Notes from the Field: Closing the Energy Poverty Gap in Latin America

by Sebastian Africano, International Director

This is the seventh year that I have had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful country of Nicaragua, a country that continues to inspire and amaze me with every visit.  The capital Managua, compared to years past, is booming – commerce is active, people are jovial, and the streets are lively.  The country enjoyed a growth rate of almost 5% last year, a level not seen for over 10 years, and it is visibly evident.  Add to that a level of safety more akin to its model southern neighbor Costa Rica, than its more similar northern neighbor Honduras (Nicaragua has 15% the homicide rate of Honduras), and you have a unique and promising set of conditions in a region characterized by high levels of poverty and violence and low indices of human development.

Nonetheless, there is still much work to be done in Nicaragua.  Much of the rural population is remote, and lives on the margins of society, with many communities at a full day’s distance or more from Managua’s bustling markets and commerce.  Somewhere around 1/3 of Nicaragua’s people are not connected to grid electricity, a condition which keeps them even further from developing full, productive livelihoods.  It gives me great pleasure to be able to say that Trees, Water & People (TWP) is working to close this gap in my seventh year of collaboration with the people of Nicaragua.

TWP and partners will provide families with solar lighting products that are sustainable, easy-to-use, and affordable.

This year marks the operational launch of TWP’s energy access initiative, a collaborative effort between TWP, our local partners AHDESA in Honduras, PROLEÑA in Nicaragua, and Árboles y Agua para El Pueblo in El Salvador, with support from PowerMundo of Colorado and Peru.  Together, we were awarded a grant from the U.S. State Department’s Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas, which will allow us to join the effort of bringing clean energy technologies to rural markets throughout Latin America.  By tapping into the vast networks that TWP has developed over 14-years providing energy-saving clean cookstoves to Central America, we are partnering with Power Mundo to also provide solar lighting, solar mobile phone charging, and other life-changing products and services to off-grid rural communities.

As we track the impact of our work, we expect to see rural livelihoods strengthened, levels of education rise, and rural communities become more integrated into the modern lives we in the west enjoy and often take for granted.  Follow our progress on this blog, as well as on the TWP and Power Mundo websites, as the project develops over the next three years.  Thank you for supporting Trees, Water & People, and for allowing us to put your donations to work for the people at the base of the global economy who hold so much promise.

What is “Energy Poverty”?

Energy Poverty can be defined as the lack of adequate modern energy for the basic needs of cooking, warmth and lighting, and essential energy services for schools, health centers and income generation (Practical Action, 2012).

According to PowerMundo, “Over three billion people worldwide do not have access to appropriate technology to meet their basic needs for simple activities such as cooking meals, lighting homes, or purifying water. As a result, billions of people suffer from energy poverty, preventable illnesses, and deplorable living conditions.”

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Trees, Water & People is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to developing sustainable community-based conservation solutions.

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