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In August of 2009, Andrew Kanzler led a group of fellow Landscape Architecture alumni, graduate, and undergraduate students from Cal Poly Pomona on a 10-day Green Empowerment Service Learning project/tour with staff from Practical Action in Peru/ITDG along sections of the Jequetepeque Watershed in northern Peru.  Andrew is an artist and current graduate student in Regenerative Studies at Cal Poly Pomona.  This was Andrew’s second experience with Green Empowerment after having traveled to Nicaragua in 2007.

Hostel in Cajamarca

Hostel in Cajamarca

In August myself and some classmates headed down to Peru with some folks from Green Empowerment. We flew into Lima and from there we went to Cajamarca. Cajamarca is in the Andes on the east side of the continental divide. This city is known as the switzerland of Peru because of their well known dairy products. I was pretty excited because I’m a huge fan of cheese and I’ve heard nothing but good things about Cajamarcan Cheese. What’s cool about this town is their old architecture and city plan. There is a plaza in the center of town called Plaza de Armas (turns out just about every plaza in Peru is called plaza de Armas). We stayed in a hostel just a block from the center of town called hostal de Cajamarca. Hostels in Peru aren’t like hostels that we think of in the states, Hostels are really just hotels that aren’t 4 star hotels. This hostel was really cool because it had a courtyard that we often used as the central gathering location or hang out spot when we were waiting or just chatting. It reminds me of how much I want a courtyard to be the center of my house. Of course this style is of spanish influence, not of the indigenous groups. We spent the first few days here, getting acqainted with what to expect and meeting with various people from the NGO Soluciones Practicas.

We were here because me and a few others had spent 6 months preparing a project for a community in the Andes of the La Cocha subwatershed. 6 months is a lot of work to be doing for a place that we had never seen before. We based all our judgments on figures and numbers on everything we could find about the area. We did research on the slopes, the rainfall, the temperature, types of crops they were growing, types of innovations their ancestors employed and a bunch of other things. We came up with as many solutions we could to help them adapt to global climate change and help them survive in a more globally effected climate.

Grade School in Cajamarca

Grade School in Cajamarca

But we finally made it out here, and were excited to be able to see what it was really like. Cajamarca is a relatively cold city, but based on our research we new that the town we were going to, Chilete, would be warm or even hot like it was back home. Unfortunately I had forgotten that the climate and temperature could change in Peru in such relatively short distances. On our way up we found that much of the Andes is being afforested with new trees that never grew here before.

Tree Landscape in the Andes

Tree Landscape in the Andes

Trees like Eucalyptus and pines we being planted along grids, and some of us weren’t sure wether they were the best species or not because they could become invasive.

Yanacocha Mine

Yanacocha Mine

The ride was definitely educational and we began to learn more about the Yanacocha mine that was nearby. It is one of the largest gold mines in the world yet the locals do not benefit from it.

Community Members of Chilete

Community Members of Chilete

Once we got to Chilete we presented some of our work to some leaders of the community. It was amazing to finally present our work to the people we intended it for. It being a class project that we had spent 6 months on, it never seemed like it was a real and viable project until that day. Our work was finally coming to life. If only we had really had this feeling earlier we may have been more prepared. Things like understanding that we need to produce our work in Spanish for them, and many other language barriers were a problem but we were able to make it through with our classmate Rene. Rene hadn’t been part of the project, but he was the most fluent Spanish speaker and he became an important part of the project. After our presentation we exchanged contact information with the hopes of keeping in touch.

Hillsides of Chilete

Hillsides of Chilete

We received a much needed info on the La Cocha sub watershed and we finally were able to see the hillsides we had been so accustomed to seeing on maps.

It was getting closer to our trip to Suro Antivo.

A Vicuna

A Vicuna

Suro Antivo is higher up in the Andes, on the way up we almost hit a Vicuna, a rare species related to the Alpaca. Its fur was once reserved for royalty because it is so soft.

Soccer Game in Suro Antivo

Soccer Game in Suro Antivo

There was much concern over how well our bodies would be able to handle the altitude when we got there, so Jason thought it’d be a good idea to play soccer when we got there. The long car ride made me beat so I decided to sit this one out.

