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At Amazon in Ecuador, solar panels make the dream of a "fire canoe" come true

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Melissa Godin, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Melissa Godin

Tena, Ecuador, June 27 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Ecuadorian rainforest For a long time, the Achuala people say their ancestors, a "fire canoe" or a "fire canoe" that can quickly move along the winding rivers of the region and easily reach other distant Ecuadorian communities in the jungle with few roads. I dreamed of an "electric fish".

Now, with the advent of solar-powered boats, old myths are turning into modern reality.

Three solar boats (Achuar design with a protective roof covered with solar panels) currently extend 67 km (40 miles) along the Pastaza and Kapafurari rivers in the Achuar region, with nine. Connecting indigenous communities.

This ship allows communities that previously had no access to motorboats to move faster, uses diesel engines to reduce costs, move quietly, and move quietly. It enabled a community that protected waterways from pollution.

"Solar panel canoeing is a great help to connectivity, especially for the most (economically) vulnerable families," he saw the first pilot solar canoe as a teenager. 22-year-old Oscarm Kucham said. He adopted building them for the maker Kara Solar.

"We have this dream that the Achuars protect our waterways," he added. "Boats are a huge bond in our lives."

Oliver Utne, founder of Kara Solar, a solar-powered river transport, energy and community company in the Amazon, said of solar craft. He states that the idea came up about 10 years ago.

"We initially started talking about solar panel boats as a joke," he said. "I just thought it was too technically difficult."

But when American Utne returned to the United States in 2013, he met a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and it was feasible. We conducted a sex survey.

They said the canoe could work with the right battery.

Today, boats that carry up to 20 people and cost $ 30,000 to $ 40,000 per boat use solar panels on the roof to collect electricity and store it in batteries.

Funding to provide free riverboats to indigenous communities came from US-based philanthropy focused on technology, sustainability and indigenous land protection.

Indigenous boats built in collaboration with Kara Solar have allowed communities to move important supplies and access services in larger areas.

Mukucham said that in a faster and less costly way of traveling, the Achuar Group can afford to travel more for fun.

For example, the Sharamentsa and Napurak communities have started hosting sports games between communities that were previously impossible due to the high fuel costs of boat motors.

Solar boats have also allowed indigenous communities to patrol their lands more easily, frequently and cheaply due to invasion by illegal loggers.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state government built a new road on the territory of the Achuar tribe, and when outsiders arrived to cut down the barça tree, the "balsam" Spurred on. Wind turbine.

Sharamentsa Achuar used solar canoes to monitor Barça stands and identify illegally logged timber, Utne said.

This is important because the Amazon region of Ecuador has exacerbated deforestation pressures as a result of increased mining, oil drilling and logging, and indigenous communities are stepping up efforts to protect their land. is.

Since the turn of the century, Ecuador has lost about 900,000 hectares of tree cover. That's a 4.7% decrease, equivalent to 1.6 million football fields, according to Global Forest Watch.

From mythology to manufacturing

Supporters say the introduction of solar canoeing on Achuar territory is particularly appropriate due to the fusion of traditional culture and modern technology. Says.

In Achuar's worldview, dreams shape people's worldviews and teach them what to do in the future. The story of Achuar, inherited from our ancestors, has long spoken about the future with "fire." "Canoe" or "electric fish" as a means of transportation.

When solar canoeing was first discussed, "it was clear that something in Atuala's myth was seen as related to this project," Utne said. People would say, "Oh, I saw this in my dreams."

His company name – Kara Solar – comes from the Achuar term for “dream to come true”.

Utne's company expects its solar canoe to eventually be used in a wider area of ​​Amazon. River transport is much more common in this area than road transport.

The company is developing philanthropic-backed projects in nearby Brazil, Suriname, French Guiana, Peru and even the Solomon Islands in the Pacific Ocean. In each case, indigenous groups share design and technology.

"It's about indigenous to indigenous training," said Mukcham, who helps build Achuar canoes. "Our dream is to spread this and enhance this capability within other communities."

Utne says that the production of solar panels requires the mining of rare earth metals. Said to be aware of. This can be a threat to indigenous forests.

But the question for us is, "If these resources are mined, how should we use them?" "He said. "We think solar panel boats that transport people along rivers in their territory are the best possible use."

(reported by Melissa Godin; edited by Laurie Goering) : (Recognize the achievements of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a charity of Thomson Reuters. See