Published by Gillian Gurish on 16 May 2012 at 11:00 am
Earth Focus puts a human face on the environment through under-publicized stories. This program is about a Nicaraguan family company providing power where a third of the people have no access to grid electricity.
Since recently moving to California’s Bay Area from Boston, Massachusetts, I feel like I’ve had the opportunity to become reacquainted with the sun. Sure, New England has its fair share of bright and sunny days, but sunshine seems to come in abundance over here on the West Coast and I’ve been happy to soak it in. Sunshine here in the U.S. is somewhat of a luxury item–you can bet if someone figured out how to bottle it, it would be flying off the shelves at your local grocery store. But in other parts of the world, the sun provides much more than a tan.
This video from Link TV shines a little light on the Latin American country of Nicaragua and how one company is improving the lives of their fellow citizens. ECAMI was started by the Lacayo family in the 1980s, just after the Nicaraguan Civil War, to install solar systems for radio communications. Solar power was a brand new idea, and Lacayo saw its potential for changing lives early on in a country that has 300 days of sunshine a year, yet no access to grid electricity for a third of the population.
ECAMI began installing solar panels all over the country, from single panels for homes to full arrays with enough power to pump fresh, drinkable water to entire communities that previously only had unsafe well water. Suddenly, everyday chores like bathing, washing dishes and rinsing vegetables became safe and easy. Illness in communities that had solar panels installed significantly decreased, as rural community health centers could store things like vaccinations with refrigerators – a task previously impossible without any electricity.
Furthermore, when ECAMI installs the solar panels, their engineers also train members of the community in the maintenance of the panels; said Max Lacayo (son of ECAMI’s founder), “The whole idea is to make the system self-sustainable.”
The system ECAMI has put in place is indeed admirable–it uses a strong alternative power source, it greatly increases the quality of life for thousands of rural citizens, and it can continue on a long-term basis. A head engineer who not only installs the panels but also trains the community said, “to be part of the solution is the most important part of this job.” I think that’s something we can all agree on.
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