A switch to mains for French Guiana’s Amerindians

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French Guiana, which is both a département and a region of France, has a surface area equivalent to that of Ireland but a population of just 270,000, almost half of which is centred around its capital Cayenne. In the west of the region, close to the border with Surinam, is a vast forested land called Haut-Maroni which is home to the Amerindian Wayana, Teko et Apalai peoples, whose isolated villages were finally connected to a mobile phone network just four years ago. Now, after years of delays to a 12 million-euro project launched in 2009, they are finally being connected to an electricity network of local photovoltaic power plants, a development which promises to transform their daily lives. Marion Briswalter reports from Haut-Maroni.

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Pilima, with a population of about 50 inhabitants, is one of five Amerindian villages in the western Haut-Maroni region of French Guiana, some 350 kilometres inland from the Atlantic coast. It sits on a hill above the Maroni river, which marks the border of the French territory with Surinam, a dark mass of water that breaks into rapids a few hundred metres further downstream.