This blog is solely the responsibility of Rebecca Hartog and does not reflect the views of Peace Corps.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

And SONEL said unto them “Let there be light!”

Recently, I’ve really felt more like I’ve been in a developing country than a third-world country. SONEL is the only (state-run) power company in Cameroon, and I didn’t really believe SONEL would ever bring electricity to my little village. I’d asked around and been told that SONEL said Ngambé Tikar was far too en brousse and it wouldn’t be profitable. Thus, when the generator that was powering my house every night broke in July, I thought I was going to be in the dark permanently. Fortunately, I was reassured that the deputy (kind of like the congressman for Ngambé Tikar) was going to bring a new generator to village in August.

Imagine my surprise when SONEL showed up in early August and began rapidly installing electricity poles and power lines. I stopped to ask the workers when they thought the power would be ready. They assured me “at the end of the month at latest.” Which could mean by the end of the month, but more likely meant I’d be lucky to see SONEL light up Ngambé Tikar before I leave in December 2009. So I was even further surprised when the power lines and poles were basically installed well before the end of the month.

It was fascinating to watch the process. Large electricity poles were laid on the ground, painted, holes dug, poles installed, power cords strung, electricity meter boxes installed on peoples’ homes, a concrete home for the generator built. Shockingly they were done before August was over. This might be the fastest progress of anything I’ve ever seen in Cameroon.

Meanwhile, on a quite unrelated note, the dirt roads in my village were being “arranged” all summer, which means that huge piles of dirt are dropped on the road and then flattened by a large tractor. This effectively smoothes out the huge grooves and holes carved out by the rain. So at the same time as I watched power lines get raised practically overnight, I also watched the roads become slowly flat and even driveable. Since the whole process has been really interesting to watch, I thought I’d post some photos:

old power lines

the old generator house
the new generator house being built
electricity poles freshly painted and still on the ground before being raised

One of the poles went up right in front of my work

One of the SONEL workers running the power lines through the poles
power lines to the hospital

the roads being flattened


Mom said...

Dear Boo, It's so nice to hear a report of progress. But has the light come to YOUR house? I thought we learned that you were away when the meter man came around, and therefore didn't get a meter on your house. So, do you have electricity? If not, when might you be able to get a meter put on? In any case, and on another subject, I've already had the impression that NGambe Tikar is progressing towards development. There's a hospital and a high school. That makes it something more than totally reminds me of the farmland where Pake grew up and went to a one room schoolhouse. He could remember when electricity came too. xxoo Mom

Isat said...

Slight point of accuracy sister:

AES/SONEL is a private utility company run by AES Sirocco - an American based energy company. AES took over SONEL in 2001. Yes the state still has shares in AES/SONEL but the majority stakes are held by AES.

True: It is the only power supply company in the country.

Deputé is a parliamentarian. Just as you would have it in the UK or elswhere. Some sort of congressman ... may denote ridicule. I hope I am wrong sister.

Have fun in Ngambé Tikar.