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 has been working with rural communities and partner NGOs in Ecuador since 2005. Our involvement has focused on providing technical and administrative expertise and training for local partners FEDETA, CARE Ecuador, and CORPOESMERALDAS. While prior projects have spanned various regions of the country, GE is now working with a regional focus, allowing us to build stronger long-term relationships with a broad scope of local groups , both public and private.
In 2014 GE began a new phase of its efforts in Ecuador through the WISIONS-funded Growing Esmeraldas with Renewable Energy (CRECER) program in the coastal province of Esmeraldas. This project provides increased economic opportunities to rural cacao farmers in three initial communities through the implementation of agricultural training programs, renewable energy technologies (passive solar dryers and bio-digesters), and independently-funded gravity-fed drinking water systems. The long-term hope is in replicating this integrated project in additional communities throughout the region. The project is led by an interdisciplinary team of NGOs specializing in renewable energy technology and agro-productive training programs.
More recently, Green Empowerment is working 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 allows 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.