Much of rural Colombia suffers from a severe lack of economic opportunities, public services (especially related to energy) and government investment. Following years of neglect and often total abandonment from government and international actors during the nation’s 40-year internal conflict, basic services for rural communities have either crumbled or never materialized. These problems are compounded for indigenous groups who face discrimination, armed conflict and the expansion of illicit and environmentally destructive livelihoods on indigenous lands. Current peace process offer a real opportunity for rural residents, with both government and social-sector financial support beginning to appear, but backlogged and near-universal needs make isolated communities and partially-solved issues like potable water low priorities for action.
Green Empowerment has worked with rural communities in Colombia since 2012, in partnership with ALTRÓPICO, El Común and the Colombian Biomass Network (RedBioCol).
ALTRÓPICO has a long-standing relationship with communities along the Ecuador-Colombia border. In partnership with ALTRÓPICO, Green Empowerment provided indigenous communities in this region with access to solar plug-and-play PV systems and training, replacing families’ current use of diesel lanterns and alkaline batteries for radios. We have also collaborated on a successful improved cook stove program across northern Ecuador and southern Colombia that we are expanding due to significant interest from neighboring communities and local leadership. This program seeks to reduce indoor air pollution and families’ reliance on firewood, and to strengthen local supply chains for sustainable adoption and replication of stove technology. We are also working with ALTRÓPICO to rehabilitate potable water systems, training communities on system operation and maintenance, to provide a model for cost-effective, sustainable replication and to promote improved land management and watershed conservation in the region.
El Común has worked at the nexus of productive, environmental and policy issues since the early 80s, implementing a groundbreaking biomass energy pilot project with the Colombian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in 2015. In partnership with El Común, we are strengthening local pig husbandry operations with integrated biodigesters to reduce family fuel expenses and health risks, and provide high-protein fodder gardens fertilized by digester effluent rather than high-cost, imported commercial feed.
RedBioCol is a network to advance the sustainable development of Colombia through the promotion of energy-generating uses of organic residues, knowledge exchange, political incidence and greater social and environmental consciousness. Green Empowerment has supported RedBioCol since the network was founded in 2012, based on the success of the regional RedBioLAC biodigester network. Initially organized based around the UTA Foundation’s decades-long experience in biodigester technology and efforts to foster the exchange of experiences based on this and other bioenergy technologies, RedBioCol looks to bring together a variety of actors (NGOs, universities, communities, government) to develop successful bioenergy-linked projects.