Let there be light

Maria Anina Do Santos, 9, and Fatima Do Santos Braganza, 12, do their homework beneath a bio-gas lit bulb.
SHINE A LIGHT: No more sore eyes. Maria Anina Do Santos, 9, and Fatima Do Santos Braganza, 12, do their homework beneath a bio-gas lit bulb. Photo: Tom Greenwood/Oxfam

Very few areas of rural East Timor have access to electricity. Portable generators provide a limited service to the lucky few that can afford diesel.

Oxfam New Zealand is supporting its East Timorese partner, Movimento Cooperativo Economico-Agricola (MCE-A), to develop bio-gas as a low-cost, renewable energy source for rural communities.

Biogas, composed mainly of methane and carbon dioxide, is produced when biological matter breaks down in the absence of oxygen. With a few minor adjustments to generators, the gas can be used to produce electricity. Gas is also piped to each house to be used for cooking.

The communities benefiting from this project are now using electric bulbs to light community centres and homes. “Before we used only petrol or kerosene lamps – they smelt bad and made me cough. Now we use electricity which has much better light. I use the light to sew dresses – before I couldn’t so I would just go to bed instead,” says Prisca Do Santos, Suai District.

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