Solar energy for Alpaca farmers in Peru

Practical Action is working with the highland Choqueccota community, which is located in the district of Marangani, in Cusco, Peru. In Peru around 4 million people are living in poverty. In Marangani which is isolated in the Andes (nearly 5000m above sea level) over 40% of families are categorised as extremely poor. Living without access to energy and relying on small subsistence farming and breeding of alpacas, which are then used for meat and wool. The wool is produced in a very traditional way where the poor rural farmers sell the harvested fibre directly to intermediaries, often for an unfair price which does not reduce their poverty.

The usual strategy to increase electricity coverage is the expansion of the national grid system. The location of the communities and current government approach to energy means there is little chance of areas like Choqueccota being connected to the national grid due to their remoteness and complex mountainous geography. Energy is important for people’s home lives and their income, and a lack of electricity further isolates people, perpetuating extreme poverty. Practical Action has therefore been working with communities in the Andes using renewable energy sources such as water (small micro-hydro), wind (wind turbines) and the sun (photovoltaic modules).

In Marangani Practical Action is providing families with solar panels to power their homes and also simple technologies such as spinning equipment. Farmers can sell high quality spun wool at a higher price than unspun wool. The €5,000 euro funding from EKOenergy, combined with 2,100 euro donation from TrackMyElectricity has been used to fund two 120W solar panels, batteries, inverters, accessories and their installation, along with two spinning machines, plus training on operation and maintenance for two additional families to produce artisanal alpaca yarn to improve their livelihoods.

Practical Action focuses a lot on sharing of knowledge and experience to ensure that the benefits ripple out to others communities. They also work with local and subnational governments in the design and implementation of energy policies that promote renewable energy technologies to meet the demands of isolated communities.

The project has been implemented and the pictures will be uploaded to EKOenergy’s Flickr account as soon as we get them in high resolution.