Ready to Partner: Legal Connections in Majesty Gardens, Jamaica

Speeches Shim

USAID is working with Jamaica Public Service (JPS) and the Jamaica Social Investment Fund to bring legal electricity to informal communities.

Introducing readyboards and providing community outreach in Majesty Gardens reduced the number of electricity related injuries, expanded the number of JPS customers, caused less appliance loss due to power surges, and increased community awareness of energy efficiency.

USAID’s Sector Reform and Utility Commercialization (SRUC) Program

USAID, through the SRUC program, helps power utilities in developing countries to improve their operational and financial performance to strengthen the long-term sustainability of their electric systems.

Video Transcript 
Speaker 1: The Majesty Gardens community in Kingston Jamaica has long suffered from unsafe and poor quality electricity service, because of illegal hookups to nearby power lines. Until recently, the utility JPS has been unable to serve residents, because home structures mostly made of corrugated metal cannot be internally wired for a legal electricity connection. If residents wanted electricity, their only option was connecting to nearby power lines through an illegal hookup. These hookups often caused fires, injuries, damaged appliances. Residents paid a high price to local middleman to make and maintain their illegal connection. Speaker 2: This is one of the damage that the stealing light gave me. Speaker 1: Working with JPS and the electrical inspector, USAID introduced the concept of a Ready Board. A small versatile self-contained household wiring unit for the provision of basic electric city service, which would allow these types of houses to be legally wired for electricity. JPS partnered with U-Tech, the national engineering college to have students construct and assemble the boards from locally procured materials. The Ready Board has enabled residents to improve their lives and entrepreneurs to build their business. Many of the residents were born and raised here, and are proud to be part of this entrepreneurial community. Most work without regular income streams, buying and selling goods in Kingston or running snack shops or small grocery stores in the community. The Ready Board comes with a prepaid meter that enables households to purchase electricity service in a way that best matches these irregular income streams, in a smaller quantity and as frequently as needed. Speaker 2: Ready Board is a great thing them coming with because normally certain people would normally or JPS. Ready Board allows 1000 or 2000 worth of credit and that will serve we until it finished and buy some more and top up. Speaker 1: The Ready Board has also helped entrepreneurs protect the appliances they need to run their businesses. Speaker 3: You have to buy different things every time it burn up,and throw it away. When the Ready Board came in, this is a good thing for us. Speaker 1: For many of these people, the unstable illegal power often burned out lights or electronics, spoiling inventory or ruining important machines for their business. Speaker 4: JPS has faced several challenges in Majestic Gardens, like several other vulnerable communities mainly was electricity theft. What has happened over the years, JPS we used to go into the community with our strike-force team, with the police, the soldiers and the strike-force operation teams. What we would literally do is try to remove the illegal wires from the JPS power lines. What we realized over the years that was not working, because as soon as we take down these throbs, basically as we drive to the end of the community, they're back up. We presently have 717 customers knowing Majestic moving from three customers. The Ready Board in itself is contributing 412. Speaker 1: Once the Ready Boards were installed, JPS took down the illegal wiring, ensuring that the only power flowing into the community was safe and reinforcing regular payment channels for the residents. A critical success of the project has been showing JPS the value of engaging with customers in informal communities. Both in Majesty Gardens and in other low income areas with high levels of theft and converting them into regular customers. For the first time, JPS signed up Majesty Garden residents as customers and with the Jamaica Social Investment Fund worked with the residents to explain the benefits of legal electricity supply. Helping residents understand how to conserve their power to maximize efficient and safe use. Once the residents started to see the benefits in terms of safe regular power, theft decreased. There was a much lower level of losses and a safer feeling throughout the community. For residents, having access to a stable electrical current through the Ready Board has significantly reduced electricity based injuries, minimized the potential for fires and improved the viability of businesses that require electricity for operations and inventory. Speaker 4: We saw that we needed to improve the relationship. We needed to understand the people in the community. One of the things that JPS did was hire a community facilitator. What that means we hired someone from within the community. There was an office within the community that they could go to. Speaker 1: For the people of Majesty Gardens. This means they can open bank accounts with their JPS paperwork, work more safely at night and ensure the electricity they purchase and consume improves their quality of life, businesses and overall well-being. [music]

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