Nomzamo Landigwe, the Chief Community Operations Officer at Energy Infrastructure Management Services (EIMS), believes that the renewable energy sector has a significant role to play in supporting primary healthcare.
Her portfolio includes nine IPPs, spread across a Western Cape, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, North West Province, including both solar and wind power utility plants in South Africa.
South Africa’s health systems, especially in outlying areas are often serviced by under-resourced healthcare facilities. Added community screening and testing for the coronavirus, in addition to providing treatment, further strain these facilities.
The role of public-private partnership, especially with the Department of Health, is one way that the impact of disrupted services is being staved off during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Exclusive interview with Nomzamo Landigwe on renewables and primary healthcare
EIMS is supporting healthcare through various economic development programmes, throughout rural South Africa, positively impacting beneficiary communities. These include:
- Cookhouse Wind Farm’s Primary Healthcare programme and mobile clinic, which supports rural farm workers;
- Matla A Bokona Solar’s School Health Programme, which includes a mobile clinic servicing eleven schools;
- De Wildt Solar’s mobile clinic;
- Zeerust Solar’s Mobile Clinic; and
- REISA’s established school wellness programme.
Nomzamo, before we delve more into these programmes, let’s chat about your highlights. You entered the renewable energy sector in 2014 when the industry was very new. What made you choose the sector?
The exciting part for me was being part of something new, to be part of pioneering new ways in the socio-economic development sector, as it plays an important role in a transformed South Africa.
The role of public-private partnership, with the Department of Health, is helping to deliver primary healthcare. How do you see your renewable energy projects impacting health services in beneficiary communities in outlying areas?
Our socio-economic development strategy is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals especially that of Education and Health, we also understand local and national development priorities (NDP). The delivery of these health programmes assists our communities, especially children, in accessing healthcare while at school (no interruption to learning), and a critical human right in these outlying areas.
Cookhouse Wind Farm’s Primary Healthcare programme and mobile clinic are a high impact initiative that supports rural farmworkers in Bedford and Adelaide; as well as healthcare facilities across beneficiary communities. Please tell us about this.
This flagship programme was embarked upon in May 2018, following discussions with the Department of Health in which they requested assistance with a mobile clinic service to 48 farms in Bedford and Adelaide as well as reinforcements to the Home-based Care Programme.
To this end, Cookhouse Wind Farm provides and pays for five Health Practitioners, of which three form part of the mobile clinic and two take care of the bed-ridden patients in the townships of the two towns. The Department of Health provides transport and medication.
After initial challenges, the mobile clinic service managed to forge very sound relations with the farmer’s associations of Bedford and Adelaide respectively who help provide meeting points for the consultations and with whom the roster is communicated. Such has been the popularity of the programme that the mobile clinic now services 63 farms. This is a win/win situation for everybody because farm owners no longer have to ferry workers to township clinics, while farmworkers do not have to take days off work to take their medication as the service is brought to their doorstep.
This project has proven to be flexible as it has adapted to the COVID-19 challenge by providing much-needed awareness around the pandemic. Through this partnership with the department of health, Cookhouse Wind Farm has managed to employ five locals, ensure that around 2,000 patients are treated every quarter both through the mobile clinic service and the ward-based outreach team commonly known as Home-based Care.
Matla A Bokona Solar, close to Kimberley, began funding a School Health Programme in 2020, shortly after the power project began its operation period. Please tell us about this initiative.
Matla A Bokone Solar’s School Health Programme kicked off on 8 October 2020, with a number of Provincial Department representatives attending the inauguration and endorse the programme. This initiative is another ideal example of how a Public-Private-Partnership can work to benefit communities, as this programme is aligned to the Department of Education’s Integrated School Health Policy.
This school health programme is set to benefit 4,129 learners, across 11 schools, within the Sol Plaatje Local Municipality.
The Programme is implemented by the Mobile Health Clinics Foundation across eight primary and three high schools, in two phases. The first phase includes the COVID-19 Hygiene Awareness and Stigma Mitigation Screenings, and COVID-19 Screenings; whilst phase 2 focuses on the Integrated School Health Screenings.
We believe that access to quality healthcare for school children is very important, as it also contributes towards their development, increases their knowledge and awareness on health issues, helps them in developing interest in their own health and contributes to their general wellbeing.
The health team consists of a health coach, professional nurse, an optometrist, and a dental therapist, to provide Vision and Hearing Testing; Oral Health Screening; Nutritional Status Assessments and Health Education initiatives.
Learners with poor eyesight, who require corrective eyewear, will be supplied by Mobile Health Clinics, and similarly, learners with poor hearing will be referred for assistive hearing devices through the provincial Department of Health.
