Travel diary : Comores

Hi everyone,

Here we are, in the Comoros islands. It’s not exaclty the first country where we expected to be a month and a half ago, and even less a year ago. And yet that’s where we landed end of February to start our tour of the Indian Ocean : Comoros, Mauritius, Madagascar and Seychelles. An experience that promises to be rich and diverse considering how much each island is different from it’s neighbours in terms of energy resources.

The Comoros archipelago is a set of 4 islands located between the african continent and Madagascar. Among those 4 islands, 3 form the Union of the Comoros : Grande Comore, Mohéli and Anjouan. The Comoros obtained their independance in 1975. The 4th island, Mayotte, is still administered by France. Unlike other islands in the region like Reunion island, Mauritius or Seychelles islands, the Comoros are not really touristic. That might be caused by a lack of infrastructure (like simply roads for example :-D) and an inexistent waste management… and yet, what a rich and pleasant country in many other ways!

Some of our first impressions when we arrived in Comoros…

Rich by its unique environment. Pleasant by its peaceful atmosphere and by the people living there, so kind and welcoming. Whenever you walk outside, wherever you go, calm and security reign, without the slightest worry. Comorian people are really nice. Once you move beyond the first negative impressions caused by the garbage everywhere, what you will truly remember about that country is certainly the people living there! They are the ones making this country so rich too, along with the beautiful environment. Each island is a volcanic island at a different stage of evolution with the youngest island (Grande Comore, where the capital Moroni is and where we were staying) having a volcano still active : the Karthala.

We did see one or two nice beaches after all… but slightly colorful once you get closer (a nice variety of plastics, not shells).

What makes this environment so rich is on one side the unique fauna (Cœlacanthe, Roussette Livingstone, Fumingo des Comores, Gobe mouche, green turtles, etc.) and flora (Vanilla, Ylang-Ylang, Nyadombé and other medicinal plants). It’s also a remarkable mix of abundant renewable energy resources :

  • substantial sunshine all year long (6h/day during the worst periods),
  • powerful winds while not as destructive as in the most affected areas of the region affected by the cyclonic activity,
  • and above all a volcanic activity allowing the use of geothermal energy at great scales.

The electricity is managed by the company “Mamwe” (as well as the water) on the islands of Mohéli and Grande Comore, Anjouan having its own company for that, which is not without causing some problems for a national issue like energy. On the left the old power generators of Grande Comore, not functional anymore, on the right the new ones.

Yet, despite all those opportunities, the actual energy context in the Comoros is :

  • an electricity produced almost exclusively (> 98%) with fuel power generators (except for some personal solar installations and a small hydropower plant seemingly not wroking anymore in Mohéli),
  • 40 000 to 45 000L of fuel each day, fully imported,
  • 18 000 000 KMF/day (Francs Comoriens), meaning about 36 500 euros/day.
  • an access to stable electricity since the beginning of 2017 only (before there was at best 3-6h of electricity per day in the capital, and only a few hours per month in the most remote areas) with still 3 to 6 power failures per day due to distribution network issues.

That is the context in which we arrived in the Comoros to propose awareness activities on the theme of energy with our solar material 🙂

The show “Azafady, that can’t go on”, more infos on their facebook 😉

First meeting : the day “The Voices of Ecology”, organised at the Cultural and Artistic Center of the Comoros. Different stands and activities linked to Ecology in general are proposed, mainly about waste management and energy. And at the end of the day the show “Azafady, that can’t go on” closes that great day. We changed our plans at the last minute and started our tour in the Comoros instead in order to meet the team who created that show (also on a tour in the Indian Ocean) and join them to eventually create something in common. We were hoping to benefit from that day to propose an animation on energy but our materiel didn’t arrive in time, delayed by freight issues. Still we improvised a stand to discuss with people and make some contacts for the rest of the stay!

Animations in primary public schools in Moroni (CM1-CM2).

We keep on making contacts and thinking about creating animations suited for the local context but 3 days later, we learn that the arrival of our material is delayed once again… Anyway, we can’t wait for our material indefinitely and our first animations in schools are scheduled. We already imagined some fun activities to begin with and handle the first basic concepts, and not sure that showing those kids a solar bike would have brought any real added value in the end. Bicycles are not a tool they are familiar enough with here, roads are still too dangerous for a democratization of that transport mean for the youngests.

Board game inspired from the “Saboteur” game, they all really loved it!

Our animation with the primary schools (CM1-CM2) works really well, it allows them to experiment in the game how the electricity works on their island and what it would be like with other sources of energy (renewable sources). We wanted also to be able to address older students and adults with a funny activity and we created among other things a board game inspired from the “Saboteur” on how the electricity works in the Comoros. We made it out of carboard from pizza boxes (yes we did!) thanks to our illustrator friend Pierre who follows us in this project to make a travel diary.

Animations with secondary schools, futur teachers and adults.

Our last week is quite full of meetings, often organized at the last minute with some logistics issues but always with spontaneity and a real interest from the students! We strongly thank all those who helped us create a network of contacts during our short stay and made it possible for us to meet all possible levels from primary schools to adults, going through secondary schools, IUT and even futur teachers of primary schools (to whom we could show the animations we had created in order for them to re-use or seek inspiration from them).

The smartphone, always present here too ^^

So we didn’t make a tour of the Comoros, meeting people randomly on the roads like we did with our tandem in France ; but we did create, in the little time we had, animations suited for the local context and for various school levels to tackle some of the energy issues of the island and a network of motivated people with which we will be able to spread recap educational sheets of those animations for them to be re-used.

That’s how we end our 3 weeks stay in the Comoros, hoping we will let a twinkle in the heart of all those motivated people we met!

On the left : random roads, as soon as you get out of the “main road” / On the right : a whole part of an hotel abandoned with a swiming pool filled with rocks, symbol of a period apparently better suited for tourism, visible in many places…

End of the cyclonic period in the region, we had quite a lot of rain (which is not considered as a bad thing here as it cools the temperature). We still managed to get to the top of the Iconi crater, south of Moroni – the capital – and got a glimpse of the beautiful volcanic landscapes 🙂

Some of our last impressions before leaving the Comoros… 🙂

Regarding our material, it did arrive in the end… 3 days before our departure. So it left again as soon as possible to our next destination : Mauritius. We hope it will arrive faster this time, as it will certainly be more useful!

See you again for our next adventures in the Indian Ocean 😉

SolaR’hythm Team