15 May 2008
Using his decades of expertise as a chemical engineer, Dr Hans Hahn runs a Soutpansberg-based eco-tourism lodge entirely on alternative, renewable and sustainable energy.
Speaking to BuaNews at Tourism Indaba 2008, Hahn said the Moshavehla Lodge was detached entirely from Eskom’s power-grid and the entire farm was powered using a combination of solar power and thermal gasification, which involves extracting gas by burning wood and recycling waste to power generators.
“I recently established a factory which manufactures solar panels which combined with a wood burning boiler to heat water and power equipment,” said Hahn, adding that the Tourism Indaba was hugely beneficial to businesses because it gave them exposure to local and international visitors.
“My invention works so well that our 700-litre tank of water starts boiling after just 30 minutes.”
He said he was now working towards having a golf course at Moshavehla, built with only indigenous plants and irrigated by wastewater from the lodge.
Alternate energy sources
Ingrid Hahn, his daughter, said her father’s knowledge in renewable energy could benefit the country, and the pair are to approach the Department of Minerals and Energy with various prototypes for green power generation.
State-owned power utility Eskom has been struggling to provide the country with sufficient electricity following an unsustainable increase in electricity usage, made worse by South Africa’s massive infrastructure drive ahead of hosting the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
Eskom appealed to businesses and the public at large to decrease their dependency on coal generated electricity, and implement energy-saving measures such as geyser blankets, movement-sensitive lights and investment in alternative energy has become a reality in South Africa.
Unspoilt biodiversity, local development
Mashovhela Lodge, which means “place where the drums beat”, is situated between the mountains amid unspoilt biodiversity that boasts over 600 different types of trees, thousands of plant species and a host of wildlife including leopard, hyena, warthog, kudu and wild cat.
It had always been a dream of Hans Hahn to establish a conservancy on his farm creating a home for indigenous fauna and flora, with his daughter helping him to achieve that goal.
The lodge also has a community development element to it, with a focus on utilising the local Venda people and their arts and crafts in support of local industry.
There are currently 13 people employed at the establishment, with a further support staff as well as a full-time game ranger and guide.
“We only employ local Venda’s and all our furniture and arts and crafts is made locally,” said Ingrid Hahn. “The community is aware of the vision we have for the property as well as the community, making them aware of the environment and how to protect it and ensure future generations can benefit from it.”
As with much of the farms in the Limpopo province, Hahn’s farm – which he bought in 1970 – is involved in a land claim. However, due to the harmonious relationship between the local chief and the Hahn family as well as the family’s initiatives to educate and skill the local people the local chief does not want them to be moved off the land.
“We provide work and education to his community,” said Hans Hahn.