Sunday, September 20, 2009

On water and power

Yesterday was an interesting day. The chief had a visit from a couple of staff from the UNDP (United Nations Development Program) along with someone representing the embassy of Japan. UNDP is the donor who funded the building of the community centre in Mapaki a couple of years ago, so they came back to see the project and to talk about new projects. It looks likely that UNDP will fund the replacement of pipes so that water can be piped into Mapaki. The water comes from a dam about a mile from the main road in Mapaki. The walk there was beautiful (pictures are posted - link is in the "links" section). The dam was built originally in the 60s or 70s. Water from the dam was carried down to the village via a pipe system (you can see the pipe sticking out in the photo on the right) and allowed people to have much easier access to water, especially during the dry season when water shortages are a problem. However, during the conflict a lot of the pipe, made of copper, was ripped up by fighting forces to be sold or used for other purposes. Since then, the chief has been trying to get the pipe repaired, and it looks like there could be water from this source in Mapaki by the end of this year. Very exciting!

Last night there was the biggest rainstorm I have seen since coming to Sierra Leone. The rain was so heavy, the lightning bright and frequent, and the thunder loud. I find heavy rain here is magnified even more because all of the roofs are made of metal (zinc I think), so the sound of the rain is made even louder when it hits the roofs. Then, in the midst of a very heavy downpour, around 6:30 or so, just when the sun was going down, it started to hail. Yes, you read that right, hail. I didn’t think it could hail in such a hot climate. One of the people I was talking with said this had only ever happened once before. Everyone seemed quite surprised by it, and the kids ran out in the rain picking up the tiny balls of ice. Especially because there is no refrigeration here in Mapaki, ice is really a novelty, so the hail caused a lot of excitement.

If this storm had happened in Nova Scotia, our power would most definitely have gone out! Luckily, there’s no power here to lose! :-) I read an interesting little note yesterday about off grid electricity. The article said (I’ll look for the link and post it if I can find it again) that donors are finally starting to realise that providing central grid electricity across Africa is not going to be feasible (for example, here in Sierra Leone, only Freetown, Bo and I believe Kenema have grid electricity, and even that can be unreliable), and that they need to begin to look at local, off-grid power solutions like solar power, small scale hydro, and other options. The next big revolution in local, small-scale power generation could happen right here in Africa. Interesting.

p.s.  saw a very large centipede in my room this morning - about 6 inches long and half an inch wide. Nice.

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