Archive for the ‘Peru’ Category

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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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:


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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Junzi Shi is a Chemistry and Global Health student at Northwestern University.  As a team member of her school’s Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) chapter, she traveled to Nicaragua in March of 2009 to install household sized biogas digesters with Green Empowerment, AsoFénix, and families in two rural communities.  In May 2009, Junzi traveled to Peru with Green Empowerment to participate in a Design Exchange on Small-scale Biogas Digesters in Latin America.  In June 2010, Junzi will lead her own ESW team on a ram pump project in the Philippines with Green Empowerment and the Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation.

Design Exchange Conference Attendents Showing Off Part of a Completed Biogas Digester

Design Exchange Conference Attendees Showing Off Part of a Completed Biogas Digester

As we descended in the small plane towards Cajamarca, Peru, the thick white clouds seemed to cling to the earth, hugging its surface and nestling in the ridges of the mountainous terrain. The passengers saw lush green pastures and hillsides crowded with crops, and they felt the frugality of the farmers as well as their close relationship with the land.  It was my first time in South America and as we stepped off the plane, the northern highlands of Peru gave me a beautiful impression of the country. Peru, a nation with 7.5 million people living in rural provinces and 72.1% of those living in poverty (source: Rural Poverty Portal, Peru), has been on the forefront of environmental sustainability in order to improve the way of life and also hold responsible practices.

The Biogas Design Exchange was held at the Center for Demonstration and Training of Appropriate Technologies (CEDECAP) located in the outer periphery of Cajamarca. It was the first conference of its kind, a wonderful chance to share knowledge and experiences with 33 individuals from 10 different countries. The first two days were filled with presentations that revealed how practices involving the same technology could differ in many ways. For example, the source of fecal matter for biodigesters can come from pigs, cattle, humans, or unusual livestock such as guinea pigs. The design of the digester also varies in shape, size, and building material depending on the use of the final products.  Many farmers in Bolivia, Mexico and Peru – such as Juan Morocho – use methane for cooking and the liquid/solid products as fertilizer. During my stay in Bramadero, Nicaragua, the families reported an increase in crop growth after applying the fertilizer, having recently introduced more vegetables and protein in their diet. This is a great way to use all the products of the biodigester system. However, in highly commercial enterprises, I found it surprising that methane gas is simply burned when it could be put into electricity, heat and other domestic or commercial uses.

Constructing a Sausage-Style Model of a Digesters at the National Institute of Agricultural Investigation

Constructing a Sausage-Style Model of a Digesters at the National Institute of Agricultural Investigation

The next two days were spent installing two different sausage-style models of digesters at the National Institute of Agricultural Investigation. The long and narrow PVC model was placed parallel and adjacent to a high density polypropylene model in order to test several factors. Although the former may generate gas faster because it has greater overall volume and above-ground surface area, the latter is expected to have a longer lifetime due to the more resilient material. In Nicaragua, we installed four Indian-style digesters made of ferro-cement and one sausage-style model made of polypropylene. Although cement can crack over time, ferro-cement was advantageous because it was internally reinforced with chicken wire, and the locals had had previous experience with the material. Polypropylene digesters are advantageous due to their long lifetimes of up to 20 years, but the material is not readily available in many countries.

The last day of the conference was spent in round table discussions regarding management, technology, selection of families, and future research. Although it is important to consider a family’s living conditions and the farm layout, it is also essential to consider the community at large. In Nicaragua, our team worked with GE in villages where previous water, wind, and solar technology had been established. Also, the biodigester could be supported by a committee of community members who were invested and worked to maintain the installations. My experiences in Nicaragua and Peru have taught me that biogas digesters involve a great deal of “the human factor” in addition to engineering calculations, sometimes more so. For instance, after the installations were completed and started generating gas, some Nicaraguan families would not use the improved gas stove because they preferred the wood-smoke flavor that comes from traditional cooking with wood-burning stoves. Cultural factors such as this can really prove to be a challenge to the successful adaptation of technology.

The Design Exchange established a precedent that, I hope, will be the start of many conversations amongst leaders of biogas around the world. As my friend Juan says, there are many good people in the world, but sometimes they don’t know about each other. It is essential to make these connections and share our knowledge with others so that we can achieve our common goals all the better. Each man can build his own house, but many men can build a city. After my experiences in Nicaragua and Peru, I have gained more respect for the work of fearless individuals and NGOs who rise over countless obstacles to achieve their vision.

Finished Sausage-Style Biogas Digester

Finished Sausage-Style Biogas Digester

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When the trenches were half dug, sides were taken. The water lines were ready be laid when the old woman who owns the land with the water spring said that she didn’t want to give one drop of water to the school or the 12 other households who were supposed to drink from that source. Why the change of heart? It turns out that someone had produced an old document signed in the community that stated that they bought the spring for 3000soles (about $1000) over 10 years ago to be used for communal drinking water. There are hand-written receipts for that amount, but her son only remembers seeing 500soles pass hands to his father. The problem is that the father has since passed away and there were no other witnesses. Now, the woman feels that her family had been tricked and she wants no part of a new water deal.

