GEORGETOWN, Guyana -- Access to basic infrastructure such as regular water supply, roadways and modern energy systems continues to be a major challenge for many developing countries including several in the Caribbean.
To address this challenge, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has been providing funding through its Basic Needs Trust Fund Programme (BNTF) to improve the living conditions of residents especially those in rural areas.
The BNTF, the CDB’s principal programme for direct poverty reduction for more than three decades, is designed to help poor and vulnerable communities in ten participating countries improve their access to basic public services. This is done through: the provision of social and economic infrastructure; the development of skills to improve their chances of finding job and capacity building towards empowerment and community engagement.
To date, Guyana is the largest beneficiary-borrowing member country of grants under the BNTF, through which it has received USD 27.4 million over the past ten years. Several projects in road construction and rehabilitation, installation or improvement of water supply and rural electrification have been funded under the BNTF 5, BNTF 6, and the recently launched BNTF 7 programmes, with support from the government of Guyana.
CDB president Dr Warren Smith said the development of a reliable electricity supply to rural Guyana is of critical importance.
“Over the last three years, the BNTF Project in Guyana has been very quietly including photo voltaic (PV) components, where relevant, in the social infrastructure sub-projects being undertaken,” he told the 44th annual meeting of the CDB’s board of governors.
PV systems are often the solution of choice in these remote areas where diesel has to be moved by river transport at relatively high cost.
Under BNTF 6, ten of these sub-projects that included PV systems have been completed, for a total installed capacity of 7.115kW to date. Of these ten, five are in Guyana’s Region 9, addressing poverty in villages of the North and South Rupununi Savannah of Guyana’s hinterland, covering the sectors of education, health and water supply.
“It is estimated that these 10 operational sub-projects have changed the lives of nearly 5,000 citizens,” Smith said.
In one such case, that of Kwatamang Village, Upper Takatu, Upper Essequibo, there is no grid-connected electricity supply and a couple of manual hand pumps was the only access to water for residents. The inclusion of 700W of PV installed capacity in the sub-project design for the operation of a submersible pump in the borehole has allowed for the distribution of water to five standpipes in the village. This has improved access substantially, and providing for running water at the village primary school and health centre. Water is pumped to the elevated storage tanks and through the distribution network provided by the project. The entire village of 408 persons -- 220 males and 188 females, including 65 youth – are beneficiaries of a regular supply.
According to Smith, seven more BNTF sub-projects for Guyana, which will include PV installations (an estimated added 4 kW) -- six water and one education -- are already under implementation. Of the 17 sub-projects mentioned, which include PV (10 completed and seven under implementation), 13, or 76%, are in the water sector, indicative of the demand for a cost-effective and reliable means of delivering essential water to residents.
“Some of the water supply systems are being installed in villages where there was no electricity for operating pumps such as the Kwatamang Village case cited, however, in others such as at Annai, expensive and unreliable diesel generation for pump operation is being replaced with a cleaner and less expensive energy source,” the CDB president explained.
The installation of 1.9 kW of PV capacity at the Annai Secondary School when it was recently extended under BNTF 6, has facilitated the use of computers, enhancing education opportunities for older students, particularly those taking the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) examination.
The BNTF participating countries are Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Montserrat, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and the Turks and Caicos Islands.