IDB fund launches solar-powered transport in the Amazon

9th March 2018 Manuel Manrique

The first in a fleet of solar-powered boats has been launched on the rivers joining Ecuador and Peru to make daily transport easier for communities in the Amazon region.

The Kara Solar initiative received US$150,000 in funding from the Multilateral Investment Fund, a member of Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), as well as participation from the ALDEA Foundation and the Achuar Community of Ecuador. Its main purpose is to reduce nine local communities’ dependence on oil and so preserve the Achuar territory on the banks of the Pastaza and Huasaga rivers.

“This is not about building, donating infrastructure and then leaving. This is a long-term bet. Transport is a pretext to manage the territory collectively, be economically viable and ecologically sustainable,” said Paola Maldonado, president of the ALDEA Foundation.

The initiative means more high-school students can commute faster to the region’s only school in Kapawi. The local population often relies on paddle boats to access healthcare and education. The boat berths 18 people and is manned by a team of three from the local communities. The teams receive support from the local coordinators in each of the communities to supervise trips, record data and collect tickets.

“Next month we will have a second boat,” said Oliver Utne, coordinator of the Kara Solar project, which began in 2011. “The plan is to have a recharging station and a community solar centre to provide energy for other uses and allow productive activities, such as oil processing plants.”

For Utne, one of the founders of the project, there are many challenges but more important is to consolidate Kara Solar as a sustainable and economically viable proposal. “Financing is important and IDB helped a lot but now we have to incentivise local governments, individuals and private companies to move forward and materialise our plans.”

The plan is to connect communities, increase trade in agricultural products, exchange services, build capacities, maintain the environment and strengthen social and commercial relationships through the use of clean energy, in boats or community solar centres.

“We do not want more oil. We want to preserve our territory and conserve the environment,”  said Isabel Wisum, vice-president of the Achuar Community in Ecuador.

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