Saturday, 3 March 2012

Energy in Rhodesia

By Blair Drummond
(Trade Fair '78)

In a few decades, Rhodesia has leapt from the age of the ox wagon, the simple paraffin lamp and the all-purpose wood fire to being a highly developed user of energy in many sophisticated forms. Over six million people, in diversified industrial and agricultural fields as well as domestic life, now rely on a wide range of natural and artificial energy resources for their livelihood and comfort.

With this in mind, it is understandable that the Government pavilion at Trade Fair '78 revolved around the theme of "Energy in Rhodesia". The exhibit, originated and designed by the Energy Resources Board and the Design Section of the Department of Information, outlined the major sources of energy in this country and how they could best be used.

Mr Hugh Metlerkamp, of the Energy Resources Board in Salisbury, said this particular theme was adopted for Trade Fair '78 to show the public the types of energy found in Rhodesia and the importance of being aware of energy conservation and potentials.

Rhodesia imports small amounts of liquid fuels and in years gone by this importation meant only a small expenditure of foreign exchange. But with the price increase of oil and related fuels in recent years, there has been a significant increase in fuel costs and, more importantly, a greater drainage of vital foreign currency. For example, diesel oil and paraffin were very popular industrial fuels for Rhodesian businessmen at one time because of their low price. Since the price hike of oil, however, fuel costs have become prohibitive in some cases and it has become important, if not vital, to the same businessmen to look to alternative, cheaper energy resources.

Available supplies

This is what the Government exhibit aimed to do — by showing the energy supplies that are available here, although some are still in an experimental stage. The stand illustrated the source and uses of coal and electricity, timber, solar energy, power alcohol, bio gas (methane gas from effluent) and wind. Each type of energy had its own section in the pavilion and used a full range of visual aids, such as artwork and photographs, and written material to outline from where that particular energy type originates, how it works in everyday life and to what potential uses it can be put.

The illustrations of the different types of off-road electrical vehicles, like airport tugs and fork lifts, were mounted on screens, while the larger exhibits, such as a waterwheel demonstrating one of the first sources of natural energy and electric vehicles representing the latest harnessing of energy, were sited for comfortable, close-up study.

The artists and designers of the Department of Information, who worked in close liaison with the Energy Resources Board, say the energy theme was a difficult one to create visually so as to appeal to a large cross-section of the public. But create it they did, by working flat out since the theme was dreamed up in October last year, and the result was a bright and "energetic" stand with an all-embracing, all-important message.

All the energy resources displayed are indigenous — there is nothing at all to do with the exotic energy sources like petrol and nuclear derivatives.

This, the Energy Resources Board says, is because the country is so petrol-orientated at present that the public has not had a chance to really understand the other effective sources of energy that are "home- grown". This certainly does not mean the public here have been lacking in their response to the need to use alternative energy sources.

And that is what the theme is all about — energy awareness. The Energy Resources Board would like public reaction to the theme to be one of simple interest in, and awareness of, the total energy spectrum in Rhodesia.

Ph1-Car, Energy in Rhodesia
The wife of the President, Mrs. Doreen Wrathall, being taken for a
test drive in an electrically powered car, at the Trade Fair.

This interest, the Board feels, could be generated simply by the public looking at the one part of the stand that illustrated the considerable differences in fuel costs that may result from conversion to an alternative energy source, such as a Salisbury engineering firm reducing annual costs by two thirds—$23 000 with capital recovery in two years — by changing from paraffin to producer gas.

The message of the theme was aimed at children, too—particularly senior schoolchildren — as part of the Energy Resources Board's programme involves lecturing school children on energy resources and conservation.

The interest shown by teenagers in this now vital part of everyday life is demonstrated dramatically by the increasing number of complex and praiseworthy projects on energy that are entered in The Young Scientists Exhibition each year.

If children got something out of the Trade Fair exhibit this year, well and good, for the importance of energy conservation in all its forms will become more vital in their lifetimes.

This year's theme does not mean that the energy situation is in a critical state here — rather that there are so many new developments in energy use coming to light, creating a larger field to specialize in, to talk about and to exhibit. There are many individuals developing their own theories for energy conservation while, practically, a lot of industrialists are converting to alternative energy resources that are cheaper, yet still as effective as old forms.

Alternative fuels

Generally, Rhodesian industry is very energy-conscious because the proper energy source for the job in hand can represent a substantial saving in costs — but there is still room for greater awareness and adoption of alternative fuels and this aspect was well-defined on the stand.

As part of a nationwide plan, the same theme is being exhibited in Salisbury, Gwelo and Umtali and will be manned by personnel from the Energy Resources Board to help in answering queries, whether they come from housewives or industrialists.


Extracted by Eddy Norris from the publication Focus on Rhodesia, Vol. 3, No. 4.
Material made available to ORAFs by Tony Ballinger (RhArmy). Thanks Tony.

Comments are always welcome - please send them to Eddy Norris at

Thanks to:-
My son, Paul Norris, for the ISP sponsorship.
Paul Mroz for the image hosting sponsorship.
Robb Ellis for his assistance.


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