Link of the Day 073108: 2 Documentaries on Guatemala

Voice of a Mountain

Duration: 4 min 9 sec

You can watch the full film on their site or on youtube.

Voice of a Mountain is a video documentary of the lives of rural Guatemalan coffee farmers [in Santa Anita La Union, a small village in the Quetzaltenango region] who took up arms against their government in a civil war that lasted 36 years. This documentary explores Guatemala’s dark history from the perspective of those who saw armed revolution as their only hope for change in a poverty-ridden nation under years of military dictatorship. Ex-combatants talk about the bleak reality of the country that led to their involvement in the war, and the response of genocide from the Guatemalan government against its people. The documentary gives insight into their motives for joining an armed conflict as interviews reveal personal accounts of struggle, hope, tragedy, and the fruits of their resistance.


Duration: 4min 40sec

First part of this video is in Spanish and then he translates into English.

In his film, “Documigrante,” Willy Barreno shows what [Guatemalan] migrants go through to get [to the United States].

Starting in Santa Anita, Barreno filmed the journey into Mexico, where Central American migrants hop freight trains in the southern state of Chiapas and endure robberies and rape at the hands of smugglers and Mexican police. The film then tracks the journey north, across the U.S. border and into the Midwest.

Barreno, a Guatemalan native, said he was overwhelmed by the grief of those he met—Hondurans sniffing glue in Central Mexico to stave off hunger and the human-rights worker who recounted how a woman had accidentally suffocated her crying baby while hiding inside a truck trailer from U.S. customs agents.

This reminds me of the last episode of M.A.S.H. where a mother suffocates her child to save her herself and other refugees from being killed by enemy soldiers. Life imitates art imitates life. 😦

via Chicago Tribune [Struggling toward the future]

Related Posts:
Mayan Territory [], plus photos from the shoot
BBtv World: El Molinero, Guatemala [Video]
A Recycled Life [Film]
Communities We Work With: La Florida (Guatemala)
Video: Illegal evictions in Guatemala Jan 2007 (YouTube)

Appropriate Technology Roundup #29 073108

AIDG’s somewhat weekly roundup of appropriate technology stories. This week: prefab homes that look like computer servers, power from poop, sugarcane charcoal in Southern Haiti, a mobile phone-based vehicle anti-theft system and more.

1. This week’s favorite title:
Our Homes Have Turned into Server Farms [Server Architecture] from io9

Prehab houses look like servers

Nestled among the towers of midtown Manhattan is a new housing development made entirely of prefab houses … that look like rack-mounted computer servers … In fact, these houses are intended to be mounted and stacked in giant racks that can be built in days. Soon, all of New York City may look like a giant Google server farm.
The houses are part of an art installation for the Museum of Modern Art exhibit “Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling.”

The exhibit is running from July 20–October 20, 2008.

2. A Dung Deal: Making Power from Poop from Treehugger

Basic Large-scale Biodigester Lay-out

View Larger Version [Globe and Mail]

At a properly run farm, “nothing is waste. Everything is a resource. It’s just a matter of harvesting.” With 750 cows, Laurie Stanton’s farm has a lot of manure to harvest. Martin Mittelstaedt writes in the Globe and Mail about Ontario’s largest farm-biogas installation. It seems like the perfect solution to a big problem; there are only so many places to put the 50 million tonnes of “biomass”, as it is politely called, that is produced each year in the province. Instead, it is fermented in a big tank, and the methane is collected and piped to a diesel generator. The leftover liquids make a good fertilizer and the solids become bedding for cows.

3. Cow Power Could Provide 3% of U.S. Electricity? from Earth2Tech

a team of researchers at the University of Texas at Austin say that biogas made from manure could provide as much as 3 percent of America’s electricity needs — that’s about the same amount of U.S. electricity that comes from renewables, excluding hydro and nuclear.

The researchers published the data in a paper called “Cow Power: The Energy and Emissions Benefits of Converting Manure to Biogas” in the Institute of Physics’ Environmental Research Letters yesterday.