As stated by Principal Isaac Ruiter, Montshiwa Primary School, Galeshewe, Kimberley, this mobile school health clinic eases the burden on the Department of Education whilst supplementing resources, and furthermore, the screening data can be immediately collated.
Furthermore, the Department of Health has provided COVID-19 training to eight youth, (aged 19 – 25), to assist with the COVID 19 screening. All candidates come from the Sol Plaatje area and have been employed in consultation with the participating schools.
REISA’s health and wellness programme has reached hundreds of learners since its launch in 2018. Interestingly, the programme includes a focus on the implementation of Occupational Therapy (OT) for school learners, to address barriers to learning. What else can you tell us about REISA’s health programme?
In consultation with the District Department of Basic Education, a COVID-19 School Readiness, Awareness and Educational Programme has been implemented across seven schools in the Gamagara area, to minimise the risk of learners and educators contracting the COVID-19 virus.
The School Readiness Programme includes a Health and Safety risk assessment to develop a COVID-19 Management Plan for each school and the provision of PPE for learners and educators. The assessment included protocols on social distancing and demarcations, hygiene awareness and an education campaign on the implementation of the Management Plan and protocols.
REISA’s Ubuntu Schools already face numerous challenges with regard to infrastructure, water accessibility and other facilities. Considering their current challenges, COVID-19 seemed overwhelming and unbearable, hence psycho-social support and other COVID-19 initiatives such as the risk assessment were necessary. This support ensures Awareness and Guidance on how to help cope with and adjust to the current situation to reduce the risk of developing distress, improving well-being, as well as promoting preventive behaviour.
Support has been provided to school Principals and their Management teams (SMT) in co-creating a new normal in the schools through the provision of basic COVID-19 PPE, Psycho-Social support services and ensuring that the learning environment is conducive and safe. Learners and operational staff are being supported to develop new behaviours that will contribute toward their safety and enable learners to achieve academically. Langberg High School Principal, Mr Roestof, believes this intervention is helping learners understand and practice good personal hygiene that is essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, without which he believes the school environment would be a mess.
The programme provides the schools with some relief as the teachers can focus on the mental health of learners with the help of social workers, and fast-tracking the curriculum.
De Wildt Solar and Zeerust Solar, which are both based in the North West Province, are also delivering primary health care programmes. Please tell us more.
The following is scheduled for the School Health programme in 2021 at De Wildt:
With Bojanala District been the epicentre for COVID-19 in the 2nd wave, supporting measures have been introduced in Madibeng Sub-District in preparation for the possible 3rd wave. The school health programme at the De Wildt solar plant will be creating awareness campaigns in schools and surrounding communities on COVID-19. The campaigns aim at dispelling misinformation while promoting health recommendations and safety guidelines set by the DoH while covering COVID-19 modes of transmission, epidemiology and symptomatology, prevention measures and the role of communities in the fight against the epidemic.
The programme will be implemented in local clinics and 14 schools within the local community covering up to 10,500 learners, who will be transferring the knowledge to their families as well.
Young people from the local communities will be employed and trained to become Junior Health Coaches who will be conducting COVID-19 questionnaires and temperature screenings of learners at the 14 schools. The Junior Health Coaches will be trained on standard operating procedures for effective COVID-19 screening, safeguarding against the virus at schools and measures to isolate learners that are seen to have symptoms associated with the virus. In the 2nd phase of the school health programme, comprehensive school health screenings on Grades 1, 4, 8 and 10 will be conducted in line with the Department of Education’s Integrated School Health Policy.
These are fantastic initiatives, but what has the impact of COVID-19 been on you and your team and how do you keep everyone motivated so that these community programmes can continue to be delivered to communities?
In 2020, the lockdowns meant that the Community Operations team could not travel to communities and engage with stakeholders. It also meant that the programmes needed to be modified as we knew that we may not reach the target and also needed to support our communities with relief support.
The team worked as though they were relief and humanitarian specialists and were hands-on in their outreach support to communities and households. Team meetings were kept to a minimum largely around an appreciation of life and work. Whilst motivation remains at a low, as a lead, I managed to connect with staff on matters that are important but also connecting fully on personal and household matters as well.
ESI Africa is celebrating 25 years in the market and has witnessed challenges and successes. In your opinion, what were the most significant milestones in the evolution of Africa’s energy sector over the last 25 years? What lies ahead for Africa in the next 25 years?
We envisage that the country’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Procurement Programme will continue to lead clean power procurement on the African continent. Additionally, we expect that the energy transition dialogue will gain momentum.
Thank you for spending time with us today Nomzamo. The work you are doing is remarkable!