Strengthening Communities

Totota Electric Cooperative

This year the COVID-19 pandemic has forced NRECA International to temporarily suspend its popular volunteer program, but the team is pursuing other charitable initiatives that can continue to improve the lives of thousands in rural communities.

NRECA International is launching “Empowering Small Businesses to Strengthen Communities,” a fundraising initiative to help empower small businesses and strengthen communities it has supported over the years.

NRECA International helped establish the Totota Electric Cooperative (TEC) in Liberia, with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Cooperative Development Program, and donations and volunteer lineworkers from America’s electric cooperatives. Today this new electric cooperative has become self-sufficient in less than two years, serving as a model of sustainable power that could lead to more co-ops in the West African nation.

NRECA International is partnering with TEC and other communities to implement productive use of electricity programs, to help a new wave of entrepreneurs (especially women) who now have electricity access, so they have the means and knowledge to generate income using electricity.

“Electrifying a village is transformative, but it’s only the first step,” said Dan Waddle, NRECA International’s senior vice president. “It doesn’t bring in enough money for the co-op to really grow and reach sustainability. To do that, they’ve got to sell more power.”

Strengthening the Communities

NRECA International will work with a local financial institutions in communities and electric co-ops in Totota to create a revolving loan fund that members can tap into to expand small businesses.

“The idea is to grow people’s income through the productive use of electricity,” Waddle said.

NRECA International has helped create similar revolving loan programs at co-ops throughout the globe for the past 40 years.

Donations will help communities like Totota to help create new business opportunities and improve their quality of life.

These loans will help provide seed money and investments to small businesses in rural communities to purchase electric appliances and other electric-powered tools, learn how to maximize their use, and ultimately help them generate income and grow their businesses. These businesses can include clinics, refrigeration facilities, restaurants, repair shops, and more.

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Meet a few business owners in Totota

Madeline sells sweet frozen milk at the market, and walks 30 minutes every day to a facility to freeze her treats. She goes back the next day to collect them and walks to the market to sell them. With our help, she will be able to invest in a refrigerator, materials, and subsequently open her own ice cream shop – so her customers can do the walking.

Abdullah opened a tire repair shop and saved for a year to buy a generator and an air compressor. His business sign is a tire attached to a pole in front of his shop, used to attract the cars, trucks and motorbikes that pass his shop every day. With our help, he won’t have to buy fuel for his generator, he can save money by using more reliable co-op power, and extend business hours by installing lights in his shop

Chris‘s barber shop is a little shack with mirrors, two chairs and a bench for waiting customers. Before electricity came to Totota, his steady hand used bare razor blades to trim hair and beards. With our help, he can do more than just buy an electric trimmer. We can help him invest in other tools of the trade, and maybe a roof over his shop!
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