The 11th edition of the Caribbean Festival of Art (CARIFESTA XI) opens in Suriname on Friday with the host country promising that the region’s premier arts and cultural festival will turn the Dutch-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country into a gigantic stage of entertainment.
But for Orlando Olmberg, the supplier of solar equipment, Guguplex, he is using the occasion to set up an educational “Green village”, the size of a football field to showcase the possibilities of solar for providing rural communities with much needed energy for electricty.
He says CARIFESTA XI offers a prime opportunity to market sustainability to the region.
“This is a great honour, because it gives us the chance to create an awareness in Suriname and hopefully all over the Caribbean of the possibilities to build and live green. We believe that we can help to resolve the problem of energy shortage in the Caribbean,” he said.
Olmberg said the company’ is also developing other projects as well as training entrepreneurs, and educating communities of the benefits of solar technology.
“We are in talks with micro-finance institutions to support the continuation of this project. We also started our own micro loan system, with the help of the IDEAS grant and have installed systems in eight houses this way. Despite the risks involved, we’ve learned that pioneering micro-loans ourselves for communities is the most effective option at this present time.”
Asked what he hopes to come from the Green Village at CARIFESTA XI, Olmberg said he wants a “greater awareness among government officials, parents, school children, as well as those who want to build in areas where there is no electricity.
“Secondly, an opportunity to forge strong relationships with the Governments, builders, landowners, banks, university and other entities, and we will use this cooperation to show what is achievable by working together.”
Jazz diva, Denise Jannah, the IKO Foundation, Wycliffe Jean, the Cuban Tropicana Ballet, the Jamaican No-Maddz, the Haitian Bacoulou Dance Company and Shaolin Monks from China are part of the star-studded programme for CARIFESTA XI that will open with fireworks on August 16.
Performers from more than 24 countries will display their best on stages in the capital Paramaribo, as well as at community festivals in all 10 districts in the country.
The theme for this year’s CARIFESTA is “Culture for Development: Celebrating our diversity and promoting the central role of culture in economic, social and human development”.
All CARICOM countries as well as Suriname’s South American neighbours, China, the former Netherlands Antilles, India and Africa are taking part in the festival, a reflection on the Caribbean and Suriname’s diverse cultures.
With some 3,000 school children expected to attend, as well as parents and officials from Suriname and other countries, the event seemed a good opportunity for Guguplex to market its products.
The company that sells and installs solar equipment last year won the Energy Innovation Contest (IDEAS) grant and a micro-loan, allowing it to provide solar lighting at minimal cost to rural communities. Since the beginning of this year, the company has installed 15 solar systems that supplies 40 households, two businesses and one school with electricity at zero energy cost.
Cumulatively, their activities led to 5.61kW energy provision to the Hinterland area and 190 tonnes cut in CO2 emissions.
Of the 100 villages located in Suriname’s isolated interior, not one is connected to grid electricity. A little over 90 of them have diesel generators, but these are only used for a few hours daily. Communities are thus forced to limit their work, educational and social activities to daylight hours and rely on kerosene lamps, which are costly and can have severe health impacts.