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Clean Water and Light Through Solar Projects for Wayuu Community

" One struggling Wayuu community that lacked clean drinking water now has a solar powered desalinization system"

Por Rick Kearns, Indian Country Today, 6/25/15

While the drought and diversion of rivers has hurt and killed Wayuu people in Colombia, one struggling Wayuu community that lacked clean drinking water now has a solar powered desalinization system and is working on fundraising for a solar electricity project sponsored by a UK-based NGO.

The Foundation for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Development in Colombian Communities (FERDESCOL) announced on June 12 that the organization was seeking funding for the next phase of a sustainable energy project for the Wayuu community living in Laguna Grande in northern Colombia.

The community in Laguna Grande, known as Cale Calemana, has no electricity and until recently no reliable source for drinking water. The lack of clean water is linked to diseases affecting many children as well as affecting the health of livestock that the community depends on as a source of income. These problems were compounded by a recent drought. FERDESCOL had already been working on these issues.

In 2012 the NGO had studied the potential for wind power projects in Colombia. They found that in the northern rural communities there was "enormous potential" for wind as well as solar and eco-tourism. FERDESCOL had been created with the support of two organizations that do business in Colombia: Market Analysis Ltd, an economics consulting group, and in collaboration with Baker & McKenzie S.A.S., a corporate and commercial law firm and consulting agency.

The NGO is set up to "promote renewable energy and sustainable development projects in remote Colombian communities," according to FERDESCOL Director David Harbord.

"The next phase of our project is to provide solar electricity for the community school to provide light, ventilation, and to give the children the ability to use computers (already donated by the local government ) to obtain and improve their IT skills," said Harbord.

"We also intend to install a small refrigerator-freezer operated on solar power which will enable the community to increase the storage and sales of sea fish, thus increasing their income. The cost of this phase of the project is approximately copy2,500 (U.S.)."

The water desalinization plant was funded by FERDESCOL. The plant also runs on solar energy and produces 850 liters of purified water per day for a community of approximately 125 people. It is only used for drinking and cooking, Harbord explained.

The school/freezer project will involve self-standing solar panels which will power light, ventilators, computers and the freezer.

"We have provided solar lamps for each household in the community. Most of the "houses" are simple mud and stick shacks, so it made no sense to consider installing solar panels for each of them individually," Harbord stated.

He noted that FERDESCOL has also begun working with nearby rural communities who are suffering from the drought and that the NGO is looking for support from the U.S. and elsewhere.