Grassroots JGI project brings light to DRC village

A new micro-hydro power plant is delivering critical electricity to a school of conservation biology, a maternal and child health care center and other facilities in Kasugho, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), thanks to the efforts of JGI and its partners.

The new facility brings power to a rural village far from the national power grid and is transforming the lives of 16,000 people.

One beneficiary is the Tayna Center for Conservation Biology, which offers a university level two-year course in conservation biology to 100 area youth. Now classes can be offered after dark, and computers and other information technology resources are available more of the time to more students.

Infant mortality in the DRC is at 13 percent and those infants who do survive only have an 80 percent chance of making it to adulthood. “This facility will give area children a better chance at leading full lives,” said Keith Brown, executive vice president of Africa Programs.

Sustainable Energy – Sustainable Future

Other beneficiaries of electricity supply include
• a community radio station, operated by the Tayna Gorilla Reserve, which broadcasts a wide array of educational programs focused on agriculture, health, and conservation.
• Several workshops and other businesses in the village center, including the village mill, which processes much of the grain and cassava consumed in the area.

Filling the gaps in the national power grid

Prior to construction of the power plant, largely possible through funding from USAID’s Global Development Alliance, USAID’s Central African Regional Program for the Environment, and JGI-USA donors, what little electricity was available in the community was supplied by expensive diesel generators. In these remote communities, diesel supply is intermittent.

The initiative to establish this micro-hydro plant came from within the community. Labor and locally available materials needed for construction were freely provided by the villagers. At the project’s start in 2005, more than 200 villagers carried the sand and stones necessary for building most of the infrastructure.

Villagers also built 600 meters of road to facilitate access to the power plant directly from the village.

Said JGI's community-centered conservation project coordinator in DRC, Dario Merlo, who recently visited the site: “The power plant project is magnificent. Poles are already lighting the streets and the market of the village, and the villagers are preparing additional poles. The health center, hotel, the university, the radio and the laboratories are totally lighted.”

Not only does the power plant provide light for a previously unlit village, it also contributes directly to one of JGI's main objectives in Africa: the encouragement of sustainable, income generating activities that are not dependent on unsustainable natural resource exploitation.

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