Today we heard from Camilo Gonzales, president of Indepaz (Institute of development and peace) a Colombian organization that accompanies initiatives of social, ethnic and youth organizations in the relationship with companies and macro projects; citizen security; evaluation and monitoring of security plans and territorial consolidation, and advocacy on public land policies, victims’ rights, justice and peace, reincorporation, mining, energy, development and peace.
Camilo spoke about how the idea of wind turbines in the La Guajira area of Colombia was something that the community was very excited about since it’s a community with very little access to energy. However, when these farms started to get installed a lot of their expectations weren’t met, they started questioning how much did they really need this energy and at what cost? Since the people that went to prepare the land to place the wind farms started killing habitat, not only in areas where their source of food lives (goats, cows and birds) but also where almost 500 communities spend time with family.
At some point, the big companies offered to let the community use some of the equipment for their own use and their energy (which they didn’t anyway) but when they looked into this, they realized the wind turbines are so technologically complex that the communities couldn’t even afford to pay someone to use that in their favor.
He admits the potential of the area because of the amount of wind and land is enormous, however, he doubts that the way that it is being done is the best way to do so since the needs of the community weren’t considered at any point.
He gave us some points to have in mind when designing our own alternative:
1. Accessibility: Price, these communities have very little resources. Communities in La Guajira specifically don’t even deal with cash, they don’t like bills, they like to exchange so cost is the most important thing.
2. Tech comprehension: make a user manual of whatever mechanism you want people to use
3. Cultural approach: Make sure whatever you install, the community feels identified with, just like we don’t like putting foreign objects in the middle of our living room because we feel invaded, they want any object that is placed in their living space to be coherent with their lives and their cultural practices.
4. Maintenance: Fancy equipment usually requires fancy and costly replacements, so are the parts expensive? easy to get? expensive?
5. Consider how the community could potentially get money out of this also? Is installing something new will benefit the community not only by giving them energy but also help them, grow?
6. Connected to the world: Don’t underestimate the needs of small communities, they have people that like to surf the web, learn languages online etc.. lots of people think they only need electricity to cook but for them, access to the internet is now a basic need for their progress.