Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Good Thing I Know the Light of the World

I am scared for my country.

The electricity situation is grave indeed.  During November-April, we just kept thinking, "It will be better in the rainy season, it will be better in the rainy season."  And it was, for the month of May.

Then June hit and again we took a nose dive.  Very, very bad.  The rainy season is when the hydroelectric dams are supposed to fill up for the year.  Apparently they did not.  So if we are just on the other end of the rainy season, and are having 60-hour-per-week power cuts, that is very, very bad news. 

Yesterday we read a news article which states that it's possible that in the next two months, the dams will dry up and the the entire country will go to blackout.  No power.  At all.  Rain is supposed to come again in August and September.  But unless it is miraculous, El Nino-type rain (which is not expected), we will plunge once again into the hottest time of the year with little or no electricity.

The implications?  Well, for the vast majority of Tanzanians, who are subsistence farmers and never have electricity, it won't affect them at all.  But in the cities, where industry is growing the economy and the standards of living of millions of people, everything will grind to a halt.  Every small business that depends on electricity:  carpenters, welders, bakeries, internet cafes, salons, restaurants will be economically devastated.  How will factory food be processed and distributed?  What about the huge cell phone industry?  What will happen to food prices when the grocery stores have to run generators all day?  What will happen to the very successful dairy industry when none of the small shops can carry their products?  The tourists will stop visiting Tanzania; the hotels won't be able to afford the cost of constant generator use.  How many jobs will be lost?  How many businesses will crumble? 

It feels like the scale of a natural catastrophe because of the implications for the economy.  Fear.

And closer to home....It costs HOPAC about $300 per day to run their generator.  And even that won't run air conditioners.  When you've got heat in the 90's and humidity also in the 90's for days on end, it's really tough to teach and learn without air conditioners. 

I'm mentally preparing myself to get used to life without a fridge.  Can I do it?  Of course, silly, I tell myself.  Billions of people don't have a fridge.  But can I maintain my same lifestyle?  Going grocery shopping every day is not in my schedule.  More importantly, how will we sleep? 

Yes, we have a generator and it is wonderful.  But it also costs about $2 an hour to run.  Do the math, and you'll see it's not terribly realistic to use for hours at a time. 

Today we will go to town.  To investigate solar power, battery power.  Hey, it's good for the environment too, right? 

I wish I could say that we are all just being paranoid.  But I've lived here 8 years, and I've learned a few things, and I know that the worst could happen.  I know that for me, I'm worried only about a superficial comfort level and probably a loss in productivity.  But what of those whose whole livelihood is at stake?  What of a country that is already one of the poorest in the world? 

"Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are not grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior."
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