Nearly a third of Nicaraguans lack access to mains electricity, many of them living in rural areas. The consequences are huge. Poor lighting and no opportunity for phones and television makes life at home difficult, while hospitals and schools cannot guarantee the services needed to ensure a healthy and literate population.
ECAMI is a family business originally set up to repair communications equipment after the conflicts of the1980s. They chose photovoltaic (PV) systems as the most reliable power source and soon came to realise that the systems had even greater potential. Solar home systems were developed for families, larger systems for health centres, schools and offices. Hotels are also provided for and ECAMI have even installed systems for powering mobile phone masts.
Since 2004 over 2100 solar systems have been installed for homes, and another 500 systems for wider application across the community. The systems cost from US$600, with financial and carbon savings from reduction in the use of kerosene and diesel.
The benefits are many. Improved lighting at home, schools open longer, clinics able to store drugs and carry out more procedures, pumps able to supply drinking water. Over 100,000 people are estimated to have benefitted. But as striking is the way in which solar power enables people to connect to the world via mobile phones, internet and television. Economic and social progress depend above all on access. This is what ECAMI has provided.