First Wai Wai community gets full electricity
… Minister Rodrigues commissions solar lighting system
Guyana Chronicle
November 10, 2003

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GINA - Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Carolyn Rodrigues, on Wednesday, commissioned a solar powered lighting system in the Wai Wai community of Masakenyari, formerly known as Gunstrip, Upper Essequibo River.

The area, in southwestern Guyana, is the most remote village in the country with 30 Wai Wai families.

The community will be provided with electricity through energy saving fluorescent (ESF) lamps at a cost of $6M, including labour and air transportation.

The Masakenyari residents contributed $400,000 to the project which was financed by Conservation International-Guyana (CIG).

A release from CIG stated that the project culminated in 2002 when the Village Captain of Masakenyari had requested of CIG’s Major General (retd) Joseph Singh a generator to provide electricity to his village, of approximately 300 persons.

The captain had noted that residents of the community had difficulty moving fuel to the area, which is located on a hill about 100 metres above mean river level.

Since a generator proved to be not as reliable as expected, and based on the fact that the area could be affected by oil spills, other options had to be pursued, the release said. The solar option is renewable, cost effective, and an environmentally friendly source of energy for the community.

Residents in the community worked hard to assist in setting up the project. They were required to supply the 34 three and a half metre hardwood poles to support the photovoltaic panels and the 2 fifteen metre hardwood poles for the mounting of the two lighting conductors. This, they did by harvesting the poles through selective logging.

Minister Rodrigues stated that the community of Masakenyari is going to be a showpiece. “When other communities see what has happened here, they will want to follow suit”, she said , as she praised them for their hard work.

Major General (retd) Singh said that CIG- Guyana is pleased to have been involved in the unique, indigenous community development project consistent with sustainable development goals. He also named the CI Guianas programme staff in Washington, DC, donors, the Amerindian Affairs Minister, the Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST), The Guyana National Energy Authority (GNEA), Jerome DeFreitas & Sons, Torong Guyana Co. Ltd and the Captain and members of the community as vital contributors to the project.

It was noted that members of the Wai Wai Support Team from the Island of Jersey in the English Channel, who came on a two-week UK Scientific Exploration Society (SES) expedition to the Upper Essequibo in 2002, had contributed 3700 pounds Sterling to the project.

Contractor Jerome DeFreitas & Sons, who has trained six Wai Wais in the use, care and routine preventative maintenance of the equipment, has also scheduled twice-yearly visits to ensure that the equipment is inspected and maintained.

Masakenyari is the first Amerindian village in which all households now have electricity.