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close this bookSustainable Energy News - No. 14 September 1996 (INFORSE, 1996)
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View the documentRural Electrification in the Solomon Islands
View the documentINforSE Organisations' Initiative for a Resource Center in India

Rural Electrification in the Solomon Islands


By Robert Wadell, Appropriate Technology Community & Environment (APACE), Australia
There are several reasons why logging is continuing on a large scale:

· the logging companies' commercial desire to exploit the last remaining stands of old growth rain- forest timber

· the desire of governments to earn foreign exchange in the shortest time possible; and

· the villagers' need for income.

For the villagers to resist this process, there has to be a way of preserving their rair-forest while at the same time satisfying their cash needs. One such way has arisen out of a joint operation between the villagers of Solomon Islands and APACE, a Sydney-based voluntary NGO devoted to the promotion design, and application of appropriate technology.

Small Hydro Power Plants
Everybody is Involved

Over a period of 15 years, at the invitation of the villagers, APAO has been involved in the design and implementation of small systems to generate hydroelectricity in several villages in the Solomon Islands. In these villages, initially in the Western province the people marshalled all of their resources and worked cooperatively to create all the necessary infrastructures The commissioning of the first system was the culmination of years of preparation and consultation with the villagers. It was preceded and followed by courses of training in the operation, maintenance, and repair of the system. This has been the pattern of all subsequent installations.

In line with APACE's general philosophy, the bringing of electricity to the village was not seen as an end in itself but rather as a means of enhancing the independence and self-reliance of the community as a whole.

Everyone in the village - men, women, and children - was involved in the process. Everyone received a benefit and therefore had a stake in ensuring a successful outcome.

Benefits

The villagers now supplied with electrical power can enjoy a member of benefits:

· They can run small cash-earning businesses such as bread-maling, furniture making and copra-drying

· They can also have refrigeration facilities for the storage of fish, vegetables, and pharmaceuticals.

· They are enabled to keep their rain- forest intact and to avoid all of the problems that the loss of the rain-forest had caused for other villages.

Women Involved

A prominent feature of APACE's operations has been the involvement of women in the new technology. So of often in the past, when new technologies have been introduced into villages, only the men were involved and instructed in their operation. Women were not asked how they would like the technology to be used for their benefit.

The women involved in the installation of a system in the first village were keen to pass on their knowledge and experience to other women who were anxious to have similar technology in their own villages. This resulted to a national series of women workshops.

Trust of the Government in New Community-Based Hydro-Electrification

In February, 1995, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by the Solomon Islands government and APACE. The Government showed freat trust in the ability of the villagers and APACE to do something which everywhere else has been the prerogative of a centralised authority. In this case, the decentralised generation of electricity has been sanctioned by the Solomon Islands Electricity Authority, which will ensure that safety regulations are being observed

ln addition, a working group called Solomon group Community Electrification Committee (SICEC) was set up to draft a National Rural Electrification Policy and to design an appropriate orgardsabon to implement a community- hydro-electrification program

When SICEC is fully implemented, it will make a quantifiable contribution to the national economy, and to the environmentes well as to national self-sufficiency and self-reliance.

More information: APACE c/o University of Technology, P.O. Box 123,
way NSW 2007, Australia
Ph/fax: +61-2-3302554/- 3302611.