Archive for the ‘solar water pumping’ Category

Havurah Shalom recently committed to work with Green Empowerment in El Jocote Nicaragua to bring a new water system to the community. Residents of El Jocote currently uses a hand pump to reach their water source which can be time consuming and difficult.  A solar installation will pump water into a cement tank at a high point in the community from which gravity pulls it to resident’s homes.  In addition to the renewable energy infrastructure, Havurah Shalom also plans on assisting in organizing a health assessment before and after the installation of the system.

To read the full article or learn how to donate to the El Jocote project please click here.


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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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Brandon Gast, a Portland State University International Studies student, shares his experiences on a PSU Capstone trip to Nicaragua.

Nicaraguan Landscape

For our first day in the field we visited the village of El Roblar.  We were able to take a look at past projects including a micro-hydro electricity generator, which provided power to an estimated 200 residents.  We saw first hand the positive results of work done by the NGOs AsoFenix and Green Empowerment.  The highlight for me was being able to spend the night in the house of one of the locals.

Journal Entry –  Dec. 28th 2009

“ My wake up call this morning was Juan Antonio bringing his calf through the ‘living room’ out to the calf’s mother at 4am.  You don’t see that every day.”

The bulk of our work was carried out in the villages of Bramadero and El Jocote.  These villages are located in the dry highlands in central Nicaragua so the emphasis of most of the projects is definitely on water conservation. In fact, right before we arrived in the area, AsoFenix had had to drop down the pump for their solar water pump in Bramadero in order to reach the water level.  The rainy season had been much drier than expected unfortunately which served as a stark reminder of the gravity of our work.

Our primary purpose for being there was to test water and soil samples to gather   baseline data for future projects.  We also installed two weather stations to monitor the day-to-day conditions for the two villages.  Nobody has collected this kind of information before in this area so hopefully our work will go a long way to better understanding what is needed to help in these poor rural areas.  We’re just laying the foundation — others will need to follow in our footsteps to continue the work.

Brandon Gast

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The article below was featured in the May/June 2009 edition of Common Place Magazine and highlights some of the work done by Asofenix in Nicaragua. The article was written by Emily Will  and photographed by Melissa Engle.

For her 17 years of married life, Marbellyz Ortíz Espinoza has dreaded one part of each day — rising between 4 and 5 every morning. It’s not just the wind that howls and gusts indoors through the gaps between her home’s sheet-metal roof and adobe walls or leaving the comfort of bed to start another rigorous day as a farmer’s wife in the isolated mountains of central Nicaragua.

Marbellyz Ortíz Espinoza

Marbellyz Ortíz Espinoza

It’s the darkness. Espinoza finds it spooky and has nothing to ward it off but a flickering wick sticking out the opening of a soup-size can of kerosene. The candil, as it’s called, spews as much thick smoke as it does light, and the 35-year-old mother knows its fumes are not healthy. The “lamp” is also hazardous, quick to erupt in flames when kerosene leaks around the wick. So, when a switch was flipped and three solar-powered compact fluorescent bulbs illuminated the home as dusk settled one January evening, smiles brightened the faces of Espinoza, her husband Pánfilo Enrique Guzmán and their sons, ages 15 and 5. The house, filled with the family, MCC workers and partners and several young community technicians trained to install the solar systems, reverberated with expressions of joy, awe and congratulations. The gift of solar power is coming to rural Nicaraguan villages, such as Espinoza’s community of Corozo, with the help of a young MCC partner organization called Asociación Fenix, Asofenix for short. MCC workers Sarah and Seth Hays, of Lakewood, Colo., work alongside communities in solar projects and on other renewable energy projects, such as biodigestors, microhydroturbines and wind turbines.