How much manure is being generated? via the NYTimes [Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler]

U.S. livestock produce perhaps 900 million tons of waste annually, about 3 tons of manure for each American.

U.S. livestock produce perhaps 900 million tons of waste annually, about 3 tons of manure for each American.

4. Northwest Haiti families combating food crisis, poverty with sustainable agri co-ops from Reliefweb

Haiti and other nations continue to struggle in the grip of a worsening world food crisis. But Haitians in the island nation’s remote Artibonite and Northwest regions are gaining food security, through a sustainable agriculture program supported by global humanitarian agency Church World Service and funded in part by a new grant from the U.S.-based Osprey Foundation.

The program’s expansion will provide more people, particularly women, with opportunities to grow enough food for their families and increase income for other basic needs through access to credit and training.

5. Could Carbon Capture Be The Next Cash Cow? from The Sietch

Overview of Geological Storage Options

According to a new technical market research report, Carbon Capture & Storage Technologies from BCC Research, the global market for carbon capture technologies was worth $88.7 billion in 2007. This is expected to increase to over $236.3 billion by 2012, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.8%.
This report … goes against the findings of a similar UN report that show that renewable energy is really where the money is.

6. 18 year old self-taught electronics “genius” invents mobile phone-based vehicle anti-theft system.

Morris Mbetsa, an 18 year old self-taught inventor with no formal electronics training from the coastal tourist town of Mombasa on the Indian Ocean in Kenya has invented the “Block & Track”, a mobile phone-based anti-theft device and vehicle tracking system.

7. Recycle old PCB components from Instructables via MAKE

Desoldering circuit boards to recover components

Desoldering circuit boards to recover components

This instructables will show you how to recycle, by desoldering, all your old PCB’s components.You can find PCB in every electronic things(DVD,computer,camera,toys…).All you have to do is to disasemble them, and desolder the components you want.So here how to do step by step.

8. The folks at Proje Espwa in the South of Haiti have been making charcoal from corn cobs. A few pics of their success.

JaRoro holding finished charcoal briquette

This is JaRoro holding a briquette of charcoal we made this morning from our own vegetable waste. We use the stalks of corn along with vertiver and end up with this which lasts longer than regular charcoal. It is economical and ecological as we don’t contribute to the huge problem of deforestation here. JaRoro was the project leader for this and did and excellent job. The idea is based on Doctor Amy Smith’s (MIT) D-Lab work. We now have a team of 16 working on making these briquettes and freeing us from super-expensive propane and regular charcoal.

9. ALTERNATIVE ENERGY: Rain Power from Inhabitat

[A] team from CEA/Leti-Minatec has created a system that is capable of recovering kinetic energy from the impact of falling raindrops.

In a study featured in Smart Materials and Structures, a physics journal, the authors, Romain Guigon, Thomas Jager, Ghislain Despesse and Jean-Jacques Chaillout, write about how it is possible to recover [very small amounts of] energy from the impact of a raindrop of water.

10. GM Works With Utilities On Plug-Ins from NPR

General Motors is working with utility companies to make sure its next-generation plug-in hybrid has a smooth rollout in 2010. GM is pushing utilities to move forward on so-called “smart-metering.”

Hands-on Biodigester Installation Course

Biodigester installation course at IRRI-Mexico

Hands-on Biodigester Installation Course
Date: August 8-10th,
Location: International Renewable Resources Institute – Mexico
El Molino, Eronga, Michoacan, Mexico
Cost: $275 USD. Does not include lodging, food or local transportation, but arrangements can be for all of these by IRRI, and inexpensive options (less than $30 USD/day) are available. Discounts are available for students or renewable energy installation program representatives.
Contact: info {at] irrimexico [dot} org


This three-day course will cover an overview of biodigester applications, and the impacts this technology can have on the energy production, health, water quality, emissions and economics of households and communities. The science of anaerobic digestion and its many applications will be covered, but the course focus will be the installation of a functioning biodigester and working with the family members to design, install, and support the system.

