Touwsrivier's solar plant - making more than electricity


"Give a man a fish, you'll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you'll feed him for the rest of his life."

This commonly known proverb rings true for Touwsrivier resident Wouter Stemmet. Stemmet, also the chairperson of Touwsrivier Tourism, was just one of the railway town's residents attending an investment summit arranged by development company Knowledge Pele on Friday.

Different stakeholders of Touwsrivier – located on the edge of the Karoo and Boland in the northeastern parts of the Western Cape – met to develop a plan to make its economy sustainable beyond 2030.

For the past nine years, Knowledge Pele has been working to transform economically disadvantaged communities into self-sustaining economic hubs, and Touwsrivier is just one of the areas co-founder and managing director Fumani Mthembi has been working in.

You REIPP what you sow

Knowledge Pele has been particularly active in the renewable energy independent power producer (REIPP) space, and the establishment of a solar plant, namely CPV1, in the area, is what got Knowledge Pele involved in Touwsrivier.

Pele Green Energy is the independent power producer responsible for CPV1, which has been operational since 2015. Both Pele Green Energy and Knowledge Pele are part of the Pele Energy Group of companies.

The aim of the summit is for the Touwsrivier residents to find a way to ensure that the local economy remains sustainable, beyond the lifetime of the CPV1 plant.

READ: Jobs Summit: The unemployed need jobs, not promises

CPV1 has served as a catalyst to revive the economy, and several social investments have been launched which include human capabilities development, social infrastructure development, agriculture investments and industrial investments.

Asked about the work Knowledge Pele has been doing at Touwsrivier, Stemmet says it is taking a different approach to previous projects run there. The focus on sustainability sets it apart.

Since 2015, 43 bursaries have been awarded to matriculants through the bursary programme, 37 internships have been awarded through the 12-month work experience programme, 53 start-up enterprises have been helped through the Starter Pack enterprise development programme and 28 small and medium enterprises have been mentored the Enterprise 4 South Africa programme.


Fin24 spoke to one of the graduates of the Work Experience Programme, Marlon Lakey (21).

He had been completing his internship at Wits University as an admin assistant over the past year and graduated on Friday evening.

READ: But wait, Mr President, we need to talk about education...

He shared more on his "life changing" experience – having come from a small town, moving to a bigger city was an adjustment.

"It inspires you," he said of Johannesburg.

But he still has a "big dream" for Touwsrivier and he plans to return. Now that he has discovered he has an aptitude for business, he is working on two business projects.

"I want it to be part of the development of Touwsrivier. I see a lot of opportunities. I see a lot of potential work and jobs for people," he said.

Living in Johannesburg for a while made him see what could be done back in Touwsrivier.

Lakey said that the sessions run by Knowledge Pele taught him that "you are not your circumstances".

The most valuable lesson he learned was the importance of knowing yourself, he added. "Once you know yourself, you are untouchable. Nothing can stop you. Nothing can change you when you know yourself. That is the biggest thing I learnt this year."

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