Pánfilo Enrique Guzmán, right, works on wiring a flourescent fixture that will provide reliable light to his home

Pánfilo Enrique Guzmán, right, works on wiring a flourescent fixture that will provide reliable light to his home

Entire communities, notes Seth Hays, are entering an age of electricity without relying on the fossil fuels that most Canadian and U.S. residents take for granted. “Environmentally friendly energy sources will allow rural Nicaraguans to develop and improve their livelihood for many years to come in a manner that will not be threatened by international markets and trends,” Hays says. “Nicaragua has great potential for supplying a large percent of its energy needs through renewable energy.” Asofenix founder and director Jaime Muñoz, reared in an impoverished family in rural Nicaragua, views the development of renewable energy sources as an initial move to help isolated communities deal with the challenges of surviving on near-barren land. A large project such as installing solar panels is often Asofenix’s first step. “We are committed to working alongside a community for 10 years. The large projects are what bring us into the community, but that is just the start of our work,” Hays says, describing how Asofenix forms committees to encourage residents to work together to make their communities stronger. “Our dream is that they, in the future, will find the problems in the community and work on ways to solve them for themselves,” Hays says. The challenges are great. Like many other Central American and Caribbean countries, Nicaragua’s forests and mineral resources have been nearly picked clean. Its land and water have been depleted and polluted to produce exports such as cotton, coffee and beef. Foreign enterprises and the country’s elite continue to profit while many residents struggle to simply get by. Rural areas often lack infrastructure and basic services. The families in the communities in which Asofenix works combine various survival tactics.

During the rainy season, those with access to land cultivate basic food crops, such as corn and beans.

Marvin Velasquez, left, and Milyer Enrique Guzmán fit together the electronic parts while Kenneth Jose Ortíz Guzmán, left, and Jeninsa Dayana watch

Marvin Velasquez, left, and Milyer Enrique Guzmán fit together the electronic parts while Kenneth Jose Ortíz Guzmán, left, and Jeninsa Dayana watch

Then some or all family members may migrate to Costa Rica to pick coffee during the three-month harvest. Others move to Managua for either short- or long-term employment in maquilas — foreign-owned assembly plants. Nicaragua now ranks as the Western Hemisphere’s second poorest nation. And, as in Haiti, the hemisphere’s most impoverished, deforestation is creating conditions in which erosion, nutrient runoff and the drying of water sources combine into a downward spiral of failing crops, barren land and worsening poverty. Asofenix director Muñoz, though, chooses to hone in on what rural Nicaragua does have — plentiful sunshine that can be tapped for renewable energy and the people themselves, driven by a fierce desire to improve their lives and to do whatever it takes to get their children out of poverty. Asofenix focuses on solar power for three major uses — to pump water to families’ homes, to pump water for drip irrigation to small plots of land and to provide limited electricity to homes. The capacity to light a few fluorescent bulbs can give families their first opportunity to bring activities, such as sewing and homework, into the evening hours, as well as the opportunity to run items such as a radio or television. José Felix Salazar, 56, who lives in the community of Bramadero, about an hour’s walk from Corozo, shares his delight that solar-powered drip irrigation is allowing him, for the first time, to grow a crop during dry months when community of Candelaria, one of Asofenix’s first. Impressed, Salazar went to see Muñoz about the possibility of a similar project in Bramadero. He was soon helping to organize his community’s 45 families to install solar panels to pump water from a well to faucets at individual homes, some as much as a kilometer away. Each family agreed to contribute 10 days of labor, to plant trees to protect the water source and to improve sanitation by constructing home latrines. That was in 2007. Since then, the piped water has eased families’ bare-boned budgets and never-ending toil. “Before, we went to fetch water every morning after breakfast, and we had to carry it home on our heads,” says Salazar’s wife, Flor de María Gonzales. She and her 12-year-old daughter, Anielka, hauled the water over a rocky road a 15-minute walk away. Occasionally when they weren’t able to fetch water, they had to buy it. Now they merely step out their back door and open a tap — a service that is costing them a mere 10 Nicaraguan cents per pail, 60 times less than they paid to buy a pail of water before. They and the community’s other 44 families deposit their water payments into a common fund for the system’s upkeep and maintenance. In this region, Seth Hays says, about 30 percent of heads of household migrate to Costa Rica during its his land would normally sit idle.