The goal is to provide a fuel source to a local family for cooking and heating as well as a waste treatment system for the production of organic fertilizer. Biodigesters convert organic waste into clean renewable energy for heating, cooking, or the production electricity and has the potential to make significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. The byproduct of biodigesters is a high quality organic fertilizer that can support local agricultural systems. IRRI-Mexico is promoting an inexpensive, yet durable design that can be easily installed and maintained in a variety of contexts.

This installation will primarily be taught in Spanish, but there will be opportunities for translation English. Translation and extra time can be given to those who need clarification or more English materials. 

Hattip Jesse Engel.

Link of the Day 073008: Ex-soldiers occupy former army buildings in Cap Haitien [Reuters]

From Reuters:

About 200 ex-soldiers occupied former military buildings in northern Haiti on Tuesday to demand the reinstatement of the disbanded army and 14 years of back pay, the group’s leader and witnesses said.

The men took over the buildings in Cap-Haitien, Haiti’s second largest city, and in Ouaminthes, a town on the border with the Dominican Republic.

I think Reuters got the name of the town wrong. It probably should be Ouanaminthe.

The developing story from Radio Kiskeya [in French]:

  • Armoured MINUSTAH tanks and members of the Haitian National Police’s (PNH) special units tried, without success, to remove the 100 or so ex-military who were occupying the Ministry of Culture and ISPAN (Institute for the Safeguard of National Heritage) buildings.
  • The leaders of the occupation claim that the reinstatement of the military will help “restore safety and fight against the kidnappers”

In a bit of good news for Haitians:
Emmanuel “Toto” Constant goes down like Al Capone.

From the International Herald Tribune:

A former Haitian paramilitary leader who has been branded a ruthless killer by human rights groups was convicted Friday of helping hatch a mortgage fraud scheme that cheated lenders out of $1.7 million.

A Brooklyn jury found Emmanuel “Toto” Constant guilty of fraud and grand larceny. Constant faces up to 15 years in prison at his sentencing on Sept. 10.

CNN reports that he could face between 15-45 years. I don’t know which reporting is correct.

Background on Constant:

The son of a military officer, Constant emerged as the notorious leader of the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti, or FRAPH, after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was toppled in 1991.

Human rights groups allege that between 1991 and 1994, FRAPH terrorized and slaughtered slum-dwellers loyal to Aristide. When Aristide returned to power in 1994, Constant slipped into the United States.

Despite a 1995 deportation order, Constant was allowed to remain in the U.S. because of instability in Haiti. He kept a low profile, living with relatives in the New York City borough of Queens until being jailed in 2006 in the fraud case.

Related Posts:
From Dajabon, DR to Ouanaminthe, Haiti
Increased Kidnappings in Cap Haitien, Haiti

Increased Kidnappings in Cap Haitien, Haiti

Starthrower Foundation, another NGO working in Cap had this grim news in the beginning of July:

I am sending on some news about what’s happened in the past few days. It seems lawlessness here is at an all time high.

In Cap-Haitien:

  • A 23year-old kidnapped from our katye was killed as her parents had no money to pay ransom.
  • A doctor kidnapped from the corner paid $50,000.00 US for his freedom.
  • A friend of Jack’s was kidnapped last night while riding a taptap; the same ransom demand ($50,000). He has 2 small children, no job.

Relief Web, the online hub for humanitarian information, reports that:

[The] kidnapping of children remains an area of high concern [throughout Haiti]. Children represent 35% of the total number of victims of kidnapping, and an increasing number of girls and since the beginning of the year 66 minors, including 28 girls, were victims of kidnapping [in Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien] (compared with 80 victims (41 girls) in all 2007). Two of these children were killed.

The victims were a six month baby in Arcahaie and a 16 year-old boy, whose body showed signs of torture, in Port-au-Prince.

Month Boys Girls Total
January 4 2 6
February 4 3 7
March 7 5 12
April 6 4 10
May 13 2 15
June 7 8 13
July* 2 2 4
Total 41 26 67

* Reported on July 22nd.

Most of the girls who were kidnapped were also sexually abused. “A significant number of kidnapping cases reported during this period were perpetrated against children nearby or on the way in/out of school.”