Access to sustainable energy and to clean drinking water, and a healthy local environment, are the basis for a healthy and thriving life. Despite major government investment in infrastructure over the last decade, rural Ecuadorians continue to trail well behind their urban peers in almost all indicators. Approximately 10% of the rural population lives without access to electricity. Despite heavily subsidized propane cooking gas, nearly 20% still cook with dangerous, dirty fuels like firewood and charcoal. Contamination from agriculture and animal husbandry, and a widespread lack of access to sanitation infrastructure, has damaged Ecuador’s wealth of rivers, lakes and streams, with serious impacts on human and environmental health. The geographic isolation of many rural communities in Ecuador’s rainforests and high Andes, coupled with the limited ability of local governments to respond to basic infrastructure needs, slows the progress of energy, drinking water, and sanitation projects, limiting economic productivity and human development.
Green Empowerment started working with rural communities and partner NGOs in Ecuador in 2005, providing technical and administrative support to FEDETA, CARE Ecuador and CORPOESMERALDAS. In 2014 GE expanded its efforts through the WISIONS-funded Growing Esmeraldas with Renewable Energy (CRECER) program in the coastal province of Esmeraldas. This project increased economic opportunities for rural cacao farmers in three communities through the implementation of agricultural training programs, renewable energy technologies (passive solar dryers and biodigesters), and independently-funded gravity-fed drinking water systems. The project was led by an interdisciplinary team of NGOs specializing in renewable energy technology and agro-productive training programs.
Green Empowerment also worked with partner ALTROPICO in the Esmeraldas and Carchi provinces in northern Ecuador on renewable energy projects, composting toilets, improved cook stoves and potable water systems. For water projects, specifically, our integrated approach allowed us to shape and support local water committees – which are legally recognized by local government – and to train community members on system operation and maintenance, leading to long-term sustainability and community empowerment.
More recently, Green Empowerment expanded its reach to communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon. We also supported the formation of the Ecuadorian Biodigester Network (RedBioEc) in 2016 and continue to participate in knowledge exchange with biodigester practitioners across the country.