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Archive for the ‘sustainable agriculture’ Category

Francie Royce and her husband Michael are the founders of Green Empowerment. They are currently in the Philippines evaluating our past installments and documenting the wonderful progress of our partners. SIBAT, which means spear, is making strides in sustainable agriculture. Taste the story below.


Landing in Manila on February 11, after a
22 hour trip from Portland, to LA then through Seoul, Korea, we headed to our Quezon City hotel, the Fersal Inn, for a nap. A basket of sweet yellow mangoes, a bunch of bananas, raw sugar and a jar of honey sent by Shen Maglinte of SIBAT, a Green Empowerment partner, surprised us at hotel reception.The next day we met our friends from SIBAT for lunch at a near-by restaurant, The Tree House. Shen had ordered in advance, so as soon as we sat down, the food started coming. Tilapia, milk fish, sautéed greens in oyster sauce topped with tofu, stuffed lettuce rolls, roasted chicken, hot and sour flavored soup, and on it came. After a filling lunch, we all loaded into tricycles for a short ride to the SIBAT office to meet Ileene the marketing manager of the SIBAT organic foods store and for Michael to begin his interviews with Executive Director Vicki Lopez.

The next afternoon the SIBAT driver picked us up and after collecting Ileene and Vicki, then Vicki’s friends all on slower-than-planned Filipino time, we headed two hours north to TarLac to visit the SIBAT organic farm.

It was past sundown when workers at the farm greeted us with boiled cassava, (filling) and lemon grass tea (refreshing) as we chatted and got to know Vicki’s friends. Back into the van, we headed out to dinner. We were the only customers at The May Farm Restaurant, whose menu heralded organic vegetables and rare meats. Mounted on the wall, heads of small deer looked down on our table and an array of photos showed off the hunting prowess of the owner and his son. One was a photo of a younger man carrying a hoary wild boar on his back with blood dripping down his legs. A brief allusion to the mysterious death of the owner and his son and suggestion of a political murder added to the hunter’s mystic and the weirdness of the restaurant. The soup was tasty, though.

Back at the farm—- Raised beds are planted with a wide variety of rotated crops of leafy greens, peppers, tomatoes and other vegetables. Deep purple egg plants hang from their plants ready to harvest. Farm workers make sure there is enough harvest each week to provision the small organic food store in Quezon City. The farm is a teaching opportunity for surrounding farmers to learn sustainable agriculture. SIBAT’s goal is to teach the teachers to help farmers learn how to farm sustainably, without being dependent on commercial seed and fertilizers.

The main farm building is built of decorative woven palm panels over bamboo poles with a palm thatch roof. We slept soundly on a foam pad laid out under mosquito netting on a split bamboo floor. Roosters all over the country side competing with each other woke us before dawn, early enough to sit outside and watch sunlight creep over the green rice fields of the adjacent farm, shining on the farmer who was already working in his field. A farm worker showed me where hot cups of coffee sat on a counter waiting for takers. The coffee was thick and sweetened with raw sugar. After daylight I found three gently curled, soft downy feathers lying on top of our mosquito netting. Rooster noise woke us but the sparrow flying through our bedroom didn’t.

Posted by Francie Royce
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Thibaut Demaegdt, a project engineer working with the Ecuadorian NGO, FEDETA (The Foundation for Appropriate Technology), describes the activities that he has been working on since arriving in Ecuador in early January.

He has been working on FEDETA projects with another engineer, Juan José del Valle. The civil engineer Mario Brito, Director of FEDETA, is their technical supervisor.

Study for the Community of Pavacachi

Thibaut and Juan José are conducting a study for an American NGO, Earth Sessions, that wants to finance a rural electrification and water pumping project in the Kichwa community of Pavacachi. Pavacachi is located in the Macas province of the Ecuadorian Amazon. The project would provide electricity to the houses in the community as well as a tourist center and research center. The study that Thibaut and Juan José are conducting is divided into four parts:

·    Water pumping system
·    Electrification system for the community houses, school and health center
·    Electrification system for the tourist center
·    Electrification system for the research center

They will focus on studying the solar resource as the wind is low in the Amazon and little data was provided about the water resource. Juan José will study the solar pumping system while Thibaut will study the three electrification projects. A final technical and financial study will be compiled and submitted to Earth Sessions so that the NGO will know what the project’s costs will be and some of the technical and social issues they may encounter.

Study for the Community of Oyacachi

On behalf of the company Solimar International, represented by Hamilton McNutt, FEDETA carried out a study on the exploitation of hydro-electric resources in the community of Oyacachi, located in the Ecuadorian Andes. Solimar is working with the Oyacachi community to establish a tourist lodge where all of the electricity consumed by the lodge will be from renewable sources. Solimar also provides the initial funds for the lodge’s construction and is repaid by the lodge’s revenue, which Hamilton estimates to be a period of 7 years. Once the initial investment is refunded to Solimar then the benefits and management of the entire lodge will return directly to the community’s responsibility.

