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Vivero de las Mujeres de Roble, solar energy for planting medicinal plants and just transitions

A group of Afro-descendant women heads of households in Valle del Cauca decided to use their traditional knowledge to treat different health problems. To this end, they consolidated the Valle de la Salud Nursery where they grow medicinal plants and transform them into oils, ointments and other care products.

The nursery does not have access to the electricity grid, but aims to produce its own energy through solar panels for irrigation, plant transformation and to be able to work a few more hours inside the nursery after the sun goes down. In addition, the women installed some cisterns to avoid having to carry water from distant areas and greenhouses to increase the variety of their plants and protect them from external conditions.

Technical characteristics of the proposal

The nursery has two photovoltaic systems, one to illuminate two light bulbs in the nursery and connect some machines and the other for an electric pump for irrigation of the nursery. The first consists of two (2) 410Wp solar modules, two (2) 150Ah dry gel batteries, a 1kVA 120Vac pure wave inverter and a 30A charge controller.
The battery bank consists of two (2) 150Ah units, the battery weighs approximately 50 kg. The battery bank offers a reserve of 1.8 kWh, which means that it could supply electricity for about a day without input from the solar modules. The second solar irrigation system consists of (2) 460Wp solar modules mounted on a pole type structure, a KOLOS 3-47-40-4 submersible electric pump, a DPS + well and tank sensor, 30 meters of wiring, solar panel and connectors, 30 meters of electric pump wiring, 20 meters of sensor and tank and well sensor wiring and a 2000 liter tank placed on an elevated structure.

Productive, community, environmental, or economic processes or activities that were positively impacted by the implementation of the community experience of TEJ.

This project has allowed Las Mujeres de Roble to generate savings in the purchase of batteries for the radio they used or the lamps they took to the nursery. It has also facilitated the use of the machines, as they used to have to rent a room at the school’s farm to connect them, and now they can use them in their own facilities. Similarly, with solar irrigation, they will be much more comfortable because they will not have to carry buckets of water to water the plants, avoiding back pain.

Beneficiaries of the experience

10 women, plus approximately 400 children from the Colegio de Robles

  1. With the implementation of the photovoltaic system, the women of the nursery managed to remain in the territory since this allowed them to renew the agreement for the use of the land where they have the nursery, which was about to expire; they demonstrated that they were strengthening their process and making progress to improve their production.
  2. Thanks to the first system installed, they were able to work more and better in the nursery, because thanks to the light they could stay up late and take care of their plants while listening to the music they like, this has attracted more women who want to join this initiative, the school children now go not only to learn about the plants but also want to learn about the panels and solar energy, having the panels has enhanced their ancestral knowledge.
  3.  The solar irrigation system helps them adapt to the climate crisis since, due to the increase in river overflows and rainfall, their aqueduct system has collapsed and they no longer have to depend on it to irrigate their plants but can be autonomous by managing the water they need with the well and their own energy.
  1. Their main problem is to have enough resources for when they have to buy new batteries for their panels, but with the power of God and the plants they hope to be producing enough to have enough to buy them.
  2. Another problem encountered is that the panels they were going to use to operate more machines had to be used for the irrigation system because the aqueduct was damaged and they had to attend to that emergency first.
Women’s participation in the TEJ community experience

This initiative is built and implemented by a group of Afro-descendant women heads of household. The role of women in health care and self-management is fundamental and this experience is proof of that.
Also, the implementation of some technologies has allowed them to reduce work overloads, such as traveling long distances to fetch water or being able to stay a little longer in the nursery after sunset, thus increasing the time they have to distribute their work and also have leisure time.