by Rachel McManus
EarthSpark had been working closely with members of the Les Anglais community for over 5 years before the grid inauguration last year. This experience was invaluable to us in that it helped us to understand the town’s residents and their needs. It also allowed us to make friendships that turned into partnerships that help us get our work done. As we plan to roll out 79 more grids over the next 5 years, we understand that it will be impossible to spend that much time with each individual community. Therefore, we are thinking carefully about our ‘path to scale’ for community engagement in other towns.
We often receive requests from different stakeholders who would like to work with EarthSpark to build a microgrid in their community. To streamline the process of engaging these communities EarthSpark held a mayor’s expo in Les Anglais on May 19th for 14 representatives from 9 towns.
The day kicked off at 8 AM (ok, 9:30, but some people had travelled 7 hours to come!) with coffee and breakfast in the salle paroissiale – community center in Les Anglais. After a discussion on Enèji Pwòp and the history of the Les Anglais grid, we set out in the hot sun to tour the town and see the generation system. After the grid tour we stopped by Madame Ludgere’s depot to see her corn thresher and discuss how her women’s cooperative is working with EarthSpark to explore using electricity to process corn. While we strongly disagree, one of the mayors was so impressed that he stated it would be hard to find more such smart and industrious women like Madame Ludgere and her group in all of Haiti. After that, we stopped by the Magazen Enèji Pwòp to see how the Les Anglais’ grid ambassador, Rosane Jean-Jacques, sells plop plop, pre-pay electricity credits, to customers.
The mayors were very impressed with the grid and had a lot of questions. Almost all of the towns took EarthSpark’s executive director, Rachel McManus, aside to campaign privately for their town and discuss the steps they were taking to electrify their towns (such as forming energy committees, scoping out land for solar panels and reaching out to diaspora members for funding).
Each mayor received an information packet with technical specifications for the grid and its smart meters, a description of the agricultural processing technologies, and a module on Renewable Energy 101. They were also asked to fill out a short survey about the economic activities in their town.
The day closed with exchanges of phone numbers and some of the mayors suggesting a Whatsapp group ‘to keep the momentum going.’ We look forward to that momentum and to working with these communities in the future!