Bamboo in Suro Antivo

Bamboo in Suro Antivo

Suro Antivo is an amazing town to visit. Farmers all own large plots of land and everyone lives no less than a quarter mile apart. Suro is a type of bamboo that was used as a common building material. That plant is no longer found in town. Antivo means “old” similar to the word antique. The grassland landscape here must have changed a few times over the many years that people have been here. It is likely going to change again.

Meeting in Suro Antivo

Meeting in Suro Antivo

Most of our meetings took place in the school house because it is the only public gathering place. In Suro Antivo many people have just received running water for the first time, and neighboring communities many people do not having clean running water at all. This means the most common causes of death is dysentery from dirty water.

Tapstand in Suro Antivo

Tap stand in Suro Antivo

Our objective in Suro Antivo was to locate and plot the existing springs on a GPS unit and then create tap stands for the existing taps so that they will not break.

Taking a Sample

Taking a Water Sample

We split up into a few groups, Some of us checked the flow of water on the existing springs. Some went and did environmental assessments on springs around town. When we returned we shared our findings with each other and began working on plans to keep the newer springs in optimal condition over a long period of time.

Working on Environmental Assessment

Working on Environmental Assessment

Here we are working on the plans for the assessments

Presenting Findings to the Community

Presenting Findings to the Community

And presenting them to the community.

Working in the Jequetepeque Watershed

Working in the Jequetepeque Watershed

Later on we went to other communities in other parts of the greater Jequetepeque watershed. We assessed other springs and conducted interviews of people that lived there.

A Group of Children

A Group of Children

So many people have no clean running water and so many people are sick every other week because of it. It’s truly eyeopening to know how fortunate we are in the US to have clean running water.

Alto Peru

Alto Peru

Our nights were coming to an end in Suro Antivo and our next stop was to be in Alto Peru on our way back to Cajamarca.

Community Members of Alto Peru

Community Members of Alto Peru

On our way to Alto Peru I noticed some locals packed in hauling trucks who seemed angry at us. We were driving by in the same kinds of trucks that the miners use so, many of the locals thought we were miners. When we arrived in Alto Peru we spoke with some of the community leaders who voiced extreme concerns about the mine.

Powerlines to Yanacocha Mine & Alto Peru Windturbine

Power lines to Yanacocha Mine & Alto Peru Wind turbine

The irony was that there were many power lines held up by large towers that ran right past Alto Peru and went directly to the yanacocha mine. The only source of power for those in Alto Peru were from their own wind turbines.

Paved Road

Paved Road

The road the rest of the way was paved. Again, the road to the mine is paved, but not to other parts of the watershed.

Cumbe Mayo

Cumbe Mayo

When we arrived back to Cajamarca we took a trip out to Cumbe Mayo. Something I have been wanting to see. Cumbe Mayo is the location of a pre Incan aqueduct, the craftsmanship of the aqueduct is just amazing.

Working in Cajamarca with Soluciones Practicas

Working in Cajamarca with Soluciones Practicas

Back in Cajamarca we met with some more folks from soluciones practicas and discussed our findings and impressions of Chilete, Suro Antivo and the surrounding areas. We said goodbye to our drivers who became our friends and before we knew it we were on our way back to Lima.

David and his Cuy

David and his Cuy

On our last days in Lima it became easy to become bored because our days previously were so filled. However it was our friend David’s birthday and we had a chance to celebrate. (he loves the cuy).

View from Larco Mar in Lima

View from Larco Mar in Lima

Now only a couple of months later I am back in school and still thinking about what kind of impact we may have had on the people we had visited.

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Check out the news clip below regarding the Alumbre project  in Peru which Green Empowerment and other partners have been involved in. It’s from a national Peruvian news station and gives the flavor of the community and the impact the project has made:

A big thanks to Anna Garwood for adding the subtitles!

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Daniel Soto, a Ph.D. student in Physics at Stanford, worked with FEDETA in Quito Ecuador through a MAP Sustainable Energy Fellowship. While working with FEDETA Daniel had the opportunity to travel to the Amazon and work on a project that used river turbines to generate electricity for a small community called San José.

Daniel Soto in the Amazon

Daniel Soto in the Amazon

San José has about 200 residents and is located across the Coca River from Puerto Francisco de Orellano, a town of about 40,000.  San Jose, despite being about 1 km away from a town with electricity and communications has no grid connection.  We got on the bus in Quito and arrived in Coca after a long, hot, and beautiful ride.  That night we were treated to a torrential downpour and a two hour power outage to remind us that we are on the Amazonian frontier between modernity and ancient rain forest.