José Felix Salazar

José Felix Salazar

His small plot — about 0.8 of an acre of emerging tomato and watermelon plants — offers rows of green among the brown fields that mark this land in dry season. And it’s drawing attention. “Many have come to see it, and they all say the plot is beautiful,” he says. Salazar was instrumental in bringing solar power to this area. A few years ago, a man who came to buy a pig from him mentioned a solar water project going up in the coffee harvest, and in some communities, almost 80 percent of the men go. About 5 percent of the area’s residents live and work there throughout the year. Solar power and drip irrigation may provide an alternative. “Our hope is that it will give people a source of income so that they don’t have to migrate to Costa Rica,” Hays says. Salazar’s dream is that solar-powered pumps will eventually allow him to irrigate enough of his land to bring home some family members. Salazar says his eldest son Fredy, 27, moved to Costa Rica to work in construction, work that is increasingly harder to find and paying less. Daughter Mary Luz, 24, wouldn’t mind giving up her job in a Managua maquila, which requires working as quickly as possible, doing the same task, such as sewing a collar on a shirt, over and over again for 10 or more hours a day.

His oldest daughter and her husband, who live nearby, have already expressed interest in farming with Salazar. And he hopes to provide more opportunity for his 18-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter who still live at home. “This project is the best one to have come here, better than the road, electricity and the school,” Salazar says. Muñoz is glad people are dreaming of brighter futures but, with 26 years of grassroots experience in this region, he’s also aware of the perils in imported and high-tech solutions to the problems of impoverished rural areas. He’s designing Asofenix projects to be as grounded in the community as possible. In Corozo, for example, Asofenix has trained six people, including two teenage women, to install and maintain solar-powered generating systems. Guzmán, Espinoza’s husband, is part of the team, and the technicians’ first “real-life” test of their skills was wiring Guzmán and Espinoza’s home.

Salazar fits the lid back on a water tank. A solar-powered pump provides water for drip irrigation to his fields

Salazar fits the lid back on a water tank. A solar-powered pump provides water for drip irrigation to his fields

The young workers glowed with satisfaction when the bulbs brightened the darkness that January evening. Guzmán, who was voted president of the project committee, says, “We’ve never before had a successful project here. We are a very, very poor community and, till now, we’ve been a very, very ignored community without hope. Now, people are happier.” Their house was the eighth of 24 local homes to be connected to a solar panel. Guzmán remained in Corozo this year, rather than migrating to Costa Rica, to give local leadership to the effort. But neither he nor Espinoza are complaining about forgoing the coffee harvest earnings.

Community members in Bálsamo, Nicaragua, take a break from installing a solar-powered drip irrigation system

A community member in Bálsamo, Nicaragua, watches the installation of a solar-powered drip irrigation system

They are being repaid by witnessing not only the power of the sun that now lights their home, but also by the personal and community power sparked in working together with neighbors. And while Espinoza may still have to rise with the roosters, she’s looking forward to doing it without fear of the dark — or a smoky, potentially explosive candil.


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The 2009 Energy Globe Awards, which recognizes renewable energy projects worldwide, were held this past spring in Prague.  Green Empowerment’s Solar Mobile Clinic project in Burma was selected as the winner in the “Fire” category.  The project, implemented by Thai partner Border Green Energy Team (BGET), was also voted overall Grand Prize Winner by the audience at a televised gala during a meeting of the European Union environment ministers in Prague. Green Empowerment was also singled out as one of the top three organizations in the “Water” category for its solar water pumping and community empowerment projects in Nicaragua, specifically in Bramadero.

The award ceremony has been posted online and can be seen in its entirety at the following link:  ENERGY GLOBE World Award Gala 2009.

The full video is 52 minutes long. The ‘Water’ category, which recognizes Green Empowerment in Bramadero Nicaragua, can be found at the 17 minute mark; the ‘Fire’ category, which recognizes Green Empowerment’s & BGET’s  solar clinic & hospital project in Burma, can be found at the 32 minute mark; and the Grand Award voting and result can be found at the 46 minute mark.


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In April 2009 Kristen Underwood traveled to Nicaragua with Power to the People and Green Empowerment to install solar panels on a school in rural Nicaragua. Kristen, a solar installer in the United States, found it exciting and interesting to see how solar was (and was not) installed in a developing country as well as observing the impacts that solar power could have on communities in developing countries. Follow this link to Tree Hugger to learn more about her experience.

