In Sudan, Where There is Power, There is Development

February 8, 2011

  • A Community Development Fund project brings solar energy to a small village in North Sudan.
  • Student grades have improved due to a better study environment, and the community has greater access to health services now that clinics have extended hours.
  • The CDF is funded by a World Bank-supported Multi Donor Trust Fund that aims to improve the quality of life in Sudan.

ABU HASHEEM, Feb. 8, 2011 -- In Sudan’s south-eastern state of Blue Nile, the streets of Abu Hasheem village are silent, as if abandoned. However, a burst of life comes from scattered street lights, the village health center, and the local secondary school.

With help from the Sudan Multi Donor Trust Fund-National (MDTF-N), this tiny village of 5,500 now uses solar energy to power its lights. Before being targeted by MDTF-N’s Community Development Fund (CDF) Project in 2007, the village was living in virtual darkness, with no source of electricity apart from a few small generators that benefit only their owners. As a result, the population relied on wood as a source of energy, putting stress on the environment of surrounding areas.

In 2007, barely half of the students in the village’s primary school attained passing grades on their exams. Just two years later, the student pass rate reached a full 100 percent and was maintained last year.

A recent three-day mission, headed by World Bank Acting Director for Sudan and Manager of the Africa Fragile States Unit Ian Bannon, along with World Bank Sudan Country Manager Alassane Sow, visited Abu Hasheem to observe first hand the impact that solar energy is having on education, health and broader development.

Energy and education

The introduction of solar energy has had a profound effect on the quality of education and learning for the children of Abu Hasheem.

“Night classes were introduced for the first time in the village; students are now able to do their homework and move easily to and from school [at night],” said Abdulhameed M. Saeid, principal of the Salman Alfaresy School for Boys. “Teachers have also benefited, as they have a better residential environment and can better prepare for the next day’s lessons.”

He playfully added, “We boast of our academic achievements in front of our colleagues of various schools during our meetings at the state level.”

And boast he should. This table shows the increase in pass rates and grade percentage averages at Salman Alfaresy School for Boys since the start of the Solar Lighting project in the village.



Pass Rate

Grade Percentage Average













These achievements have encouraged dropouts to return to school, and parents have become more attentive to their children’s academic performance. As a result of this track record, the principal of the school was honoured at the national level. The school was also awarded the Damazin Locality Ideal School Prize, won the State Prize for First Grade Basic School, and was presented in the National Program for Distinction and Educational Creativity.

“We visited the school on a weekend evening,” explained Ian Bannon. “The classroom was packed with students. They were not in class but studying and doing homework, made possible by solar lighting. The academic results speak for themselves, but equally touching were the faces of the kids and the evident pride of the principal. It was a good reminder of why we do what we do.”

Energy and health

In the health sector, the CDF’s solar program helped midwives like Nimat Abas who now have a safer and brighter environment to deliver babies at night.

Nimat feels lucky to have had the opportunity to train at the school of midwifery administrated by the Ministry of Health in Damazin with support from CDF. She graduated as a certified midwife after a year and a half and is able to practice in a safe and professional manner.

Nimat told a touching story of the recent past: “One fall night, I was called to deliver a baby. It was a dark cloudy night; you could hardly see anything except a flash of lightning from time to time. The only light was a faint one coming from a small kerosene lamp,” she recalled. “Suddenly, a very strong wind blew and put out the lamp’s light, right as the baby’s head was protruding. I was forced to continue with the delivery in darkness; it was the most critical moment in my life.”

Such precarious situations are now a thing of the past; since then, CDF has provided all 10 midwives of the village with solar powered lamps.

Hasan Abu Digin, a medical assistant in the village, has been working with the community health centre since it was established in 2006 by CDF. “We in the health sector are the happiest with the solar energy system. In the past, we relied on the doctor’s diagnostic skills to treat patients, but with the new system we now have a lab that enables us to give more accurate diagnoses,” Hasan said.

Solar lighting has resulted in a better lit and ventilated health centre, and working hours have increased to include both day and evening shifts.

Maintenance and sustainability

The project is also mobilizing the community to ensure benefits are sustained. To help make this happen, 24 members of the community have been trained on maintenance of the solar energy system. In addition, each family pays one Sudanese Pound every month to meet maintenance costs.  

“Where there is power, there is development.”

Benefits of solar power don’t just stop at education and health; in Abu Hasheem, villagers are also using solar power to improve their incomes and lives.

“I can now sit under a street lamp and finish my work at night, or even get new customers,” said Harun Adam, a blacksmith.

Hamza Ali Harun, head of the Community Development Committee of Abu Hasheem, explains that  the  Solar Lighting Project in also strengthening social ties among villagers, who use it to hold meetings, social and cultural events, and reconciliation assemblies.  He concludes with a simple phrase: “Where there is power, there is development.”

And indeed, there is. MDTF-N projects have given communities in Blue Nile State and elsewhere the power to improve their lives, whether it is through the provision of light for better lit classrooms and more opportunities to get an education, safer deliveries, or by improving livelihoods and social bonds in the community.