A new effort to empower Haiti

Solar energy key to its industrialization?

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The fish are then given to the farmers who raise them at a nearby lake.

Mr. Abe hopes that people who now live on less than a dollar a day working at small farm plots will have annual profits of $2,000 each, in addition to a source of protein-rich meals.

Elsewhere, the government is working with banks to award more than $30 million in low-interest loans so that 200,000 families can buy portable solar-power kits.

The biggest target is Haiti’s decrepit electric company, which eats up $100 million a year in official subsidies, 12 percent of the government’s budget.

It hasn’t been able to crack down on Haitians who just steal power by tapping illegally into the grid, and cannot provide steady power to any of its customers, even in the capital.

In Port-au-Prince, a team of carpenters build bed frames, doors and coffins, all by hand, in the shade of a tarp strung among tree trunks.

One of them, 55-year-old Francis Pierre, longs to use his power tools, but says there is seldom electricity.

“We would be able to make more, produce more,” he said.

More electricity

Haitian officials turned to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which awarded a contract to a private utility operator, Tetra Tech Inc. of Pasadena, Calif., to manage the electric company for two years.

USAID also is repairing five substations in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and is studying the possibility of using solar panels for an industrial park in the north.

One of the biggest projects is the Inter-American Development Bank’s $48.8 million plan to refurbish Haiti’s Peligre hydroelectric plant, the country’s largest energy producer.

It now operates at less than half its original capacity of 54 megawatts because its reservoir hasn’t been properly maintained.

The cellphone company Digicel, Haiti’s largest employer, has built about 180 solar-powered lamps in the countryside and hopes to add 1,000 more by next year. Each light features an outlet for charging mobile phones.

Boston-based Partners in Health has installed solar panels in the hospitals it runs with the Health Ministry, and plans to build more with the Solar Electric Light Fund.

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