Nicaragua: a water turbine brings sustainable electricity and new life to the village of Ocote Tuma

EnDev Nicaragua © GIZ

27.07.2017 – Ten years ago, the people of Ocote Tuma started operating a hydropower plant. They have had electricity ever since – and their lives have changed completely.

Light in the evenings, a refrigerator for perishable food items and electricity for the doctor's medical equipment – these are things that many people take for granted, but that wasn't always the case in Ocote Tuma. The village is in northern Nicaragua in Central America, around six hours by car from the capital Managua. Up until 2007, like one in five people in the country, the villagers had no electricity.

A small hydropower plant commissioned by the community and the central government has brought a great deal of change to the village. The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH provided support for the plant on behalf of the Directorate-General for International Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. The project is part of the Energising Development (EnDev) programme financed by Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. EnDev gives people in Africa, Asia and Latin America access to sustainable energy.

Ocote Tuma is a good example of the many ways in which an electricity supply changes people's everyday lives. Many of the inhabitants have found new business opportunities, with craftspeople now able to use electrical equipment and shop owners able to sell chilled food items. Education opportunities have also improved, because lessons can be held in the village school at any time of day. More than 300 students from eight communities receive education here. At weekends, computer courses are offered for up to 20 participants.

Word has got out about all these changes, and many people from the region have now moved to the village. While Ocote Tuma was home to only 17 families in 2007, more than 70 families now live there. Other people come for treatment at the health centre, with around 120 people from the surrounding communities using the health centre's services every day. Ocote Tuma is attracting people from all over the region – so much so that the village is already thinking about building a second hydropower plant. The turbine currently generates only around 13 KWh of electricity: enough to operate 13 refrigerators at the same time, which is not many considering the growing village population. The community has therefore introduced a fee scale and clear rules about when electricity needs to be saved and when appliances that use a large amount of energy need to be switched off.

In Nicaragua and Honduras, more than 25 of these micro hydropower plants have been funded, and around 10,000 solar power systems for houses have been set up with local partners. Across the world, GIZ helped a total of 3.4 million people gain access to light and electricity between 2010 and 2015.