As the world slowly emerges out of a two-year pandemic, it is clear we all still face urgent political, economic, and environmental challenges. The unsustainable production of oil is causing extreme inflation of gas prices, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine is causing global anxiety of war. Meanwhile, more than 2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water.
At Green Empowerment, the core of our mission is to address these issues by finding village solutions for global change. So we ask ourselves: How can we best expand our impact?
In February, Green Empowerment’s Technical Advisory Team traveled to six communities in Peru to assist with the design of solar water pumping projects. The goal of this trip was to support both our partners — Energía Ambiente y Sostenibilidad (EA&S) and Water for People (WFP) — with technical assistance for these projects, as well as to directly hear from the local communities themselves.
Joaquin Viquez, Green Empowerment’s Program Innovation Director explains, “As a professional working in development projects, visiting communities is a needed activity for a reality check. It helps broaden your perspective about the needs of the communities, and how your work can bring value to that. It helps understand the size of the issue, and retrieve clues to help work towards a solution.” By directly connecting with local communities, our team was able to gain a deeper understanding of the current water scarcity challenges taking place in Peru.
In addition to connecting with local communities, Green Empowerment also supports global projects by providing cross-organizational technical services that expand our impact to partners who often have limited resources and capacity. For instance, Gustavo Huera Cuases, director of ALTROPICO (one of our key partner organizations in Ecuador) joined the trip to learn more about the benefits of solar water pumping. By seeing these projects in action and training on-site, Gustavo can add this to the repertoire of solutions that ALTROPICO offers communities.
Solar Water Pumping
In the district of Puno, the municipal government has historically lagged behind other rural areas of Peru in access to water and sanitation services, with less than a third of residents connected to water systems. As of 2018, only 2% of the Aymara indigenous community had access to truly potable water. In response to this serious problem, the Ministry of Construction, Housing, and Sanitation made crash-course investments in regional infrastructure. In the community of Karana, they installed a springwell filtration system, a collection tank, a reservoir, and pipelines. Unfortunately, budget limitations prevented the installation of a pumping system for the community.
This is where our Technical Advisory Team and EA&S came in. Together, we established a fully operational water system with a solar Photovoltaic (PV) pump. This 4.5 kW system now delivers potable water for the entire community of 100 families (432 people). The municipal government stayed involved, providing financial support along with critical funding from Meal-A-Day of the Americas. With direct water access comes benefits of improved health, saved time for women and children (who no longer need to haul and disinfect water), and improved quality of life, while simultaneously creating a showcase for PV solar pumping technology in the region.
Katya Diaz, our Program Coordinator in Peru, explains, “From the environmental point of view, the use of solar energy to pump water generates less impact on the environment than the use of conventional energy. It also allows access to water in areas far from the existing electrical network and promotes community management of the service, since the same community must be in charge of the operation and maintenance of the installed equipment.” Overall, this project is a clear example of how solar technology offers a more reliable solution to water access.
After returning from Peru, we asked our team to share what they valued most from their recent trip. Joaquin explained, “It excited me to understand the relationship between our partners and the communities. I left Peru convinced that empowering local leadership is key for addressing these challenges.” Katya shared, “I believe that the visit empowered the residents and generated greater confidence, as well as the identification of new opportunities to work together with partners and communities in Peru.”
This trip also honed our team’s knowledge for an upcoming training on solar water pumping that we are offering to practitioners in Uganda. From extensive work making contacts with NGOs currently working on water access in the region, our Uganda Programs Coordinator, Benaville Ngudi, identified solar water pumping as a potential value add that Green Empowerment could bring to the area. Scheduled to take place on April 5th, the course already has 23 participants signed up, representing 15 different organizations working in Uganda. This will be led by Sam Schlesinger, our WaSH (water, sanitation and hygiene) Technical Lead.
Now back to our original question: How do we best expand our impact? We do so by directly supporting local partners in renewable energy and clean water projects, through training local practitioners so they can go on and implement many more projects without us, and by building more partnerships to reach more people. With the implementation of sustainable technology, community training, and capacity-building programs, we can tackle the urgent political, economic, and environmental challenges we face around the globe.