BOA VISTA, Brazil, January 25 (IPS) – “Our electricity is poor quality, it damages the electrical equipment,” complained Jesus Mota, 63. “In other places it works fine, not here. Just because we are indigenous,” protested his wife, Adélia Augusto da Silva, the same age.
Darora’s Community of macuxi Indigenous people illustrate the struggle for electricity of isolated towns and villages in the Amazon rainforest. Most of it is obtained from generators that run on diesel, a pollutant and expensive fuel because it is transported long distances, by boat that travels across the river for days.
Located 88 km from the city of Boa Vista, the capital of the northernmost Brazilian state of Roraima, Darora celebrated the inauguration of a solar power plant installed by the city government in March 2017. It represents the present in the form of clean, stable energy sources.
A network of poles and cables 600 meters long helped light up the community’s “hub” and distributed electricity to 48 of the community’s homes.
But “it only lasted a month when the battery failed,” Tuxaua (chief) Lindomar da Silva Homero, 43, a school bus driver, told IPS during a community visit. The village had to revert to a noisy and unreliable diesel generator that provided only a few hours of electricity a day.
Fortunately, about four months later, power distribution company Boa Vista laid the cable to Darora, making it part of the grid.
“The solar panels are left here, useless. We want to re-enable them, it would be really good. We need more powerful batteries, like the ones they put at the bus stop in Boa Vista,” said Homero, referring to one of the many solar plants the city government has installed in the capital.
Tuxaua (chief) Lindomar Homero of the Darora Community is calling for suitable new batteries to reactivate the solar power plant, as the electricity they get from the national grid is too expensive for the locals. Behind him is his predecessor, the former tuxaua Jesus Mota. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS
Energy is expensive
But indigenous people cannot afford to buy electricity from distributor Roraima Energía, he said. He estimates the average family pays between 100 and 150 reais ($20 to $30) a month.
In addition, there are unpleasant surprises. Homero complained, “My November bill went up to 649 reais” ($130) without any explanation.
“If you don’t pay, they’ll cut your electricity,” says Mota, who tuxed from 1990 to 2020. Also, the electricity from the grid is damaged a lot,” which is why the equipment is damaged.
Apart from unreliable supply and frequent power outages, there is not enough energy to irrigate agriculture, the main source of income for the community. “Pumping oil can also do it, but it’s expensive, selling watermelons at the current price is not enough,” he said.
“In 2022, it rains a lot but there are dry summers that need to irrigate our crops of corn, beans, squash, potatoes, and cassava. The energy we get is not enough to run the pump,” said Mota.
Photo of three water tanks in the village of Darora, one of which holds potable water by chemical treatment. The largest and longest building is a high school serving the Macuxi indigenous community living in Roraima, northern Brazil. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS
Batteries still seem to limit the efficiency of solar power in stand-alone or stand-alone systems, for which government and various private initiatives are trying to provide universal electricity and replace generators. diesel.
Homero said that some Darora families who live outside the “center” of the village and have solar panels are also having problems with the batteries.
Besides 48 families in the “center” of the village, there are 18 families in rural areas, bringing the total population of the community to 265 people.
A solar power plant was also installed in another community of 22 indigenous Warao families, immigrants from Venezuela, called Warao a Janoko, 30 kilometers from Boa Vista.
But of the factory’s eight batteries, two stopped working after only a few months of use. And electricity is only guaranteed until 8:00pm
Aurelio Souza, a consultant specializing in the matter, told IPS from the city of São Paulo: “Batteries have gotten a lot better over the last decade, but they are still the weak link in solar power. “The poor size and low quality of the electronic charge control device exacerbates this situation and reduces the useful life of the battery.”
According to Adélia Augusto da Silva, the low quality of electricity supplied to Darora is due to discrimination against indigenous peoples. The water they drank was also dirty and caused illness, especially in children, until Indigenous health services started treating their drinking water with chemicals. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS
According to the Institute of Energy and the Environment, an NGO based in São Paulo, in the Brazilian Amazon jungle, nearly a million people live without electricity. More precisely, its 2019 study identified 990,103 people in that situation.
The area’s other three million residents, including 650,000 in Roraima, are outside the National Linked Electricity System. As a result, their energy is largely dependent on diesel fuel transported from other regions, at a cost affecting all Brazilians.
The government has decided to subsidize this fossil fuel so that the cost of electricity is not banned in the Amazon region.
This subsidy is paid by other consumers, which contributes to making Brazilian electricity one of the most expensive in the world, despite the low cost of its main source, hydroelectricity, which accounts for about 60% of the electricity produced. electricity of the country.
Solar power becomes a viable alternative as parts become cheaper. Initiatives to bring electricity to remote communities and reduce diesel consumption are mushrooming.
But in factories far out of reach of the grid, good batteries are needed to store energy for the night hours.
Part of the so-called “city center” in Darora, where there are lampposts, houses, football fields and warehouses where the community meets. A larger community center is needed, say
leader of the village of Macuxi located near Boa Vista, the capital of the northern Brazilian state of Roraima. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS
A unique case
Darora is not a typical case. It is part of the municipality of Boa Vista, which has a population of 437,000 and good resources, it is located near a paved road and is in the steppe ecosystem called “lavrado”.
It lies at the southern end of São Marcos indigenous territory, where many of the Macuxi natives live but less so in Raposa Serra do Sol, Roraima’s other major indigenous reserve. According to the Special Secretariat for Indigenous Health (Sesai), there were 33,603 Macuxi Indians living in Roraima in 2014.
The Macuxi also live in the neighboring country of Guyana, which is similar in number to the Roraima. Their language is part of the Karib family.
Homero explains: Although there are no large forests in the surrounding area, Darora gets its name from a tree, which provides “very durable wood for building houses”.
The community emerged in 1944, founded by a patriarch who lived to be 93 years old and attracted other Macuxi to the area.
The progress they’ve made has been particularly striking at the middle school in the village “center,” which now has 89 students and 32 staff members, “all from Darora, with the exception of three teachers from outside,” Homero said proudly.
A new, larger elementary and middle school for students in grades one through nine was built a few years ago about 500 meters from the community.
Water used to be a serious problem. “We drink red dirty water, children die from diarrhea. But now we have good treated water,” said Adélia da Silva.
“We dug three wells but the water didn’t work, it was salty. The solution was devised by a Sesai technician who used a chemical to make the water from the lagoon drinkable,” said Homero.
The community has three overhead cisterns, two cisterns for bathing and sanitation, and one cistern for drinking water. Tuxaua says there are no longer any health problems caused by the water.
His current concern is finding new sources of income for the community. Travel is one alternative. “We have Tacutu river beach 300 meters away, excellent fruit production, handicrafts and typical local cuisine based on corn and cassava,” he said, listing attractions for tourists. guest.
© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOrigin: Inter Press Service