Potential for Growth
A group of young men work on inflating tires with their small gas-powered generator. These generators are a rare commodity in Totota, Liberia, and crucial for the parade of trucks passing through the rural village daily, on their way to either Monrovia, the capital, or neighboring Côte d’Ivoire.
With a population of approximately 6,400, Totota is a rural community located approximately 80 miles northeast of Monrovia. It is home to stores, workshops, restaurants, schools, clinics, churches, mosques and government offices. Despite the town’s status as a regional trading center, most households rely on dry cell batteries, lanterns and candles for illumination while a small number purchase electric service from individuals who own and operate small generators.
It will be at least ten years until the construction of a national grid can reach Totota and other parts of Rural Liberia. That’s ten years in an economic stalemate for the young tire workers and Totota’s residents.
A Renewed Path
The shortfalls and gaps exposed by the recent Ebola crisis in Liberia prompted the NRECA International Foundation to commit $400,000 to bring reliable and affordable electricity to Liberia. With the support of the Foundation, the NRECA International team will be building a solar- diesel hybrid system that combines solar photovoltaic panels with a diesel generator to provide power at night.
To ensure that electricity access lasts generations, a sustainable community-owned service provider also will be established. NRECA International is well suited to assist in this endeavor. We are currently implementing several Beyond The Grid projects for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Beyond The Grid is part of the Obama administration’s Power Africa initiative. Its aim is to spur stability and economic development by delivering reliable, predominantly renewable electricity to Liberia’s rural towns.
The NRECA International team has launched three electric cooperatives in the communities of Gbarnway, Sorlumba and Kwendin in recent months. In these communities, we helped develop business plans and articles of incorporation, provided training in all facets of service provision, financial management and general operations.
Through ongoing support and oversight, Totota’s solar diesel hybrid system will be fully owned and operated by an electric cooperative. This will serve as a model for many other rural communities throughout Liberia.
A Promising Future
About 130 miles away from Totota, residents in Gbarnway now can breathe a little easier when facing the future. NRECA International brought electricity to this village last year.
Korto Gizzie, a Gbarnway resident, says “we were living in darkness, and living in this place was hard. The houses were dark for the children. But now, we have light here, and this place is just like a city. I am so happy to see a town like this.”
In the near future, as trucks pass through Totota on their way to other cities and electricity becomes a reliable source of energy, the young men can expand their tire business. Children in the town will have better educational opportunities, and streetlights will lilluminate the streets so residents can walk safely on the busy main roads. Totota will begin to feel like a city, and be another stepping stone in Liberia’s rebuilding process.