Light for his town - Benito Mamani

Case study

Benito Mamani is the manager of the Quenamari micro hydro power plant, one of the technologies implemented by the Allimpaq project. He runs the plant on a daily basis, in order to provide lighting for his entire community. This is his story.

Given its location in a remote area and its rugged geography, the Quenamari community had no electricity, nor did it form part of the investment plans of any energy company. That was why one of the objectives of the Allimpaq project entitled was to develop renewable sources of energy.

Consequently, a 20kW micro hydroelectric power plant was implemented for the benefit of 110 families. The work was carried out jointly with the municipality of Marangani, with the collaboration of the Quenamari community who provided manpower for the project.

The construction was on stand-by for a long time. It had been budgeted by the municipality for a couple of years prior to starting the work, but there was a lack of confidence in the micro-hydro idea. It was also nearly impossible to transport the necessary materials like concrete or fine sand and to open the trench on the hill so that the pipes could be fitted. However, Practical Action’s Allimpaq project was able to carry out this vital work.

So that the micro-hydro power plant could meet the expectations, it was necessary to find someone capable of operating and administering the plant properly. The Quenamari community suggested Benito Mamani, a thin 32 year-old man with an elusive look and hesitant smile. Benito was the first man in the history of Quenamari to produce electricity, even before the arrival of the project. The people in the town knew this, which is why they unanimously voted for him to administer the plant. How did he do it?

Tired of living without light, Benito told us that he had always been curious and that it had all started thanks to his passion for cycling. “I saw that the bicycle dynamos generated electricity and decided to try it. Gradually I caught on to the trick and managed to produce enough power to light two small bulbs at night and to listen to my radio. I called my invention ‘Electrovela’."

Consequently, the training did not prove difficult for Benito, who was soon able to begin working in the micro-hydro power plant. Reciting the procedure off by heart was not difficult for him either: “It works with the force of the water we take advantage of and a machine generates electricity. Then it is converted into electric power for domestic use and for public lighting,” he said.

Benito lives two kilometres away from the micro hydro power plant and travels there every day to fulfil his duties. He has two sons, one four years old and the other aged two. Fooling around with his experiments, he managed to put an end to the dark nights in his home. Unlike him, his children were practically born with electricity. Benito dreamed about being the light of his home and he succeeded. Now he is also the light of his entire community.

Renewable energy

The only option for providing electricity to remote communities in Latin America is through non-conventional systems, using renewable energy sources such as water (small, micro and picocentrales hydro), wind (wind turbines) and the sun (photovoltaic modules).

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