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Archive for the ‘university partnership’ Category

 Our next 2 day training on “Renewable Energy in the Developing World” — solar photovoltaics and solar powered water pumping — will be held with Portland State University, all day Saturday and Sunday on November 20 & 21, 2010.  For more information, please contact: jason@greenempowerment.org. To register, please contact Sherri at Green Empowerment, (503) 284-5774.

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Promotional Product Solutions, a Wisconsin based company and active member of 1% For the Planet, learned about Green Empowerment’s community power micro-hydro projects in Nicaragua and featured an article about a trip it funded in part for Presidio Graduate School MBA students in its recent issue of the s.w.a.g.(stuff we all get) journal.

Presidio students toured five Nicaraguan communities with recently completed community power micro-hydro systems,  household solar energy system  and a solar powered clean water delivery system.

Students, in partnership with Green Empowerment and AsoFenix, the  Nicaraguan local partner, will propose and evaluate a business plan and a strategic plan involving integrated carbon financing, fruit cooperatives, new market development, improved cook stove and reforestation projects.

Promotional Product Solutions is just one of several thousand contributing member companies of  1% for the Planet. Using 1% of yearly gross profit, companies contribute to the health and sustainability of the planet by supporting non-profits like Green Empowerment who work on clean, renewable energy and environmental sustainability.  The creative use of funds to involve students will have an amazing impact in the future as their work benefits the immediate environmental concerns while giving experience and meaning to those who will be working on our sustainable future. Green Empowerment is pleased to have these  Presidio students back for a second year as part of an ongoing relationship.

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Jason Selwitz has served with Green Empowerment since 2007.  He is the Director of Service Learning/Program Manager and lived in the Philippines as a Peace Corps Volunteer from 1998–2000.  He earned his Master’s in Regenerative Studies from Cal Poly Pomona with focus on the nexus between water and energy issues.  Over the last three years, he has spent much time working with AsoFenix and the communities of the Cerro San Geronimo region of central Nicaragua.  Jason can be reached at: jason@greenempowerment.org

From 2004 through 2009, the Phoenix Association (AsoFenix) and Green Empowerment teamed with four rural farming communities in the municipality of Teustepe in the Department of Boaco, Nicaragua to install solar powered community clean water drinking systems in each village.  The villages of Candelaria (completed in 2004 for 240 people), Potreritos (completed in 2006 for 500 people), Bramadero (completed in 2007 for 240 people), and Sonzapote (completed in 2009 for 480 people) now have water from each system’s main tank fed via gravity directly to each household.  Each household had to construct a latrine to be allowed to receive water plumbed to their home.  All four communities formed their own water committee to manage the operations and monthly maintenance tariff that they alone (not AsoFenix) collected from each household.

Cerro San Geronimo

Since late 2008, AsoFenix and Green Empowerment have begun to work with a fifth nearby village, El Jocote, on organizing and preparing the community to operate and maintain a community water delivery system — slated for installation by late 2010/early 2011 through the generous support of one of Portland’s Jewish congregations, Havurah Shalom.  It is important to realize that the five villages (including El Jocote) encircle a prominent hill named Cerro San Geronimo, and “as the crow flies,” the villages are all within one to three miles distance of one another.  The Cerro San Geronimo region exists within a dry tropical forest zone where rains usually fall between May and the end of November of each year.  During these months, many of the households collect rainwater off their roof to augment needs and reduce stress on the community water system.

El Jocote

Since the end of the 2008 rainy season, whether due to an El Niño/La Niña cycle or the progression of climate change, there have been no significant, sustained rains in the Cerro San Geronimo region.  As a result of the lack of the rain to recharge groundwater supplies, the water level in Bramadero has dropped about 10m.  In the past, during the height of the rainy season, the 40m well in Bramadero was often flush with ground level.  However, at present, families in Bramadero must ration water from the well, rely on smaller hand dug family wells, and in addition, are resorting back to hiking the two-mile distance (one-way) to El Jocote to fetch water, sometimes more than once per day.  The extended drought has alerted the local people, AsoFenix, and Green Empowerment to the immediate and emerging necessity to manage the micro-watersheds of Cerro San Geronimo differently.  The people of Candelaria, Potreritos, and Sonzapote know all too well from the recent past what it is like to subsist on distant, non-potable and/or limited water supplies and do not want to see the levels of water in their wells drop as the well water in Bramadero has.

