“In 2017, NRECA International recognized Totota’s potential to grow and become a strong and vibrant community. Today, thanks to the hard work of the people who live here, Totota is making history,” said Aaron Mineen, NRECA International senior engineer during a recent celebration in Totota.
On June 11, officials from the U.S. Agency for International Development, Liberia Electricity Regulatory Commission, and the Rural & Renewable Energy Agency, traveled to Totota to join other government dignitaries to celebrate the Totota Electric Cooperative’s (TEC) new status as a licensed power provider, becoming only the second legal power supplier in Liberia, after the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) the government utility.
This scene was unlikely to many, just a few years ago. The Ebola virus is not a distant memory for the residents of Totota, located about 130 kilometers from the capital of Monrovia. There were about 10,000 Ebola cases in the country, and almost 5,000 people died from this virus. After Ebola was officially declared under control in 2016, the Totota community knew well that reliable electricity is key for better access to healthcare and for fighting pandemics.
Laying the foundation
In 2017, NRECA International helped the community establish TEC with support from the U.S. Agency for the International Development (USAID) and volunteers from America’s electric cooperatives. Today, the town has three clinics, two pharmacies and two new cold storage businesses, setting the stage not just for population and economic growth, but also laying the foundation to provide critical healthcare services.
According to World Health Organization data, Liberia has had about 2,700 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and less than 100 deaths. While these numbers are better compared to many other countries, these numbers are not strong indicators of what lies ahead.
So far, COVID-19 cases in Totota are very low and contained, and there have been no outbreaks, unlike the densely populated Monrovia, which has experienced the highest number of cases in the country. However, Totota is located along a major transportation corridor that connects Liberia to the Ivory Coast, making it an ideal rest-stop for travelers before they continue their long journey through many towns without electricity – potentially an ideal location for COVID-19 to spread.
Better healthcare requires reliable power
Totota is now better equipped to provide better healthcare services to its community than it was during the Ebola outbreak. Thanks to TEC, today, the clinics can use equipment to diagnose common disease and recommend possible treatments. And when COVID-19 vaccines are available the clinics and two new pharmacies will be ready to administer them to the community.
Addressing the audience at the June 11 celebration, Mineen also acknowledged that TEC’s official status as a micro utility in Liberia is not just a testament to hard work, but it can also be a model for what can happen when communities cooperate and work together.
“Getting here has not been easy. But the hard work and accomplishments have shown us there is hope ahead with a brilliant future. Granting TEC with a permit to become an official micro utility recognizes the contributions of the TEC Board, management, and staff. But it also shows Totota’s commitment to continue working hard and show other communities that success comes with good cooperation and leadership, which in turn benefits everyone here.”