After much negotiation, she finally said that she would allow water to go to just the school. But then her other sons who now live in coastal cities came back to this small community in the mountains, Suro Antivo. When one son agreed that the water should go to the school, his brothers jumped on him. They felt that the respect of the family was being challenged. At this point, it seemed best to seek another solution…

The ITDG sociologist, the community leader (Teniente Gobernador), Homero, and I went to talk to the owner of the other spring in the village, where the new water system is being built. First, we thanked Emilda for her honorable gift to the community…and asked if more water could be drawn from the spring to supply the school…and maybe a few more neighbors. Homero is a skilled diplomat and handled the conversation with great care. After some discussion, and a mention that her generosity would be “recognized” by the community, she agreed.

The water meetingThe next morning, about 40 people gathered together in front of the school, including the district mayor, the school teacher (who wrote up notes in the formal Act book), the municipal registrars, and Emilda in her big straw hat. The meeting started about an hour late, but I think the informal milling around is where the real communication took place. At last, the Teniente convened the meeting and explained the situation of how they reached the deadend with the other spring. The community leaders asked the mayor that the budget stay in the community. The mayor agreed, and said that the materials could be used to extend Emilda’s water source to the school and where the system didn’t reach, families could build individual spring boxes and pipes to their homes, under direction of the municipal engineer. Everyone applauded. We shared strawberry soda and moonshine. Soon we’ll be sharing water.

Meanwhile, we had arranged for the top water specialist in Cajamarca to come to Suro Antivo and evaluate the water site near the cemetery. He works for the department of Environmental Health and has a laboratory in the regional hospital. He reviewed the topography and geology of the site and said with confidence that the surface water from the cemetery flows away from the spring used for drinking water. The spring emerges from several hundred meters deep. He gave some recommendations, such as digging a drainage gully to divert any overflow water, and lining the new graves with lime. (He also said the human body is 60% water and the rest of us decomposes completely in 2 years, so old bones are no threat…who knew?) He tested for pH, which is in the normal range, and for Nitrates in the hospital lab. The text confirms that there is zero contamination from the cemetery. Whew.

Kids in Suro AntivoAll things seem simpler at a distance. It sounds simple enough: bring spring water to homes. But in reality, the complexity of community dynamics cannot be underestimated and spring water can be contaminated by “holy water”. Now that there is an alternative water spring and we know that the water sources are pure, we’re ready to start building…again.

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This time of year the mornings are clear bright blue, with almost cartoon-like exaggerations of puffy clouds, but by midday the clouds gather in dark masses and dissolve into an all-pervasive mist and then rain that soaks everything.

After over 2 hours driving with a reluctant taxi driver nervous of the muddy roads, we arrived at Suro Antivo. We found the bend in the road closest to the house of the Teniente Gobernador. In the campo, you have to meet first with the autoridades. “Homero!” we shouted from the hill before descending to his house. A boy echoed back that he was not there, but we could talk to the boy’s mother. As we entered into the field in front of the 2-storey rammed earth house, a straggly dog came to greet us, wagging his tail and bearing his white fangs. We stayed still, backing up, until the boy came to call his dog away. Country dogs are the one thing I fear…and with reason; I was bitten a few weeks ago, but that is another story.

A jovial woman, Gladis, in a straw hat and apron came out, told us that Homero had gone to Cajamarca to collect the money from the bank for their milk sales. He’d taken the lechero (the milk truck) into town, as it is the only form of transportation to the community. Our taxi rental was an extravagance, and perhaps in the eyes of some, excessively expensive. She told us to come in, sit down, and spread a knit fabric down on the wooden bench under the balcony of their home. We took in the scene. Miguel, the sociologist who Daniel and I were with explained that the metal bowl on the ground was used for cleaning the intestines of pigs, to eat them. We guessed that the garden plot was a program of Programa Juntos (a state welfare program). A rabbit hopped across the grass and a tiny kitten curled around the corner. A small girl darted in and out, smiling with her surprisingly light brown eyes.

After a while the woman came out of the kitchen, a small building adjacent to the house and beckoned us in. We walked into the dark space and saw three bowls on the table, heaped high with potatoes and chicken. 9am and I tried to do my best to eat as much as possible, making sure to thank her profusely to make up for my physical inability of eating 10 boiled potatoes in one sitting. We washed it down with a steaming cup of fresh chamomile tea. While we ate, I asked Gladis about her new improved stove. She seemed genuinely excited about it. They’d built it themselves after doing a Juntos workshop. She touted the benefits of the new stove: almost no smoke so her eyes don’t hurt, it uses a fraction of the firewood, it even cooks faster…About half of the women in the community are part of Programa Juntos, which is a government program that gives families with children 100soles a month, but it requires them to have their kids in school and vaccinated, and participate in a range of “self-improvement” programs like the gardens, the improved stoves, sanitation workshops, etc.