Rock Wall

Deforestation and soil compaction are environmental issues in the region due to demand for firewood and unsustainable pasturing/agricultural practices.  In the Cerro San Geronimo region, large landowners lease forested land to tenant farmers so they can grow their beans, corn, and millet.  As the tenant farmers clear the land for firewood and to grow their crops for a couple of seasons, the large landowners eventually have a piece of land that they have cleared for free to run their cattle.  When the cattle move in, the tenant farmers are moved and are forced to seek out other lands to lease and clear to grow their crops.  As this cycle continues, so does deforestation and erosion, and correspondingly the ability of water to infiltrate and be captured in the soil is thereby greatly reduced.  At the same time, dehydration, water-borne illness, lack of sanitation/hygiene, and poor nutrition (from a lack of fruits and vegetables) are all prevalent realities.  In order to alleviate these human issues and provide for improved means of water security through rainwater capture when it does rain, more community consultations and work sessions, land use surveys and watershed assessments, hydro-geological studies, training workshops, erosion control practices, firewood reduction initiatives, land use changes, reforestation campaigns, weather monitoring, and economic incentives need to be adopted.  This entire cycle of projects, from community involvement through reforestation efforts, could establish a model for replication in dry tropical forest communities with similar issues.

To begin the process of regeneration, in January 2009, a team of Portland residents and students from Portland State University’s Environmental and Business programs traveled to the Cerro San Geronimo region with AsoFenix and Green Empowerment.  While there, the Portland team installed one solar powered drip irrigation system to water tomatoes, watermelon, and squash; installed one prototype wind turbine; studied micro-hydro and solar water pumping systems; helped install two household solar systems; planted fruit and forest tree species; and learned about shade grown coffee and farmer cooperatives.

In 2010, a second team of Portland residents and students from Portland State University’s Environmental and Business programs focused their efforts in the villages of Bramadero and El Jocote to conduct a land use survey and watershed assessment of the two neighboring communities/micro-watersheds, as well as, install a weather station in each community.  Through the process, the Portland team tried to answer the question of why El Jocote, a community within only two miles of Bramadero, appears to have more abundant surface and groundwater resources than Bramadero.  The answer may lie in part to: 1) the placement of the wells in relation to the local hydro-geology; 2) El Jocote residents’ philosophy of “water is life and trees help capture and store water”; and/or 3) their related practice of leaving more forest cover in the riparian zones of drainages that have naturally occurring springs, hand dug wells, and retention dams/infiltration basins called “pilas.”  The differences between Bramadero and El Jocote’s “water security” practices were stark, yet El Jocote’s still has room for improvement.

Hand Dug Well

Through the help of students and supporters in Portland, we are beginning to understand the complex relationships between human activity, culture, hydro-geology, land use, forest cover, soil quality, water practices and demand, and rainfall.  We realize the health of the Cerro San Geronimo watersheds, the people of the region, and the climate are interdependent and we see an opportunity to develop and implement a model for water security and an improved standard of living.  This model will integrate environmental monitoring, rainwater harvesting training workshops, interviews regarding traditional ecological knowledge, compiling rainwater harvesting research from around the world, further hydro-geological study, reforestation activities, and action.  Through this comprehensive approach, the Cerro San Geronimo region, and other dry forested regions in the world, can adopt and replicate sustainable practices to secure needed water resources.

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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.

Micro-hydro electric generator in Malacatoya generates 9kW of power

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!

Cacao right off the tree

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.

Sugar cane. YUM!!

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.

I thought this guy was fake at first

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Sam Shrank is a 3-month MAP Fellow from Stanford University who has been serving with Green Empowerment and the Border Green Energy Team in Thailand since September 2009.

Monday

Monday was a day of driving. We drove from Mae Sot to the last village accessible by car on the way to our final destination, Lay Tong Ku. We were headed there, the three technicians, another volunteer, and myself, to install a solar system in a medical clinic that services both the village of 1,200 and many people who come from Burma specifically to avail themselves of the clinic’s services. The system will power seven lights and a vaccine refrigerator. The refrigerator especially will allow the clinic to expand its services, as it currently has no way to keep vaccines or medications cold.

The drive took about six hours, including a long lunch break at a roadside restaurant near Umpiam refugee camp. I spent the drive dozing, trying to stop my seat cushion from sliding off the seat every time we went down a hill, and reading Che Guevara’s Motorcycle Diaries. I liked the book mostly as a travel story, though it was interesting to see the beginnings of his ideology forming (at exactly my age) and learn more about his life from the introduction.