Constructing the new turbine platform

Constructing the new turbine platform

The next morning we took a dugout canoe to get to the other side of the river.  On the canoe ride I could see both the turbines of San Jose and the power and cell towers of Coca.  It seemed absurd that power could not be strung across the river.  Evidently it wouldn’t be profitable.

The turbine project is a pilot project that worked for a bit but needs some serious attention to get it back running again.  The turbines sit on rafts that are now a bit flooded and have broken blades.  We replaced a couple of busted blades on one of the three turbines and had it running.  The next task was to replace one of the rafts.   The previous raft for the river turbine was built using locally harvested wood. Unfortunately, the wood has soaked up a ton of water, attracted termites, and lost its buoyancy. Our partners on another installation have used plastic barrels filled with polyurethane foam to provide buoyancy for the turbine platform.  In the office we made our own barrels and brought them to the river.

For my last day in Coca, we constructed the raft that will replace the flooded raft that the third of the river turbines sat on.  With the entire raft and floor built, we cleared a spot on the river bank of branches and whatnot and tied the raft to trees on shore.  I didn’t get to mount the generator and get it going but at least there was some small sense of accomplishment before I left Coca to return to the Quito office.

Finished turbine platform

Finished turbine platform

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Bruce Park and Steve Johnson, two representatives from Christadelphian Meal a Day Fund of the Americas, went to check in on the projects that the organization is currently funding: Alto Peru and Suro Antivo.

Both of them had a great visit and they left very enthusiastic about the partnership that has been formed and posted a blog about the trip:

http://cmadfa.com/blog/2009/09/22/cutting-edge-projects/

Their blog is very comprehensive and includes lots of photos and video footage from their trip to Peru. It is great to see the projects in development and the communities that they are benefiting.

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The entry below is written by Anna Garwood, Green Empowerment’s Latin American Program Manager, who is currently in Cajamarca in Peru.

The “Workshop on Evaluation of Resources, Design, Installation and Management of Small-scale Wind Turbines” brought together about 40 people from all over Latin America to gain practical skills to tap into wind power for rural electrification. The workshop, organized by Green Empowerment and Soluciones Practica’s CEDECAP (Center for Demonstration and Training in Appropriate Technologies), consisted of 2 days of design lectures and 1 day of installing the wind turbines in the highland community of Alto Peru. The course participants worked side by side with community members to raise towers for the 500watt wind turbines and build electrical boxes that will light Alto Peru for the first time. The workshop and installation in Alto Peru is supported by Toyota Environmental Activities Grant Program.

The wind workshop was back-to-back with the biannual meet up of HIDRORED, a network of NGOs in Latin America focused on using renewable energy to meet the energy needs of the millions of people in the region without basic electricity. Here’s a link to the event: http://www.cedecap.org.pe/energia_cursos_detalle.php?item=MTY=

Below is a slideshow with pictures from the workshop in the highland community of Alto Peru. The first photo is of Anna and the Mayor of Tumbaden, Alejandro Malimba

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If we had a nickel for every technical question Green Empowerment was asked via blog, website, email and phone related to renewable energy and sustainable water systems for the developing world, boy, we’d have a lot of nickels.  Whenever possible, Michel Maupoux and the rest of our team have answered as quickly and completely as possible.  After all, with 1.6 billion of the world’s people living without access to energy and 2.6 billion without adequate access to clean water, there are more than enough problems waiting for solutions, and Green Empowerment works diligently to provide those solutions.

Now, thanks to our Peruvian partner, Practical Action, a special service called Practical Answers awaits your questions with eager anticipation and answers at the ready.

“I’m a shop-owner in Sudan and want to put solar power on my shop–how can I figure out how many solar panels I need?” Or, “I’m a farmer in Bolivia and want to build a biogas digester. Do you have designs?”  Need a little help designing a hydraulic ram pump system in Afghanistan?  Allow me to invite you to begin your fact-finding journey here:

Practical Answers Enquiry

Thanks again to our partner, Practical Action, and to DFID for making this possible.