We also asked Gladis about the water. She is one of the few people who get water in a pipe from the spring by the cemetery. She said that it comes and goes. When the water doesn’t come they have to literally suck on the end of the pipe to get it flowing again, or conversely blow so hard that they remove the blockage. She said that the water was good, pure, which I found really interesting because we just got the lab results back and there are some 900 coliform per 100ml. Is she just used to bad water? Used to children getting sick, or do they have a resistance to it?

After thanking her profusely, we walked to the source at the cemetery, I showed Miguel around and I expressed my concern. There is a gully in between the hill with the cemetery, and the adjacent hill with the sping, so it appears that the infiltration to the spring would not be contaminated by the water that flows past the cemetery. We will have to hire a hydraulogist to evaluate it. And the water will be treated and tested to make sure it is not contaminated.

We made it up to the hill, where the foreman was instructing community members how to dig the pit for the new tank. Buenos dias ingeniera, they greeted (in the country, just about anyone from outside is thought to be an engineer). The workers are paid by the municipality, despite the fact that the project is to benefit themselves. On the one hand I scoff at the idea, and yet realize that if I was asked to work digging trenches to lay the water lines to my house in Portland I would want to be paid too. Prior to GE/ITDG joining up with the water project, the municipality already had made the agreement for paid labor with the community (and other communities in the area), so while our support is not going toward the labor costs, the municipal support is. We shook hands all around, met the Agente municipal, the other authority in the village. And since it was starting to rain, we scurried down the hill to start our way to the 3rd spring, so we could collect another water sample.

I was in the village last week, where I filled the sterilized bottle with the water gushing from the rocks. But the test came out that the water has “more than 1600 fecal coliform per 100ml”—simply beyond the range of acceptable for consumption. It turns out that the rock wall, from where the water flows, had been constructed that day, so I think the water that was gathered included surface water that washed over the rocks and into the bottle. This time we brought a 1meter piece of hose and pushed it into the rock wall and into the spring itself. We let it wash out, and then took the sample. I dropped it off at the lab that same day and the results show that there are zero fecal coliform. Hurrah, it’s a great source for drinking water.

As we walked back from the spring, the maestro invited us for “a cup of hot water” at the house of his mother-in-law. Wanting to build the relationships, I said sure. The hot water ended up being another heaping meal. We waited on the bench under the awning of the house, watching water stream from the tin roof, while his wife cooked up potatoes, rice and fried egg. While we sat I asked where that house got its water from currently. Turns out the small pond full of water plants and 2 small trout is their drinking water source. I asked some off-color question about the water tasting like trout. The maestro said, no, it’s good water because it’s not stagnant, the water runs in and out of the pond…Then we were served a drink made with that very water. It was hot chicha morada. It tasted fine although I didn’t want to look too closely at the bits of things floating in the purple corn drink…


Daniel, a volunteer from Oregon Direct Action took some pictures and video from this and other projects. Check it out…

current drinking water source

current drinking water source

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Location: Nueva Libertad, District of Chirinos, Province of San Ignacio, Cajamarca region, Peru.

Don Zabaleta and the Civil Works

Don Zabaleta as he is called in his community, is an exemplary parent, one of the founders, and thus greatly respected by all its neighbors. He has become the liaison for the project and has led the coordination of different tasks. About the project being implemented he says:

Look, I’ve lived in this community for 30 years, I am one of the founders, since that time, our community never had help from the mayors and other authorities in the region, so isolated as you can see, we do not have access, we have to walk hours to reach the place where we can catch a ride in a car to go to town, we have no water service, and we never thought we’d have energy. In recent years we began to negotiate with the municipality of Chirinos to support something, at least water, just recently the current mayor has paid attention and is working.

In January last year Mr. Villanueva of ITDG visited the community, indicating that through agreement with the mayor of Chirinos, the construction of hydro for the community had been proposed, if water and height conditions are favorable. The engineer made the measurements with good results, then talked with a group of neighbors who were there that day to make agreements on the implementation. To me it is important to have energy, I have a small wood shop where I work with my children, to move the engines I use a small gasoline generator, as you could understand the cost is very high and so it doesn’t work out. The energy of the hydro falls as a blessing from God, not only for me but for the rest of the community, the truth is it’s a dream that we hope will become reality soon, thanks to ITDG and the people who are donating their money, also the mayor of Chirinos and my neighbors, all working with enthusiasm to finish as soon as possible.

To date we have completed all the works, such as intake, channel, forebay, piping and the house where the equipment will go, we’ve also installed most of the grid, we’re just waiting for the mayor to pay the invoice to the company of the equipment, so that the equipment can come, install it and conduct the tests. The mayor has said it would be any day now, we hope he complies. Thank you

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