Playing Caneball

We stayed at the (very nice) house of our ‘guide’. I watched the technicians play caneball—think volleyball with no hands, except the people here are still able to spike! They wanted me to play but it would have just been embarrassing. I spent the evening playing the Thai version of gin rummy with two of the technicians. Once we cleared up some rules misunderstandings we had a good time. Going on these trips is when I interact with the technicians the most, and that is definitely a highlight. They are—and this is characteristic really of most people in Mae Sot and elsewhere here—very happy and friendly. Even listening to their conversation without understanding anything you notice how much they laugh and how animated they are. And even with their broken English they are always joking around with me about anything and everything.

Tuesday

Hiking to Lay Tong Ku

Hiking to Lay Tong Ku

Tuesday was a day of walking. It took probably 4 hours to get to LTK from the end of the auto road. We went up and down two mountains, but it was the heat that really made the hike hard. There were nice views at times, but most of the time our view was obstructed even at the top of the mountain by the dense vegetation. When there were gaps, though I could see forested mountains in what must have been Burma, and occasionally the outlines of villages. We met a group of maybe 30 Karen men going in the opposite direction. They stopped to talk with us, and I repeatedly heard them say one of the two only Karen words I know: “Tahb-luh” or “thank you.” It turns out they were our porters, men from LTK who were carrying our equipment, especially the behemoth vaccine refrigerator. Though, as we soon found out, they decided the refrigerator was such a behemoth that they could not carry it on the trail, so it would have to be brought to LTK by tractor over a much longer route.

Meeting the Karen Porters

Anyway, the particularly interesting thing about these Karen is that they are not Christian or Buddhist as most are, but have a belief system that is some combination of spiritualism and animism. This leads to many differences. They do not drink alcohol, or eat domesticated animals. Second, the men mostly have very long hair that they tie in a bun at the front of their head similar to a samurai’s topknot. In most ways they are like all other Karen though—incredibly friendly, agile and fearless when it comes to manual labor, fanatical about spicy food and betel nut, and generous with their food and time.

Wednesday

Wednesday was a day of work. The refrigerator still had not arrived but we installed the rest of the system so that if the refrigerator arrives tomorrow we will still be on track to leave Friday first thing in the morning. The five 130W solar panels are also powering six fluorescent lights and one LED light for the clinic, kitchen, outhouse, and doctor’s house. Except for a short time carrying wood in the morning, I spent the first part of my workday helping assemble wire ties (very unskilled labor) and following M  (the third technician) around passing him tools as he climbed up to the rafters to hang lights.

Nailing in the Wire Ties

Soon though I was doing my own tasks. When you think of installing solar-powered lighting you probably think of setting up the panels, or maybe hanging up lights. But actually the vast majority of the work required is laying and connecting wires and setting up switches. Wire ties have to be nailed into the wooden columns and rafters every three inches or so, differing in size depending on how many wires need to be held in place. There are wires that go from each switch to each light, but also a main line that comes from the batteries/panels, and in some locations that main line must be ties in to lines going to the outer buildings (nurse’s house, outhouse, kitchen). Therefore in some places four wires needed to be run in parallel and tied down. The particularly tedious work is nailing in the ties. I spent most of the time nailing in the 1-wire ties, which have a nail the size of the top of a grain of rice and themselves are less than half the length of my pinky finger. To nail them in you fold them over the nail to hold the nail in place until it is firmly in the wood, but still holding the tie in place with my fat fingers means that there is almost no room for error in where I hit the nail. And because the nails are so small even one hit in the wrong direction will bend the nail severely.

Now I believe I possess many talents but fine motor skills are not chief among them. This task would have been hard enough for me had I been doing it standing on the ground. But most of the time I was in the rafters, sitting either on a wooden crossbeam an inch thick or on the bamboo doorframe (a little thicker but much creakier) of the nurse’s bedroom. Though it was fun to climb all over the buildings and I never felt like I was putting myself in danger, it meant that I could never give my complete focus to my hammering, and increased my mistakes. I later had to climb back up to tie the ties around the wires, which often meant I had to stand precariously on a thin piece of wood without touching the wire so that I could pull it taut.

The other main job I had was making switches, which again is more complicated than it sounds. In the simplest switch, the wire to the load (lamp) is connected to the main line from the power source. The wires must first be stripped to expose the positive and negative wires, which in turn must again be stripped at their ends to reveal the copper that actually conducts the electricity. The negative wires are then twisted together to allow current to flow freely, while the positive ends are screwed into the switch. In this way, when the switch is closed (in other words, the light is turned on) a complete circuit exists, and the light will receive power while when the switch is open there is no circuit.

