Installation of another set of solar street lamps on La Gonave with Parsons School of Design

Installation of another set of solar street lamps on La Gonave with Parsons School of Design

For the second year in a row, key locations in several communities on the island of La Gonave have been lit up with newly installed solar-powered street lamps. The new light is a product of a second collaboration between Roots of Development, a team from Parsons School of Design in New York City, and Roots’ local community partner APDAG. This year’s project built on the success of last year’s installment of five solar street lamps in key areas around the community of Gran Sous.


Chad Groshart, a professor at Parsons School of Design, teaches a graduate course on lighting in the developing world for students studying lighting, architecture, and product design. A group of his students collaborated to provide design and technical expertise for the street lamps. They also helped raise money to fund the purchase and transport of the light poles. Groshart and the students joined Roots of Development on La Gonave last month to help local community groups install the new set of lights.

The street lamps are solar powered, and have controllers which allow them to turn on automatically when it starts getting dark. Around 6:30PM every evening, the lights turn on. They stay turned on at full power until midnight, at which time the controller reduces the light by half until 6:00 AM when the lamps turn off. This process helps save power by limiting the light produced when there are fewer people around and therefore less need for light.

The preparation and implementation phases of the project were led by APDAG and representatives of its various member groups. The community’s role included selecting where the street lamps would be placed, preparation of the installation site, providing materials and labor for the installation, and of course maintenance of the poles. With guidance from APDAG, residents debated the merits of possible locations for the solar street lamps. Based upon the needs of their community, they determined which spots would benefit the most from the light. Local groups were also responsible for providing cement, sand, rocks, water, and labor for the installation of each lamp.

The street lamps were purchased from a Haitian-owned company based in Port-au-Prince called ENERSA. This is the second year that ENERSA has worked on this project, as they also provided the light poles for the installation in May 2016. Every part of the light pole is locally sourced and purchased in Haiti, and is meant to have a long life span. They are made of strong durable materials, with solar panels that can last over 25 years and LED lights that will last about 10 years.

The new light has had a clear and immediate impact on the community. Small businesses have popped up under the lights, students are able to study after dark, and the community gathers to plan and discuss current events. Not only does light add to the development of an area by serving as a focal point for economic activities, it strengthens community. Immediately following the installation of the lamps, the community began gathering under the new light. They were hanging out, telling jokes, and listening to music. The influence of the new lamps is already spreading across the island, with leaders from other communities traveling to see the lamps and meeting with APDAG to learn how they might acquire similar lamps to light their own communities.

In evaluations that took place with APDAG after the completion of the project, the great majority of community members in attendance marked the project as a real success. The majority of respondents rated “project implementation” as very good or excellent, including on critical elements such as management of time, money, and materials, the efficiency of the planning process, and accomplishing the project’s objective. Excitement about the new lamps was clear at the meeting. As one resident explained, “this was only seen in our dreams before, only in dreams. Even our ancestors never could have imagined this for our community. Not our great grandparents, not our grandparents, not our parents.”

This project would not have been a success without the generous support of donors and sponsors including The New School, USAI Lighting, Vode, Mercury Lighting, and Lumenwerx. If you are interested in getting involved in Roots of Development’s work, or helping us expand this project specifically, write to us at

Nan Plim

OBJECTIVE: Capture and treat a large water source

WHERE: Nan Plim
1,200 residents.

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Gran Sous

OBJECTIVE: Capture and treat a large water source
WHERE: Gran Sous
Javier Ordoñez, Jaime Barzallo and Andres Alvarado, Concern Worldwide.
COST:  $29,352.00
5,000 residents.

As the inaugural project of Roots of Development and APDAG (at that time called the Gran Sous Water Committee), capturing and purifying the Gran Sous water source posed issues that both Roots and APDAG had never encountered before


In July, 2006, after numerous community meetings, the local committee decided that improving the local water source was the most important community need to address.  Community members discussed the health problems resulting from their lack of access to a potable public water source, legal issues they could encounter, and evaluated the new project based on attempts to capture the source in the past.  Five members of the committee also visited a doctor in Anse-a-Galets to determine the prevalence of water-borne diseases in the area.  The community then set up a survey of the water source to determine the amount of people served and the quantity of water being taken from the source.  After the survey, a water sample was gathered and taken to Service National d’Eau Potable (SNEP) in Port-au-Prince for testing.  The results of that water test can be found in the Resources section below.


In the next phase, technical information was gathered for our volunteer engineers from Ecuador to begin a construction plan that would utilize gravity rather than pumps, which would eventually require maintenance.  A Haitian engineer and agronomist working for Concern International volunteered to conduct a topographical study, the results of which helped determine that the community could use an 18,000 liter tank.  Community members also asked for only part of the source to be captured and treated, leaving enough water for bathing, laundry, and animal consumption.  A list of materials was compiled and Chad set out to raise more funds once a total project cost had been calculated.


Before construction could begin, the site had to be prepared.  When workers dug into the ground they discovered large rocks, which then had to be smashed and cleared.  Meanwhile, hundreds of rocks were collected from the local area.  On one day all of the local schools coordinated to suspend class and assist the project by sending students to collect rocks.  Without community support from residents, the project would have taken much longer to complete.

Once all of the materials were gathered, engineers Javier Ordoñez, Jaime Barzallo and Andres Alvarado flew in from Ecuador to assist in the construction of the tank and pipe installation.  Construction continued throughout May, June, and July, 2008, despite Haiti’s sweltering heat.  In August, 2008, the second water test was conducted following the initial treatment to determine whether the purifying solution’s concentration needed to be adjusted.  The second test showed that Gran Sous’ drinking water was safe for human consumption.

In late October 2012, Hurricane Sandy swept through Haiti.  Heavy rain battered the Gran Sous water facility, destroying piping and washing away the community gardens nearby.  Temporary repairs were conducted one month later.  The full cost of repairing damage and building new protective structures is $25,000.


Pre-Project Water Test Results

Post-Project Water Test Results

Gran Sous Water Project Information – This document was originally sent to Javier Ordoñez, Jaime Barzallo and Andres Alvarado, our engineering partners from Ecuador.