Written by Green Empowerment Board Member Joseph Richards
* Pictured above People of Ulu Papar, Sabah, Malaysian Borneo protesting a mega-dam that would flood their community.
I am really excited to share my Green Empowerment story with you, a tale of a remote community in need, organizations that answered the call and a mission that engendered sustainable impact.
As the first Program Manager for Green Empowerment in 2000, I worked with local organizations on the design, installation and community organizing for Green Empowerment’s first micro-hydro system in Malaysian Borneo. The 10KW minigrid provided reliable, clean energy to 70 Kenyah Badeng indigenous families in Long Lawen, Sarawak. When 10,000 people were displaced by the construction of the Bakun Dam, the people of Long Lawen rejected the government resettlement, retreated further into the forest and sought sovereignty over their natural resources and livelihoods.
I learned quickly how Green Empowerment’s approach to the work, more so than the technology itself, is fundamental to the success of our projects. Through the Long Lawen project we refined the Green Empowerment model, articulating it’s focuses on local leadership, capacity building and community ownership. Now, 20 years later, it is inspiring to see that the community of Long Lawen continues to operate that microgrid independently, and that they have become a key voice in the indigenous resistance to megadams.
I am so impressed by the significant impact of our small but mighty organization, with active projects in over 50 communities, across 8 countries as I write this letter. While our geographical reach has expanded and the technology has evolved it’s amazing to see what hasn’t changed – our approach to the work and our deep rooted commitment to social justice.
The key to continuing and expanding this work is funding. We have the tools, we have the right approach and we have a waiting list of communities that want to partner with Green Empowerment. As
you connect with your family, friends and neighbors this holiday season, I ask of you two things: First that you share our story and second, that you join me in making a contribution to Green Empowerment, now, next year and in the future.
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Senior Water Resources Engineer
Green Empowerment Board Member