Empowering Santa Teresa, Solar Energy for a Village in Southern Belize

Jul 23, 2016

Ms. Florentina Choco of Santa Teresa Village, Toledo District - Photo Credit: Pooja Choksi

On Saturday July 23rd 2016, the GEF Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP) implemented by the United Nations Development Programme – Belize, inaugurated the Santa Teresa Solar Project. This project grant of BZ$100,000.00 was approved by the National Steering Committee of the GEF SGP on 28th February 2015 to Plenty International Belize Limited, through an intermediary partnership with Santa Teresa Village. The project has empowered 387 residents of Santa Teresa to demonstrate the use of low carbon technology, and how to build capacity at the community level, through the installation and management of 68 renewable and sustainable solar energy systems.
A resident of Santa Teresa, Ms. Florentina Choco, participated in a six (6) months training at Barefoot College in India. The Barefoot Solar Engineer programme specifically targets older women in rural villages because they are past child-rearing, so are more available to undertake this commitment, also they understand the urgency of improving basic services in their remote communities. Through this training, Ms. Choco learned how to build and repair small household solar systems. Thereafter, in coordination with Barefoot College, solar system parts, supplies, and tools were sourced and installed in 68 households in Santa Teresa Village. The village then elected a seven (7) person Solar Power Board, in charge of guiding installation, operations, collecting small monthly user fees and managing the long term sustainability of the solar systems. Ms. Choco is the first indigenous Solar Engineer in Belize trained at Barefoot College, and now maintains the solar systems for all 68 village households.
Solar electrification in the home benefits all family members. Primary and high school students are now better able to complete their assignments and study for their classes, with the light provided by these systems. Technical support is provided by the Ministry of Energy, Rural Development and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center. The GEF Small Grants Programme continues to embody the very essence of sustainable development through “Community Action - Global Impact," by providing financial and technical support to community-driven projects that conserve and restore the environment while enhancing people's well-being and livelihoods. This project influences the development of Belize`s 2030 National Sustainable Energy Strategy and Action Plan and is helping to set Belize on its transition pathway to greater use of sustainable energy. The outcome of this project has been exemplary of how community action can maintain the fine balance between human needs and environmental imperatives, and contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
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