25 January 2013

Gambia: Batokunku Residents Complain of Exclusion Wind Power Project Coordinator Explains

Reliable information gathered from the residents of Batokunku village, situated between the Tanji and Tujereng villages, has it that the wind power project installed in Batokunku village by a Charitable German Association for the Gambia headed by Peter Weissferdt is meant to supply the whole village with electricity and water but has not attained its objective to the fullest.

The information reveals that the facilitator of the project Mr. Weissferdt registered the Batokunku Wind Power Project and made an agreement with the government for the project to supply the whole village with water and electricity.

It was also added that since the wind power project started operating 4 years ago, half of the village have still not benefited from it; that the project did not proceed to cover the other areas as planned. It is also revealed it was the villagers who did all the hectic job of digging the trenches for the wind mill and the laying of the underground cable for the electricity and water with the expectation that the whole village would be electrified.

The information also noted that since after the indigenes along the road were supplied, it alleged that the project coordinator then started to sell power to the recent settlers who are wealthy and thus neglecting the villagers and which it described as discrimination.

The Views of the coordinator

The coordinator of the Batokunku wind power project Mr. Peter Weissferdt, who is also resident in Batokunku village, said it is a charitable organization in the Gambia that installed a windmill as a pilot project to supply the whole village with water and electricity. He said at the start of the project it was designed to cover only 35 compounds as the first phase but it later expanded to 180 compounds due to the demand at the time. He said 60% of the village is electrified in the first phase as the village was very small at the time, adding that it is now 3 times bigger than it was at the inception of the project. He said at the beginning their target was 180 people but now they have almost 100 people with 85 compounds electrified.

Mr. Weissferdt said the village is an independent distributor of current similar to that of NAWEC and emphasising that NAWEC has no right over the territory of Batokunku, because the wind power project is registered as the second electricity company in the Gambia and based in Batokunku village in the Kombo North district. He said he has this agreement with the authorities that Batokunku is a no go area for NAWEC and this is why the electricity high tension cable passes the village to other settlements in the area. He said since they have now electrified 60% of the village, the remaining 40% will be covered when there is funding. He said since there is no funding at the moment, anyone who wants to be connected has to fund it.

He explained that the Batokunku Wind Power Project is a community based institution and a non-profit project and has a licence contract from PURA to produce electric energy with the wind turbine and supply it to the people in Batokunku. He said this is why they have their own tariff which has nothing to do with NAWEC, adding that the Batokunku tariff is far below that of NAWEC. He said the funding for the project came from him and his friends in Germany and that the first phase was intended for 35 compounds and now it has covered 85 compounds. He added that those compounds that have not yet been electrified have got the sockets and switches installed and that all is done by him and his friends, adding that the project is hundred percent free for the villagers.

"The fixture and fittings including the bulbs are all supplied free because the project is 100% free and over 7 hundred energy saving bulbs are fixed in the connected compounds", he said.

Mr. Weissferdt said the villagers dug the trenches and the foundation for the wind mill, laid the electric cables and the water pipes in the ground. He said the project is one of its kind in the Gambia, as one can go around the whole village without seeing any overhead electric cables because all of them are under ground.

According to him, an electric pump was installed at the borehole to supply water to the whole village. He said the water pump is sponsored by the village from the money collected from the consumption of electricity.

He said they understand that 95 % of the rural people are extremely poor and that is why they have made their tariff D2 per KWH compared to NAWEC's D9.1 per KWH.

Mr. Weissferdt confirms that the project will be extended to all the villagers as soon as the funds are available for the cables etc. but could not state definite time. He disclosed that most of the time the wind mill produces more electricity than is needed for the consumption of the village, adding that this is why they have to sell electricity to NAWEC any time they produce more than what the village needs for its consumption. He said the operation of the mill depends on the wind which is provided by nature and that if the wind stops which, he said, is rare, they would also buy from NAWEC. He added that this is why they have two meters, one of which is reading what goes to NAWEC and other one reads what comes from NAWEC. The difference is paid. This, he said, is what they call net metering system.

Mr. Weissferdt said the Batokunku Wind Mill is 100 percent owned by the community and urged the villagers to be patient and wait for the funding. He said over D6,000,000 was spent on the first phase alone.

He concluded that the project enables the villagers pay as low as D25 per month on electricity due to the cheap nature of the operations of the wind turbine which depends on wind that is free of charge.

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