Approximately six million of Colombia’s 46 million people live without electricity. In 2011, SELF began to explore ways to power indigenous villages throughout Colombia to provide indigenous communities with basic facilities in health and education using solar power. SELF’s initial project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was to field test three solar powered, battery-free vaccine icepack freezers to support immunization efforts in the three remote villages of Sabana Crespo, Nabusimake, and Gunchukwa, all located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of northern Colombia.
The primary goal of this pioneering work was to develop an effective way to extend immunization services to other remote parts of Colombia, and ultimately, elsewhere in the developing world.
In 2012, SELF expanded upon its solar powered vaccine storage work by working with members of the Arhuaco tribe in Sabana Crespo to design and install a solar energy based microgrid in the village to power its school, health clinic and micro-enterprise facilities. The microgrid was designed to be flexible enough that additional solar power can be added as the needs of the community grow over time.
We anticipate these projects to be completed in 2015. The ability to expand SELF’s work into South America is a positive step towards implementing its Whole Village Development Model across the globe. By using solar energy to power health care, education, and micro-enterprise facilities in Sabana Crespo, we are providing essential services to a community that has historically avoided the assistance of outsiders. It is our goal to ensure that the solar systems installed are successful and sustainable over the long term so that they may be replicated in other villages throughout the region.