After we finished work for the day we took a trip to the local waterfall, which must have been 75 feet high or so, full of deep pools, almost vertical drops over craggy rock, and funnels with violently rushing water. I was just looking forward to swimming in the pool at the bottom and taking some pictures until the technicians started literally running up the falls. They ran up the steep parts, climbed up the vertical stretches, and waded through the fastest flows. They could even run and jump down the falls without a second thought. I was persuaded to try to climb the falls myself and so began my very slow ascent. I never felt at all out of control, but that is only because I tested every foothold and handhold obsessively. It was a pretty big thrill when I got to the top, and we all spent maybe 30 minutes fooling around in the water and relaxing. After all, we had definitely earned it.

At the Local Waterfall

Dinner was ready soon after we got back from the waterfall and finished showering. I think now is a good time to describe what it is like to eat a Karen meal. Each person is served a plate of rice and each dish is placed in the center and eaten family style. Before eating you use your spoon (or hands when especially traditional or hungry) to break up your rice, which is often clumpy or stuck together. You then eat a bite of plain rice before you combine with anything else, I assume as a check on the rice’s quality. Then you are free to eat from the shared bowls. It is customary to take only a small amount at once, enough for maybe two or three bites. Fish dishes are very common, as are chicken and pork (except in this village). They do have decent selection of green vegetables that they eat, mostly leafy greens that are put in soups. If there is a dish that looks like it might be spicy is almost definitely is—of the 3 or 4 dishes served at a meal there are never more than 2 I can handle and 1 often is only vegetables. I have acquired a taste for many new vegetables in Thailand, including cucumbers, kale, and many leafy greens that many not even have English names. Because all of the meat here is heavy on bone and gristle it is acceptable to pick up the pieces, which are always small, with your hands, or to put them in your mouth and play with it to remove the meat. The bones and waste are put in a pile next to your bowl to be cleared at the end of the meal. I am always completely full after a meal, even if with mostly rice on occasion.

Enjoying a Karen Dinner

Thursday

Training

Refrigerator Installation

Thursday was a day of training. For most of the day that meant that I sat and watched as the technicians trained the nurses and villagers in Karen, following along by the diagrams drawn on the blackboard. I had been informed a couple days ago that I would be doing the refrigerator training and Thursday evening the time finally came. The refrigerator arrived at dusk by way of some long tractor journey in Burma, and we quickly installed it, though we had to break down a wall of the clinic because the refrigerator didn’t fit through the door. Doing this was much easier than it would have been in the US—we just took out a few nails and the vertical wood planks came out, and then we sawed off a piece of the horizontal support and voila, we had a hole big enough for a refrigerator. Anyway, over the past couple days I had been reading the manual and not quite understanding some of the instructions. I was consequently extremely nervous about this training, considering that not only was I going to have to explain everything, but I would have to do so with a translator that spoke only relatively simple English (for example did not know the words dial, mold, or metal). As soon as I got a look at the refrigerator and the electronic controls on the top, though, everything clicked into place. The diagrams that were unclear suddenly made perfect sense and I felt a lot better going into the training. Though I had some translation problems, as far as I can tell it went off without a hitch. If we get a call in a week saying that they tried to fix a broken thermostat with a sledgehammer I’ll need to revisit my confidence, but for now I am happy with how things went.

Group Photo

The other interesting part of the day was our visit to a local shrine during the afternoon. As I mentioned before most of the people in this area are adherents of a spirit religion of which I do not know specifics. At this shrine they worship a pair of enormous elephant tusks, intricately carved with animals and other designs. I’d never seen tusks even close to as big as the ones in this shrine. There was also a Buddha in the shrine, underneath the tusks. I asked our guide if they worshipped the Buddha as well. He said no, that it was only there so that Buddhists who come to visit “feel more comfortable.” Bizarre, no?

Shrine

Friday

Friday was a day of traveling home. We woke up at 5 am to get an early enough start to get home by the evening and to avoid hiking during the hottest part of the day. We left by about 630—part of the delay was due to our discovery that one of the two porters who were coming with us to carry our equipment was a strict adherent to the spirit religion of the area and therefore refused to carry—or even touch—the backpacks holding the gear. Maybe he thought that there were some animal products in it (leather?) and so it was related to not being allowed to eat meat? He brought a bamboo basket, however, and they loaded as much of the gear as they could into it. I volunteered to carry the backpack along with some of the lighter gear. Only after a couple minutes did I discover that one of the arm straps was broken, and held in place by being tied to the chest strap. This meant the bag was hopelessly lopsided and I couldn’t tighten the arms. Still the bag wasn’t too heavy and having a waist strap was nice, so it wasn’t much of an issue.

