For one Honduran community, night lights up at last
Almost one century after the isolated village of Plan Grande in northern Honduras was founded, its inhabitants were still living in semi-darkness.
To tackle this problem, a UNDP-supported project helped build a hydroelectric power plant, eliminating the use of fuel, candles and batteries. Of the 80 houses located in this community, 53 have been hooked up to the system.
- A hydroelectric plant was constructed with US $30,000 provided by the GEF Small Grants Programme/UNDP, the Honduran Foundation for Agricultural Research (FHIA), Germany’s International Cooperation Agency (GIZ) and the community.
- The hydroelectric dam generates 12.5 kilowatts of energy.
- 35 boys and girls between 8 and 14 years of age have been trained in the use of software and computers.
- The project is self-sustainable and run by trained volunteers from the community.
- 37% of SGP projects in Honduras have targeted indigenous groups, 17% the Garifuna communities (communities of African descent) and 44% mestizo farming communities living in poverty.
“The lack of energy has hampered the community’s economic development, given that our traditional activity is fishing. And as we cannot put the fish on ice, they have to be sold quickly, so any possibility of negotiating prices is quite slim,” said community leader Oscar Edgardo Padilla. “Electric power has proven to be a key factor for the community.”
For the administration of the project, a community board set up an electrification committee responsible for the operation, maintenance and management of project site facilities.
The hydroelectric plant cost US $30,000 and received financial and technical support from the Small Grants Programme (SGP), a program implemented by the Global Environment Facility and UNDP, in addition to support from the Honduran Foundation for Agricultural Research (FHIA) and Germany’s International Cooperation Agency (GIZ).
The community now makes its own ice, and radios, televisions, fans, blenders and other household appliances are also being used to make housework easier.
The entire community has been able to save significantly. The “pulperias” (local convenience stores selling basic household items) have seen their eletric bills fall by more than $130 a month. Households with electric lighting, radios, televisions, cell chargers and fans now pay less than one third of their former electric bill. Plan Grande enjoys electric power all day long, and this structured and equitable distribution of income has made the project self-sustainable.
“People now hold meetings at night in the community center, and various talks and meetings are organized using video. In the health center, vaccines no longer have to be destroyed as they can be refrigerated; dental services are provided and deliveries are now safer,” Padilla said.
Several volunteers have been trained to oversee the turbines and electrical installations. Others have been trained on environmental issues, and have set up their own nursery to reforest the river basin.
With computers provided by UNDP and two donated by an, the project helped train 14-year-old Cinthia Padilla in IT skills. She has since taught weekend computer and Internet courses for 35 children.
“Before, we only used to study during the day. Now we can study at night and that helps me to hone my skills; I’m reading more books and learning about technology,” said Cinthia, who dreams of becoming an agronomist to work in the community and take care of the forests and animals.
Now the inhabitants of Plan Grande envisage dam extension to cover more users and enhance energy capacity. Similar initiatives are being introduced in Quinito, Lepaera in the Lempira region and Jutiapa in Atlántida.
— Ana Elsy Mendoza