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How Green Empowerment and Thai Partner, Border Green Energy Team, Rocked the 2009 Energy Globe Awards

Salinee Tavaranan accepts Energy Globe Award Grand Prize

Green Empowerment’s “Solar Mobile Clinic and Hospital” project in Burma was selected as the winner of the international Energy Globe Award in the “Fire” category on Tuesday. The project, implemented by Thai partner Border Green Energy Team (BGET), was also voted overall Grand Prize Winner by the audience at a televised gala during a meeting of the European Union environment ministers in Prague.

The award was accepted by BGET Director Salinee Tavaranan. BGET will receive 10,000 euros (Approx. $13,000) in prize money. Green Empowerment’s Southeast Asia Program Manager Michel Maupoux was also in attendance. Nominations were chosen from a pool of 766 projects in 110 countries.

The project enabled the procurement of solar power systems and provides training for staff in 35 remote jungle clinics and two larger hospitals, serving 175,000 people, including many internally displaced ethnic minorities. The clinics are scattered over 600 miles of eastern Burma, a noted conflict zone. Solar systems must be frequently disassembled and moved on short notice, and equipment must be carried over the border from Thailand in backpacks. Green Empowerment’s role is technical design and training.

“Renewable energy is often the most inexpensive way to provide electricity to poor people in remote areas and often the only way to do so within a conflict zone. ” said Gordy Molitor, Executive Director, Green Empowerment. “This award to BGET is a testament to the inventiveness and tenacity of the Burmese people in the face of adversity.”

Green Empowerment was also singled out as one of the top three organizations in the world for its “Solar Water Pumping and Community Empowerment” projects in Nicaragua.  Green Empowerment worked with Nicaraguan partner Asofenix to construct three solar water pumps in rural Nicaragua between 2004 and 2007, bringing water to the homes of 960 people who previously had to haul buckets long distances.  One more system was installed in 2008 and more are planned. These projects dramatically improve health and well being with environmentally sound alternative energy.

The Energy Globe Award distinguishes projects that sustainably use our resources such as water, earth, energy and air or use renewable energy forms. Awards are given nationally and internationally in the categories Earth, Fire, Water, Air and Youth. The Awards were established in 1999.

How You Can Help Continue the Burma Project and Others

Your donations help bring solar power to health clinics along the Thai/Burmese border and needed water to rural villages in Nicaragua, as well as a host of other vital projects.  You can help continue this globally-acclaimed work.


Green Empowerment and Nicaraguan partner, AsoFenix, are currently working to bring solar water pumping systems to the villages of El Jocote and Corozo, which will bring water to 700 people for years to come. Our goals for El Jocote and Corozo:

  • Give each person at least 10 gallons of clean water each day
  • Reduce the time villagers spend hauling water
  • Improve health conditions and overall quality of life
  • Restore the watershed for long-term safeguarding of the water supply
  • Improve family health and nutrition by growing vegetables

Each solar water pumping system, including design, community development, equipment, and installation, costs approximately $60,000.  Your donation can catalyze funding from local governments and foundations.


Along the Thai/Burmese border, BGET and Green Empowerment are laying the groundwork for solar power to one medical clinic and a school dormitory.  We are ready to implement these two projects in October 2009 and want only funding.

  • The clinic currently serves about 13 villages on both sides of Thai/Burma border. A solar electric system will power a vaccine refrigerator, microscope lights, operation lights, and other medical equipment.
  • The dormitory is home to around 30 Karen children of all ages whose families are unable to support their education at home.  These children stay at the dorm where they are housed, fed and supported in many other ways.  All of the children attend the local Thai school.  The dorm has been going since 1998. The solar system will power a computer, satellite internet, and lights.

Both of these projects together would benefit several thousand people.  A half dozen full time medics work at any given time at the clinic.  About thirty students reside at the dorm.

Help us celebrate this success brought via the Energy Globe Awards by building on it
to bring light and water to entire communities who now do without.  Thank you for your support.

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