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Calvin Helfenstine, a recent graduate from the University of Michigan in Mechanical Engineering, was an Intern with AsoFenix in Nicaragua in 2008 through the Engineers for a Sustainable World’s Summer Engineering Experience in Development (SEED) program. Calvin built on the work of SEED Intern, Samuel Schlesinger, who contributed an earlier blog posting.

Calvin Helfenstine

Calvin Helfenstine

SOLAR WATER PUMPING STATION

Surveying for Solar Water Pumping Station

Surveying for Solar Water Pumping Station

The solar water pumping station in Sonzapote was the most important and largest budgeted project from the position of Asofenix. Initially, a topographical study was performed to determine the elevation of various elements of the community. Working with Nicaraguan surveyors, we spent a day in the village collecting data. Upon review of the topographic study, we were able to accurately size the pump and solar panel system for the community’s needs. A community census and survey was also conducted to accurately determine the water usage needs of the village throughout the year, and attempt to document the state of the village to determine what changes occur with this project. While administering this survey, we explained the necessity of having a latrine before receiving water to the house. In addition we documented the level of education of each community member. The results showed that less than half of the community was able to read.  With the winter harvest underway, we were unable to begin installation of the system before the end of our program. The equipment was ordered and the project is scheduled to be completed by the end of November of this year. [*ed note - the community water delivery system was installed in December 2008 and the distribution network was completed by the community and AsoFenix in Feb. 2009.]

Examining Data for Solar Water Pumping Station

Examining Data for Solar Water Pumping Station

MICRO WIND GENERATOR
Collaborating with students from the Universidad Nacional de Ingenieria (UNI), we worked on a project to construct a wind generator made of recycled materials to be used for charging batteries in the village of Bromadero. Based on a variety of existing generator designs found via the internet and a site visit to an existing wind turbine in Matagalpa, an overall design was developed.

One week was spent with the students at the UNI workshop to fabricate the design. Although well equipped for working with metal, there were insufficient resources to fabricate the wooden blades. Having trouble locating the necessary materials, we were only able to fabricate a tail and make preliminary cuts for the blades. The project was put on hold until we could locate a new location with proper machines for woodworking.

Calvin Holds Up the Wind Generator

Calvin Holds Up the Wind Generator

When we convened on the project, we again encountered more problems. Without prior notice, the school had closed for a week and all the previous supplies were locked in the workshop. With limited time to complete the project, we decided to take on a new design using blades made of PVC tubing. The design would allow us to complete most of the work in the office of Asofenix with minimal equipment required.

The blade design was modified from existing designs on the internet using 6 inch diameter tubing with a blade length of three feet. The tubing was cut to length and quartered lengthwise. A small taper was cut into the blade to serve as the leading edge. Once cut, the blades were sanded to form rounded corners and leading and trailing edges.  The components of the design were made of recycled and cheap materials. A used saw blade was purchased to serve as the central hub to mount the blades to the generator. The tail was fabricated from sheet metal and scrap tubing purchased from a junkyard. The wood for the main body was donated from a local construction site. A motor was purchased from the Mercado Oriental, Central America’s largest market, with the help of “runners” and a fellow Nicaraguan Asofenix worker. We were unable to successfully describe the type of motor needed and the motor purchased was unsuitable for use as a generator.

Further research showed that the types of motors best suited for wind generators (permanent magnet DC motors) could be easily found used in the U.S. from items such as old tape drives, treadmills, or washing machines. None of these items, however, are prevalent in Nicaragua. In addition, due to the culture of re-use until broken, it is difficult to locate a used motor for sale that is still serviceable.

We met with a professor of wind energy at another UNI campus who had tried to make wind generators for years without success. Many student-made models were scattered around his trailer-based office but the only wind generator in service was a purchased unit from the U.S., which was spinning above his office. Reassured that it was indeed difficult to produce such wind generators in a country with the necessary resources, we decided to find a suitable motor to serve as a proof-of-concept. A 12-volt fan from a bus was located and used for preliminary testing.

Testing the Wind Generator

Testing the Wind Generator

The “testing” involved holding the assembled unit above our heads in the back of a pickup truck while driving down the road. The voltage was read with a multimeter while driving at speeds up to 25 miles per hour. With the small motor we were only able to achieve just over one volt but the blades did prove to spin rapidly and serve well. When a proper motor can be located (it will possibly be imported with a future volunteer) the design can be implemented to serve to charge batteries as desired.

