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.
In August 2021, NRECA International engineers traveled to Totota to upgrade the solar-powered mini grid system, and talked to people whose lives have changed since electricity arrived. Here are their stories.
The clinic is open from morning until 4:00pm. But sometimes when people with emergency cases come, we stay upon until 8:00pm. But we have a 24-hour labor and delivery unit, so we can be open all night. We also do TB testing and tracking, we test for malaria and give treatment. We offer HIV counseling, testing and treatment. We attend to accident cases, and also post-natal care. We do so many things.
This clinic has been in operation for 15 years. Electricity is most important on the labor and delivery side. With electricity, we don’t have to hold phone lights in our mouths. Sometimes, cases can be complicated. When you go clinics in the rural parts with no electricity, they are holding their phone lights in their hands and tending to people at the same time. So there is contamination. But we are not doing that here. When electricity came here, it helped us greatly.
Now with electricity, I can put my phone on charge at home, and I can receive all my calls from work. When I am on the weekend schedule, I will be at my house, and they will call me at 2am for patients in the delivery unit. I will walk now, because electricity is in the street, and I can walk from my house and come to the clinic. But without electricity, I am afraid to walk in the darkness. Electricity is helpful to us for security and our safety. You will not see stealing or break-ins. Electricity can help drive the crime away.
I am grateful to the TEC family for the great work they have done in Totota. I pray Liberia will get better, we pray that God will help heal the world against all the viruses we are experiencing. Not only COVID 19. So we pray that our government can combat all the different sicknesses that have covered the world and our nation.
I have lived in Totota for 20 years. I have owned this business for 10 years, and I sell provisions and agricultural products like seeds, water pumps, and fertilizers. I became a member of the Totota Electric Cooperative from the beginning because it’s beneficial for us, and good for our community. Because of electricity, today we are secure, our children are happier because we have lights in our homes, they have free time to study at night and they can watch their movies. Everything is okay now in my family.
My business has so many impacts on the community. For example, we sell meat and vegetables. People come from around the community to buy from us. We help people and support them, so they can move up too. So they can grow. My plan for the future is we want to expand the business, employ more people and empower more people. That’s our plan.
The Totota Electric Cooperative is strong because we, the citizens here, we raised it, we helped support it and we embraced it. We know what current is, we know the importance of electricity, and that’s why we decided to support and encourage it.
In the next five years, I hope to see my community grow. I hope that the electricity will be expanded to all the communities so that our brothers there can also benefit, and they can be happy, like us. I also hope that we can stand in the gap for others and help them be where we are today. That’s my hope.
I manage the cooperative and see that everything is in order. I chose to do this so I can give back to my community. In Totota, the TEC management team is very strong, is doing well, and is backed by the board. It’s also backed by the community, the people and their willingness to purchase power. This allows TEC to be successful.
This cooperative is for us. I’d rather get power from the cooperative, because at the end of the day, when we talk about dividends, I will surely benefit from it. Besides that, I prefer supporting my own community, because Totota is where I live, and the cooperative is here.
Right now, we see health centers that are using electricity to do their laboratory work. And school administrators used to go to Monrovia to print their documents. Now they can use electric power in their schools to print their documents. We also see businesses! We didn’t have cold storage here. But now businesses are growing. And in recent time, people are coming to our community because of electricity.
I used to run a generator for my business and burn two gallons of fuel a week. I also had to service the generator, especially after running it after one or two months. When current arrived, I can now save the money I used to spend on the generator, to take care of other things. My family has been so blessed. When I need hot water in the morning to bathe, now I can just put water in my percolator, plug it in and after a few minutes I get hot water. And my children, in the evening time, they sit and watch a movie. That’s great.
Totota is centrally located. Many times, when people want to travel from Monrovia, they don’t want to sleep in the dark without electricity. If they come to sleep in Totota, businesses will grow. The guest house owners will benefit and generate money. People who live in other areas come here because of electricity. Electricity has been a point of contact for many people.
The last four years as the TEC general manager, I’ve learned to face challenges and how to stand tall and stand strong. I’ve also learned how to work in a cooperative, because a cooperative is not for one person. It’s for everyone.
I want to see this grid expanded. I also want to add pipe-borne water and a sewer in Totota. Now we go to the pond, we go to the well. And sometimes, there’s a cholera outbreak, and I’m very cognizant of that. That’s my next plan.
We have challenges everywhere. But Totota is strong and is standing strong. All we need is a little support from NRECA and other partners. Then our dreams that we have here in Liberia and especially Totota, will come to pass.
I am 14 years old, and I like studying Math and English. My house has had electricity for almost 4 years, and it helps me study at night. Before electricity came, I used torch lights and candles. Now I can charge my phone and study at home. When I finish school, I want to be a civil engineer because I want to help build houses. I want to thank God for TEC, because we have current.
The electricity belongs to the citizens that live in Totota, it belongs to the community. And because of this, they see reason to hold everyone accountable to the affairs of the cooperative. It’s their own cooperative. The electric cooperative model works here because it’s ours. We have life in it. It’s affordable, it’s reliable and sustainable.
Because TEC is owned by my community, I wanted to be a leader and be a part of the cooperative. And being the board chairman of a cooperative, I have learned more about a cooperative. And to be part of it, I also have to help improve the livelihood of other people and educate other people how to manage the affairs of a cooperative.
People join the cooperative because light is life. Light brings us success. More people see the importance of the light. Families now realize that when they have lights in the homes, when they have current, people start businesses, and they know the importance of the light.
Because of light in Totota today, we have reduced the criminal rate, we have success in the community. In the past, there was fear because there was darkness. Now, there is no fear. Today we can enjoy the light, social activities, people sit and can watch television, people are making businesses from morning to night and night to the morning. We now see banks, and people can afford to come here to live. In some homes today, the wife is starting a business, and the husband is starting another business and things are improving. The co-op has changed their lives.
Life is improving. So the cooperative is very important to Totota.
Other communities can learn that without unity, we will not move an inch. We can encourage other people to learn from our experience so they too can jump on, and we can all share this together. Because we are all united we are going to see the expansion, we’re going to see improvement of businesses, and Totota is going to see a changed era, where we think we’re going to be #1 in Liberia.
The Totota Electric Cooperative brings current to us and the police cannot fight crime in the darkness. So TEC is part of the security, and is very essential to us. The biggest improvement in the community since electricity arrived is in helping reduce the crime rate and helps us expose the bad guys. Because if there is no light, the whole place is dark, and a lot of things happen in the darkness. So TEC is doing work for us.
We became a member of TEC in 2019, because they bring light to us. Our institution, we are here to protect life and property. That’s our job function. So the entire community benefits from our enforcement, and are sure to bring the crime rate down, so we bring joy to the community
I want to see this community with current 24 hours a day and night. Current should be there. My plan is for us to work hand in hand with the community to see how we can be a crime-free community. TEC should be elevated and expanded to other communities, not just limited to Totota. They should go to other places.