[Editor’s Note: For our next column, we invited the Portland, Oregon-based non-profit Green Empowerment to pen a piece about the work they do. Green Empowerment works in developing nations around the globe to bring renewable energy solutions, such as village-scale solar water pumping projects, to impoverished communities. If you’d like to be considered for a column, please drop us a line.]
In May, I went back to La Pita, a small community in Northern Nicaragua, where in 2000, ex-Sandinistas and ex-Contras had come together to build a renewable energy system that would benefit the entire community. Before that time, the community had organized to restore war-damaged farms, as well as construct potable water systems, a school and a health clinic. They saw electrification as the next step in improving their quality of life, and approached us and our in-country partner for aid. With Green Empowerment support, and lots of community volunteer labor, the local partner tapped the mountain stream to generate clean energy with a locally-made turbine.
The human impact of the ten years with electricity was striking. La Pita’s energy system now supplies power to 142 households and has engendered a boom in the local economy. Walking around this small village, I encountered a multitude of new businesses including three welders, several carpenters, general stores, bike shop, grain mill, school, clinic, and a banana packing cooperative (exercising the option to work after dark). The addition of street lights increases security in neighborhoods. What’s more, the community formed a committee that collects a monthly tariff, makes repairs, and extends the mini-grid. The president of the committee, Dionesio, says about the electricity: “It has been a good service. We never thought we’d get electricity, because we live so far. It’s like a dream. We all put in our hand and made it happen”.
This model is typical of the projects we employ in ten countries to date – Malaysia, Burma, Thailand, Ecuador, Peru, Costa Rica, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua and the Philippines. Over 23,000 people have home lighting with renewable energy and 11,000 people have life-changing benefits from clean water in their villages — for the first time. While each community provides days and sometimes months of labor, Green Empowerment and its partner NGOs provide support such as funds, years of field experience, and technical training to complete a renewable energy system like that in La Pita.
Portland-based Green Empowerment has impacted over 210,000 people since its inception in 1997, always through a partnership with small organizations based in the countries where we work. Our programming state-side includes renewable energy trainings and the development of various service learning opportunities each year. Our broader mission employs solar, micro-hydro, wind, and biogas technologies to alleviate poverty, mitigate climate change and provide sustainable access to energy and water over the long term.
– By Anna Garwood, Executive Director of Green Empowerment