Community of Oyacachi

Community of Oyacachi

Thibaut went with Juan José and Hamilton to Oyacachi with the following objectives:

·    Estimate the hydro power potential of the proposed site.
·    Learn about the administrative aspects of the project

Measuring the Width of the Río Oyacachi

Measuring the Width of the Río Oyacachi

The group calculated the approximate flow rate of the Rio Oyacahi, and calculated the flow for the driest months of the year as energy calculations are always based on the “worst” month of the year (i.e. the month that will produce the lowest amount of electricity.

Three potential project sites were established and GPS coordinates for each site were logged. Also, the president of the community, who will define the rights of the access to the land for the micro hydro power project, was interviewed to establish his concerns and thoughts about the project.

Thibaut and Juan José are currently writing a brief report about their findings and the different options that they determined and will submit their report to Solimar.  Based on these findings Solimar will determine whether or not to further continue the project.

Study for Two Communities in the Puná Island

On behalf of the NGO CODESAM, FEDETA performed a study for electrification and water pumping projects in two island communities on Puná, located in a bay facing the city of Guayaquil in the province of Guayas. Various projects must be studied separately in regards to the specific needs of the communities. FEDETA will focus on the solar resource and carry out a study about the implementation of photovoltaic systems for electricity and water pumping.

Water pumping in San Pablo de Kantesiya

Community Centre

Community Centre

One of Thibaut’s main projects in Ecuador consists of installing a water pumping system in the community of San Pablo de Kantesiya, which is located in the Sucumbíos province in the north of the Ecuadorian Amazon basin. The community, which is located near the Aguarico river, already has access to electricity due to a community managed photovoltaic project that FEDETA developed a few years ago. However, access to clean drinking water is not yet available and because of the widespread pollution in the Amazonian rivers, notably due to the oil industry, many communities are using unsafe water. FEDETA is working with the NGO Meal a Day, which provides $20,00 to enable Amazonian communities of Ecuador to get access to clean drinking water.

The project has changed several times considering technical options and the corresponding budgets. However, the final draft for the project has been decided on and consists of:
·    Installing a water pumping system in the community
·    Storing water pumped from the source into a reservoir situated high above the community level from which the water can be distributed by gravity
·    Installing two chlorine generators to purify water in two communities on the Río Aguarico (the community of San Pablo de Kantesiya and another community that remains to be defined)

Gonzalo, the UOPGES technician, installing the photovoltaic panel in San Pablo de Kantesiya

Gonzalo, the UOPGES technician, installing the photovoltaic panel in San Pablo de Kantesiya

Project details, such as the location of the water pumping system, have yet to be determined but Thibaut and other FEDETA members are conducting field visits in order to recognize the area and collect the necessary data. Throughout his duration in Ecuador Thibaut will continue working closely on this project and will provide additional details and project updates as the project progresses.

River Turbine Project on the Río Coca

While on his field visit to San Pablo de Kantesiya, Thibaut and other FEDETA members took the opportunity to visit the community of San José del Coca, located in the Amazonian province of Orellana. The community of San José del Coca is home to a pilot turbine project where three turbines are mounted on floating barges and gather energy supplied by the river flow. The water turbines are currently at a standstill due to three major problems:
·    One of the barges, having served as a serving state, is inundated and the control box is full of mud.
·    Out of 9 blades in total (3 tri-bladed turbines), 5 are broken.
·    One of the pulleys used to transmit power to the electrical box is buckled and makes the system operation impossible.

Barge Supporting Two Water Turbines

Barge Supporting Two Water Turbines

The visit was a good opportunity for the group to observe the problems and begin working to repair the systems and develop solutions that will prevent future problems from occurring. Also, they were able to verify that the electrical system was functioning normally and that the UOPGES (Operative Units of Sustainable Energy Management) technicians had properly carried out the maintenance.

Continuing His Work…

Thibaut’s job is mostly theoretical and is principally carried out in the FEDETA offices. The studies that he conducted (Pavacachi, Oyacachi and Isla Puná) are currently under review by customer and the technical director of FEDETA.

Thibaut is enthusiastic about continuing his work with FEDETA in Ecuador. He is currently focusing on the San Pablo de Kantesiya project. As the project funding is already provided by Meal a Day, when the study phase is completed, hardware can be purchased and construction can begin. This will involve a strong presence in the community and additional field work for Thibaut and will be quite a change from working in the office every day.

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