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Banana farm and homes in Cowpen benefit from EU and BEL Electrification Project Print E-mail
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Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 28 September 2017 00:00

According to a representative from the Belize Electricity Limited, Vonetta Burrell, Public Relations Manager, the current coverage of BEL in the country is at 92% and is expected to reach 98% by 2020. With a GOB-EU-BEL initiative over 200 communities and a total of 5,000 households in both new and existing communities will be impacted. The project will require approximately $35 million to achieve and as a part of achieving that, residents in Cowpen have received electricity for the first time.

As a part of the European Union’s mission to improve lives, as well as that shared mission with BEL, several banana farms were beneficiaries of the project. Media personnel were taken on a tour of the Go Bananas! Farm along with Malgorzata Wasilewska, EU Ambassador, to get a firsthand experience on the difference electrification has made on the lives of the residents of Cowpen, the workers on the farms, as well as the overall functionality of the farm.

While the banana production involves more than the implementation of electricity, it does play a vital role in the productivity of the farm and its people. A part of ensuring the best possible results for present and future times is sustainable infrastructure and instruments that can withstand wear and tear as time progresses.

The tour was conducted on Farm 2 which is the workplace of145 workers. Carlos Peraza, manages farms 1, 2, and 3. Peraza spearheaded the tour which started in its initial stage of the banana production which entails the green bananas being hung up on a conveyer and ends with them being packaged in cardboard boxes. After being hung and cut, the fruits receive a primary wash to rid them of surface dirt. Since the introduction of electricity at the farm, this process has been done more efficiently with an automated sprayer which gives a faster and more powerful jet stream.

Several parts of the process have now been automated but for Peraza, the most change has been seen in the drastic reduction in the cost of fuel needed to operate generators. The electrification project took place in April and according to Peraza, there has been a 40% reduction in costs. Some of the fuel now purchased goes to the backup generator. Aside from financial relief, there is also a decrease in noise pollution and the emission of pollutants into the air. There are also safety implications for workers.

Apart from the farm benefitting, the residents of Cowpen have also seen positive changes in their lives. The residents would have to wait until daylight to start their work days but with electricity in their homes, they can start their day as soon as need be. One woman, Candelaria Ical, was very happy to be a beneficiary of the project especially as it relates to her children. They are now able to complete their homework at night and make it to school on time. She is also very happy that she no longer has to rely on candles and that her family is no longer endangered or vulnerable to the hazards of a candle’s fire. Another man that went by the name of Mr. Ayala was also happy to receive electricity and joked that he even has a wife now due to the progress.

The areas that will be added to the national grid are not selected at random. Professionals at BEL take into consideration the age of the community, the cost to connect them to the grid, and the cost per household. Projects such as these require substantial funding and the decade long project with the EU has worked in line with their goals. This initiative is part of the EU’s support to banana producers and communities living and working in the banana belt.