Amazon Watch and Empowered By Light Help Indigenous Communities Embrace Clean Energy

Three indigenous communities in the Amazon rainforest can now generate solar energy thanks to a partnership between Amazon Watch and Empowered By Light

Photo credit: Amazon Watch

A new video released by Amazon Watch and Credo Mobile shows how the communities are using solar power and internet hubs, helping them to defend the rainforest around them. Five Sápara communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon, who are presently engaged in resisting oil drilling on their lands, have installed solar micro-systems and radio communications infrastructure, along with two Munduruku communities in the Brazilian Amazon and four U'wa communities in the Colombian cloud forests. More installations are planned for late 2017 and 2018.

The Amazon is home to hundreds of distinct indigenous peoples whose futures are threatened by a resurgent wave of resource exploitation. The communities are often found in remote areas where they are vulnerable to violent repression. The solar power and communications systems being installed are critical for these communities to assure their safety and communicate their stories as they defend their traditional practices and territories. In the past, protecting themselves and their territories has meant using polluting and unreliable diesel and kerosene generators, with fuel being brought in from the outside at significant expense.

"These communities are true climate leaders" said Leila Salazar-López, Executive Director at Amazon Watch. "Lighting the way for our climate and our forests, these indigenous earth defenders know that the solution to climate change must include stopping the destruction of the Amazon rainforest."

Moira Hanes, co-founder of Empowered by Light, added that the introduction of clean, renewable solar power will not only help the communities protect the Amazon rainforest, which is critical for climate stability, but that it will also demonstrate to their governments that similar or off-grid communities can leapfrog fossil fuels.

The solar and communications equipment allows these remote communities to communicate internally to improve their safety and engage in cross-community dialogue. The installations enable the communities to tell their own story to the broader world directly through new communications technology and training, subsequently further increasing their visibility and safety. The communities also now have access to reliable, clean energy for other community needs without relying on dirty energy sources like kerosene or diesel.

Collaborative project planning, along with maintenance and communications trainings, are integral parts of all of these projects in order to maximize both system longevity and impact. These projects, all of which were specifically requested by the communities, provide critical external and internal communications capacity, thereby allowing communities to increase both their personal safety and visibility for their emblematic campaigns.

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