By Earl Bousquet
THREE news items grabbed my attention last weekend.
First was a Guyana Chronicle article on Friday, January 29, headlined: 12 Homeless In Guyana After Fire Caused By Lighted Candle
According to the report, 12 persons, including children, are now homeless after a fire destroyed their Cross Street, Werk-en-Rust home on Thursday evening.
A statement from the fire department said the structure was a two-storey wooden apartment building. The bottom storey consisted of two apartments occupied by eight persons.
“The purported cause of the fire is said to be a lighted candle left unattended, which fell and ignited nearby combustible materials,” the fire department said.
The department is calling for home and property owners to be cautious when using lamps, candles, mosquito coils, lighters and matches.
“Ensure these items are placed a safe distance away from combustible materials and out of the reach of children at all times,” the statement said.
The fire department also renewed its call for fire extinguishers and smoke detectors.
The second item was from Legit.ng News (in Nigeria) with the following long but interesting headline: No Need for Gas and Kerosene: 67-Year-Old Nigerian Man Invents Stove that Uses only Water to Cook.
That story, datelined Monday, January 31, by Victor Duru, stated: A 67-year-old Nigerian man, Hadi Usman, based in Jekadafari area of Gombe State, has invented a water-cooking stove that doesn’t require gas or kerosene to make fire. The special stove combines water and air pressure to produce fire.
Amid rising worry in the increasing price of cooking gas, Hadi says he invented the water stove out of his desire to subsidise the cost of using gas and kerosene. He had in the past assembled a radio transmitter and also operated a community radio station and now wants relevant institutions to help him get his innovation patented. He also wants collaborative efforts to ensure it is mass produced.
Legit.ng had also previously reported that a 26-year-old Nigerian man, Max Chinnah, had ‘made history’ as he has invented a smokeless stove that he patented with his partner, Attigah.
According to the Daily Times: This younger Nigerian inventor hopes his piece will help save lives around the world.
His company called Terraoak is going into producing the smokeless stove on a very large scale, adding that it is a move to ensure a greener environment and reduce the threat of global warming.
The smokeless stove also has another added feature, whereby it can convert heat into electricity and gives out through a USB port to allow for phone-charging.
The Nigerian inventor said that though he has wanted to be an entrepreneur, helping people is closer to his heart.
The company is also looking at marketing the product to campers for outdoor recreational activities and working on an arrangement to distribute 1,000 stoves to rural farmers. Chinnah said that they want their story to inspire people around the world and challenge their entrepreneurial spirit.
The third item was again from the Guyana Chronicle, this time a good-news item headlined, Guyana To Construct 1000 Affordable Houses Using Local Wood
It reported the PPP/C Government will be constructing 1,000 houses utilising 100 per cent local wood as part of its efforts to provide affordable homes to Guyanese.
This was announced by President Irfaan Ali on Sunday, via his Facebook page, saying it forms part of the value-added component to government’s housing programme.
Since taking office in August 2020, the report says, the administration has accelerated its national housing programme through the allocation of lands and construction of low, moderate and young professional homes for citizens.
As part of that initiative, government is constructing the thousand homes in Cummings Lodge and Sophia in Georgetown; Prospect and Providence, East Bank Demerara; Williamsburg in Region Six; Amelia’a Ward in Linden; and Parfaite Harmonie on the West Bank of Demerara.
The report continued: these homes target low-income and vulnerable families who are only required to make a contribution of $100,000 towards the homes.
Last year, a total of 10,063 house lots were allocated to Guyanese, while some 1,266 land titles and transports were distributed. This is in keeping with government’s commitment to deliver 50,000 house lots to Guyanese by 2025.
The small-islander in me (from a tiny 238-square-mile Caribbean island) paused to take in the numbers and figures: 1,000 homes under construction and 50,000 house lots by 2025.
The three articles sent my mind into overtime and overdrive, pondering the interconnection between them: a fire in Guyana caused by a lighted candle leaving 12 persons homeless; and two Nigerian inventors of water and smokeless stoves — one begging for help to mass produce, the other contributing 1,000 to rural farmers.
If I didn’t better understand how the world turns, I would probably have said ‘It’s just a matter of connecting the dots’ – Guyana contacting the innovators to introduce the water and smokeless stoves to help citizens save energy costs, to have more confidence in novel, home-based solutions – and transition to cleaner, healthier and safer energy means.
The Nigerian examples reaffirm too that innovation knows no age and has no bounds — and my long-held belief in the capacity of Guyanese, Saint Lucian and Caribbean youth to innovate with country in mind, with government and institutional private and public support for start-ups with end-games that’ll serve the many and not the one, or just a few.
This also (personally) justifies my long-held support for the new trend of nations seeking to build The Youth Economy by encouraging youth and students to Think Big, with assurances their respective governments will ensure that they can turn their hobbies and passions into paychecks.
This innovative concept is already being given life in Saint Lucia, where new Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre’s official designation is Minister for Finance, Economic Development and The Youth Economy.
Youth and innovation married to reliable support and inspiration can produce positive and progressive change in any nation.
All that’s needed are the real chances to turn challenges into opportunities