Laura Waters, a Presidio MBA student, recently traveled to Nicaragua with Green Empowerment to study small community based renewable energy projects.
Amidst the mid-trip chaos of having 13 MBA students ragged from windy, sleepless nights and most of us feeling slightly ill, we had a very inspiring day. On the morning of January 10, we had the pleasure of meeting the villagers in Malacatoya. This village consists of about 64 families, nestled in the dry tropical forest 700 meters above sea level. During our initial meeting, a chilling wind was kept at bay by some delicious coffee brewed with care by the matriarch of the family. It was fitting that we were there to learn about Malacatoya’s organic coffee co-op and micro-hydroelectric generator.
Through stories about the coffee and passionfruit co-ops and tours of the fields, we learned about the villagers and their land. These determined people had moved thousands of pounds of equipment by hand over rutted single-track trails in order to install and use power from renewable energy sources in their homes. During the five mile hike back from the micro-hydro generator, I continually reminded myself that the villagers had gotten the machinery there with only the help of mules. What an arduous task it must have been!
The collaborative spirit of the community became even more apparent during the presentations given by Jaime Munoz, founding member and Director of AsoFenix, demonstrating his work with local technicians. He answered questions regarding the micro-hydro generator and ultimately gave the technicians the necessary training and tools to succeed while he attended to other rural communities.
Malacatoya was an Eden of compassionate people and lush nature. At several points during the day, I felt like I was in a scene from Willy Wonka’s movie “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” because everything we saw we could eat, including ginger, sugar cane, cacao beans, coffee beans at all stages of processing and passionfruit. Butterflies, frogs and countless flowers watched as we swam in a majestic waterfall. It was a perfect day sprinkled with equal parts community development, renewable energy, nature and refreshing water.