Probably because we left so early, the hike out wasn’t nearly as tiring as the hike in, and I think was quicker as well. When we got back to the truck (after an incredible meal at the house where we spent the first night) I volunteered to sit in the truck bed because it would have been really crowded in the back seat with three people and I like feeling the wind and seeing the view. I really enjoyed the ride, though it was incredibly long (almost 7 hours) considering I had nothing to do but look at the view. The mountain scenery was incredible, especially as the sun was setting, and I got great views of villages and refugee camps. For the first couple hours the roads were extremely bad, and sometimes we hit potholes that made me feel like I’d punctured a lung, but once we hit the highway it was smooth sailing.

View of the Mountain Landscape

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The University of Michigan’s Better Living Using Engineering Laboratory’s (BLUElab) Biogas Project focuses on the use of anaerobic biodigesters to recover energy from waste.  This group is advised by Dr. Steven Skerlos and is a team of undergraduates and graduates from different disciplines that do work on the project as an extracurricular commitment.  The group’s goal is to promote the implementation, acceptance, and use resource recovery systems in developing and developed nations in order to improve human and environmental health.  This summer, five members of the group traveled to Nicaragua as part of a service-learning trip in order to work with local communities in collaboration with Green Empowerment (NGO in Portland, OR) and AsoFénix (NGO in Nicaragua).  This entry was written by Lindsay Krall and Sherri Cook.

We traveled to Nicaragua at the end of August, 2009, to start building a relationship with the local communities, learn about current renewable energy projects, and help install two biodigesters for energy recovery from animal waste.

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The trip and associated design course is supported by the Multidisciplinary Design Minor (MDM) within the College of Engineering and taught by Dr. Skerlos.  This course focuses on the projects in Nicaragua with the goal of promoting sustainable energy in Latin American.  As an outcome of the class, we plan to develop a general methodology for a community or a family to decide on the best biodigester system for their use; the methodology and assessment will focus on the social, economic, and environmental impacts of the system’s installation and use.  Also, we hope to improve the current designs by incorporating feedback about the use, our research, and updates from the field in order to promote sustainable waste management in developing nations.

Installing digesters in Nicaragua was a great experience for our team.  The year before the trip, group members read literature to learn more about the systems and ways to improve current designs.  During the trip, we saw several current biodigester projects as well as a micro-hydro project.

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After our arrival in Nicaragua, we discussed Green Empowerment’s and AsoFénix’s various projects in Bramadero and Potreritos with our trip leaders Jason, Sara, Seth, and Jaime.  We drove across the rolling Nicaraguan countryside to Bramadero, where we stayed for the first four days of our trip, and met our gracious hosts.  On our first day of work, we took measurements and began working on the Ferro cement style digester in Potreritos. We got down and dirty in the field breaking volcanic rocks and digging a two square meter hole, which, by the end of our trip was ready to become a working system.

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The next day, we built a composting latrine in the Bramadero schoolyard.  We worked with Tilo, (the head of a local community water committee) and Antonio (a trained mason) to take dimensions, mix cement, build iron support rods, lay the bricks, and develop a structure that will provide the school children a new latrine and a source of compost.   The children enjoyed learning about the project and construction as we did.

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Upon completing the latrine, we returned to Potreritos to complete the Ferro cement digester by laying the cement foundation and capping it with low density PVC that can be bought locally in Nicaragua in case repair is necessary.  We also aligned and built the piping to collect the biogas so the family can light their stove.  Our last project was to install a high density polypropylene digester.  We used a machete to chop wood and build a fence that will prevent animals from puncturing it.

At the end of our trip, the team went to San Jose to see the micro-hydro project and explore the tropical forests of the country.  During this part of the trip we hiked through the forest to see a micro-hydro project, swam near a waterfall, drank local coffee, and saw howler monkeys.

Our trip gave us insight to where we would like to take the project.  Our multidisciplinary minor students are now designing our own digester to study, experiment with, and explore various methods by which to optimize their output.

Pictures provided by:

Heather Dorer, Zijia Li, Jason Selwitz, and Lindsay Krall

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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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