Last Friday we went down to La Florida, a worker-owned finca in the rainforest region near Colomba. I was joined by Chase Nelson, our biodigestor intern. From journeying in a chicken bus, to the exhilaration of the open back of a pick up and finally a 45 minute walk through the forest, we were welcomed with a smile from Rosaura, our representative in La Florida!
The community is made up of 47 families, former employees of large plantations in the region, who bought ‘La Florida’ in 2005. The community has its own micro-hydroelectric system, constructed by the former owners or patrones. The system is old and running inefficiently, lacking a transformer or battery storage. As we spent time in residents houses we found that the system was hardly sufficient to run a light bulb for each family; they also explained how it is often down or running on low current. With the Junta Directiva (five representatives of the community who are ultimately responsible for making decisions), we discussed the possibility of XelaTeco upgrading the system to make it more efficient and reliable.
Next, Rosaura’s husband Esteban took us to see the pig project, and two other potential biodigestor sites. All three were considered suitable for the installation of Chase’s new prototype biodigestor, which we hope will also form part of AIDGs program in Haiti.
Because of a lack of sanitation remediation options, the community has been disposing of the animal waste in the nearby river. During our visit we also saw some of the kids playing in the waste canal at one site. A biodigestor will provide a better waste management solution for La Florida, in addition to providing free, clean gas for the community building. As an AIDG outreach project, the system will be installed at no cost to the community.
While we were cooking tortillas in her kitchen, Glenda Dias Lopez told me why she was interested in one of AIDG/XelaTeco’s stoves. â€œSmoke fills the house, irritating our eyes and is bad for the health of our children,â€ she explained as she cooked on the open fire. Glenda is 7 months pregnant.
To fuel the hearth fires, the men, women and children in the community spend around an hour a day collecting and carrying heavy piles of wood to their houses. A strenuous job. A higher efficiency stove would reduce the amount of wood they use by up to 60%, reducing deforestation, getting smoke out of the house and lowering their overall workload. The women were particularly interested in learning more about the technology; more than 20 turned up to talk with me on our visit. We discussed their priorities and their ability/willingness to pay through a micro-finance system.