BIODIGESTOR

We also installed a biodigestor in Candelaria to provide biogas for cooking for one household. The current cooking practices involve carrying large limbs miles to the home and cutting them into smaller pieces to be used as firewood. This system results in additional physical labor, deforestation, and indoor air pollution.

With a biogas digester, animal manure is processed through anaerobic digestion by bacteria into biogas composed of 70% methane. This gas is then piped into the home for use with a gas stove. The waste matter from the system is a sterile liquid, which can be used as an organic fertilizer.  The particular design we used is called the “salchicha,” or sausage, in Central America as it involves a large sausage-like plastic bag open on both ends.

Working with the family, we first laid out the footprint for the biodigester basin. We then excavated the hole and shaped the walls as desired. A reservoir was created to serve as the entrance for the slurry as well as an exit reservoir to contain the fertilizer. The walls were then lined with rocks and cement to form a barrier with the soil.

The plastic bag measured 4 meters long with a width of 2.5 meters (doubled over). A small hole was cut in the top of the bag to serve as the outlet for the biogas. A hollow plastic male fitting on the outside of the bag was screwed into a female connection on the inside with a set of washers and rubber squares between to serve as a sandwich connection to the bag. The bag was connected to the inlet and outlet tubes, which were four inch diameter PVC tubing. Semi-truck inner tubes were cut into strips and wrapped around the bag, which was pleated to fit snugly around the tubing. The completed setup was placed in the hole and outlet tube covered with dirt.

Building the Biodigestor

Building the Biodigestor

Before leaving the village upon completion, instructions were given to fill the bag with manure and water with a ratio of two to one. Approximately two cubic meters of slurry were needed to fill the bag. Upon returning to the village we discovered that one of the valves had been left open and all gas that had been produced had escaped the chamber leaving a deflated bag. Upon reassuring the villagers that the design did work, they continued to fill the bag daily. Although we did see much activity such as bubbles seeping through the mixture, the bag did not fill in my two days that I had left in the village. The design takes approximately one week to produce enough gas to fill the bag but provides enough gas to cook daily once it is operating.

PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

My experience was some of the most interesting and personally gratifying time I have ever spent. During my eleven weeks in Nicaragua, I got a glimpse of what it is like to live in a third-world country, a life that closely resembles most of the world. Although the lives of the people of Nicaragua may not be glamorous by U.S. standards, I believe they live a satisfying life on a personal level. The pace of life is less stressful, family ties are stronger, and the people are generally grateful for what they do have.

During my first three or so visits to the village I did experience a bit of culture shock. Each time I went back to the village, I would be more used to the lifestyle but new things would keep coming up that were extremely different than the life we are used to. With time however, bucket showers, latrines, animals in the house, wood-fire kitchens, and beds made of plastic fabric seemed normal and somewhat comforting with each visit.

My Spanish skills were poor at best when I arrived in Nicaragua. Over my time in the country I was forced to improve my skills just to communicate with my host family. Although somewhat frustrating at times, like a game of charades, my Spanish skills developed extremely. Although not always perfect, I was able to successfully participate in meetings, conduct surveys, and work alongside native Nicaraguans with little or no problems communicating whatever desired. As these skills developed, I was also able to form a relationship with my host-family and fellow workers.

I developed a strong understanding of the Nicaraguan way of life, values, and culture. I became deeply immersed in their lifestyle, sometimes shedding my American idea of things. At one point, a fellow volunteer and I refused to rent bicycles for U.S. $2.50 because they were charging us too much. In hindsight, $2.50 is nothing with U.S. spending habits, but for the lifestyle we were used to it seemed ridiculous. When we did happen to see tourists from other parts of the world, they seemed to stick out much more than us.

Seeing the excitement of the villagers with our projects was very encouraging and rewarding. During our survey of Sunzapote we discovered that only women and girls carried the water to the homes by buckets weighing forty pounds. When asked why they wanted this project in their village, we got a variety of responses but nearly all were with a smile. Women were excited to be able to spend more time with the children, taking care of the house, or taking a minute to relax from their hard-working days. I am positive that this project will improve the lives of everyone in the village and is one large step towards improving their living conditions.

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