Anna Garwood, Green Empowerment’s Latin American Program Manager, was recently interviewed about a Green Empowerment Project in Peru.
If you aren’t in the Peruvian Amazon, and thus are out of the listening area of my recent interview on “Radio Marañon,” I’ll give you the translated upshot. Juan Santos Chavez, the president of the 10 family agricultural association in the village of La Libertad (i.e. Freedom) held the little black tape recorder up:
“Today we are honored to have the presence of a Señorita from the USA here in our town. She will introduce herself and tell you what she’s doing here”
“Good morning, my name is Anna Garwood. I work for Green Empowerment, a US NGO, in partnership with Soluciones Practicas-ITDG and I’m here in La Libertad on a follow up visit to a micro-hydro plant installed several years ago. It is working well; the 5kw system is powering lights, cell phones, TVs, a machete grinder and even 26 laptops for all the kids in high school…I want to congratulate the community of La Libertad for organizing, building and operating the electrical plant…”
I also had a chance to interview Juan as we walked over the lush fields to the power plant. I asked about his observations of any changes in the community since electricity arrived; “What has impressed me most is the kids. They beat us at learning how to use and program the TV and DVD, and even the remote control.” In anthropology circles there is a debate about what, if any, things are universal across human cultures. I think Juan’s comment gives one more point to the universal side of the debate.
As for the adults, he mentions lighting and improving the means of work, such as the new machete grinder. He also says that electricity is cheaper than going through a packet of candles every week.
A peddler came around to La Libertad, hawking goods for sale. This time it was TVs, radios and blenders. Some people purchased their new electronic goodies in cash, but others paid the traders in sacks of coffee, chickens or guinea pigs.
After organizing to build the micro-hydro, they also got together to lobby the municipality for a road to the village, they improved the school building and since they have electricity, they were selected by the Ministry of Education, to receive a donation of laptops for each high school student which will revolutionize the access to information in this village off the beaten path.
Juan says about 5 people a week come to his house from other villages to charge their cell phones. Many people in surrounding villages use car batteries for household electricity, which they charge in the city a few hours away. Now, La Libertad wants a battery charger so that they can start a small business charging batteries off the micro-hydro system. They want to buy the charger on credit, and, when they get the legal title documents of the micro-hydro system, they can use that as collateral.
Juan had heard about ITDG on the radio, years ago, and walked an hour from his village to the closest road, and from there got a ride 2 hours to the regional city of Jaen, where he knocked on the doors of ITDG for assistance in building a micro-hydro project for electricity in his community. A few years later, the tables have turned, and now Juan is broadcasting the success story.