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Path to Empowerment

With the generous support of the Schmidt Family Foundation, over 800 indigenous people living along the Amonia River in the Brazilian Western Amazon now have renewable, sustainable and life-improving solar power.

The primary goal of Empowered by Light’s Energy Transition Initiative was to supply two Asháninka communities (Yorenka Tasorentsi and Apiwtxa) with solar+storage to help them leapfrog and/or transition off of polluting and expensive diesel. A total of 55 kilowatts (kW) of solar and 69 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy storage (batteries) were installed at Yorenka Tasorentsi powering 11 structures, directly benefiting 60 people and benefiting hundreds more who visit the Institute annually for meetings and conferences. For the off-grid solar system in the Apiwtxa community, a total of 73kW of solar and 198kWh of energy storage were installed powering 16 structures and directly benefiting over 800 people.

Empowered by Light’s partners on the Energy Transition Initiative project included Brazilian nonprofit Instituto Fronteiras–who managed the project locally, and Brazilian solar developer ION Energia–who designed and led the solar and battery installations.

Who are the Ashaninka?

With an estimated population of more than 90,000 people, the Asháninka are one of the largest groups of indigenous people within the Amazonian region, living across several territories in Peru and Brazil.

In Brazil, the Asháninka people have organized themselves through an association called “Apiwtxa” and have devised a strategy for the community's survival and resilience, which includes the development of a sustainable and self-sufficient way of life rooted in their traditional knowledge, culture and spirituality. Apiwtxa has received international recognition for their efforts to combat illegal deforestation and invasions into their territory, including the Equator Prize in 2017 from the United Nations.

Community goals

Energy transition is considered key for sustaining traditional and indigenous communities’ development and autonomy. Access to clean, reliable energy is critical for communities living in faraway regions in the Amazon and fundamental for their resistance strategy to fossil fuels, destructive dams and for the creation and encouragement of local development that centers and values communities' cultures and traditional practices.

The solar energy systems we’ve installed for the Asháninka will help them sustain the rich biodiversity in which they live and enable them to continue the critically important work they’ve done to replant trees in the Amazon in an effort to offset the significant rates of deforestation that have occurred there due to ranching and mining operations.

The solar energy systems are also proving that decentralized clean energy systems can be successfully deployed in remote areas strengthening the infrastructure and sustainability of these communities and demonstrating that indigenous communities can support the power demand from cities and peri-urban regions, while improving local air quality, replacing over 5,000 liters of diesel annually and offsetting close to 100 tons of CO2 annually.

Benefits from the Project

The solar microgrids we’ve installed are helping the two communities to reduce an/or eliminate their dependency on diesel ensuring a more just and sustainable transition to renewable energy. Thanks to power provided by the microgrids the communities can now reliably store fish, fruits, nuts and seeds to better feed their families and manage production and harvesting, and they can live more freely and autonomously, and more effectively combat planned infrastructure projects that threaten their existence.

Overcoming challenges

Due to the remote locations of the two communities, the projects required a tremendous amount of logistical planning and involved the acquisition and transportation (by air, land, and river) of several loads of solar equipment and building materials totaling approximately 20 tons. Weather also impacted the over 2 miles of trenches needed for the power cables.

Final Successes

All of the homes (in which over 800 people live) in the Apiwtxa community now have direct access to clean, renewable energy and 60 people at Yorenka Tasorentsi have direct access. The solar energy systems are improving the lives of everyone living in the two communities and will enable them to live in greater harmony with their environment, in better alignment with their traditions and with a lighter footprint on this Earth.

The solar energy systems also support several of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including Goal 1: Poverty Eradication, Goal 7: Affordable & Clean Energy, Goal 11: Sustainable Cities & Communities and Goal 12: Responsible Consumption & Production.


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