be useful to double the power of the solar panels. In the case of huts being fairly close to each other, it would even be possible to install one single solar system, which could serve all the huts.
Dott. Ing. Giovanni Chersola
+39 328 560 3003