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May 7, 2019

Our Listen-and-Learn Report

Meeting with Malacatan's Women's Affairs Director
Meeting with Malacatan's Women's Affairs Director

As we approach one decade of program delivery, Mayan Power and Light is recommitting to a model that pairs carefully planned structure and program execution with overall flexibility that meets the needs of each community. Our policy is to learn from those we serve and be responsive through functional adjustments or variations of any program when necessary. This past week, we completed a listen-and-learn initiative during which MPL met with leaders of 14 municipalities in the Western Highlands area.

We interviewed the community leaders like water committees and Parent Teacher Associations as well as Mayors, Municipal Planning Directors, Municipal Women Directors, Environmental Protection Officers, and Health Care Centers to undergo a comparative study of regional needs and priority projects. The process also cultivated trusting relationships and set us up to create formal partnerships with several Municipal governments.

We learned about the distinct issues facing each community. For example in Sibinal, oficials reported social problems due to migration, including human trafficking; in most towns contamination of rivers and the rise of deforestation are primary concerns. In towns with well-funded Women’s Affairs Offices, basic skills trainings for women’s income generation were available for over 300 women. In other towns, the women’s office had very few funds and instead focused their work on youth.  

In most of the municipalities we interviewed between 5% - 15% of communities do not have electricity due to the distance between communities and electricity poles. Nonetheless, many constituents lack electricity because they lack funds to pay for the monthly service.

Due to high levels of theft of electricity, the electrical grid has refused to install electricity in some areas and has raised prices to their consumers to cover the cost of stolen electricity. In these rural communities, income is irregular – depending on agricultural harvests to last them a whole year. At these times, it’s common for people to invest in repairing their homes and businesses– making the purchase of solar power a natural fit into economic patterns, keeping households electrified year-round without monthly payments.

This listen-and-learn initiative—coupled with our long-term presence working with all Mayan ethnicities located in our target areas—has uniquely positioned Mayan Power and Light as a trusted community partner, advocate for women’s empowerment and rights, and conduit for socio-economic change.

Mar 14, 2019

Report from our Volunteer Engineer

Batx Kuxya with ingredients for cookies
Batx Kuxya with ingredients for cookies

I spent a week in the Community in Quixaya, a beautiful sustainable farming community half an hour from the Lake Atitlan.

My task was to support the women cooperative B`ATZ K`UXYA` with the two solar dehydrators they are using to dry fruits, medicinal herbal teas, cookies and simple mixed dried fruit for snacking. Rosie and Marilena, two very lovely members of the The Appropriate Technology team, brought me to the community and introduced me to the women.  Rosy and Marilena held a workshop on my first day, training the group to to overcome their shyness and gain confidence talking to customers. 

In the following days the women and I did some maintenance work on the dehydrators (fixing ripped mesh, and solving the ant problem). We also tried to develop a routine to control the temperature in the food drier and standardizing the product. We experimented with new recipes for delicious granola bars and healthy fruit cookies and got started with the packaging and labeling for the later sale of the dried products.

During my time in Quixaya I stayed with two different families. This gave me the unique opportunity to gain an insight into the traditional life of a Mayan family. They made me feel like a family member, I enjoyed having fresh and organic meals with them and they taught me how to make tortillas. I had fun playing with kids from the village at the river, talking with the grandparents in the shade of the tree and just fell in love with this beautiful and very green area.

I am very thankful for unforgettable time in Quixaya!

Marisela and Ruth with ready to dry some fruit
Marisela and Ruth with ready to dry some fruit

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Feb 27, 2019

Plastics Machines and Market Research

Ruslan,  a robotics engineer from California, came to Guatemala to help ATC identify sources of materials, tools and to analyze costs of building the Precious Plastics machines.

He referred to Precious Plastics' machine designs to analyze appropriate designs in Guatemala and  make it accessible for a Guatemalan metalworker to make parts for the machine.

He listed out all the materials in an excel sheet to show cost per unit, and where  the best material can be sourced from in Guatemala.

At the same time, ATC personelle did a market study around Lake Atitlan to find the most marketable products that would be locally useful but also attract comparatively wealthier tourists to support the cause that would ensure constant cleaning of the lake.

Thanks to the first donations to this project, we were able to mobilize our staff to talk to people around the lake, meet with welders and metalworkers, and collect more information on the construction of these machines.

We found that the cost of cutting sheet metal in Guatemala is extreme, throwing the projected costs out of balance and deeming the project 300% more expensive than the designs by Precious Plastics insinuated.  Furthermore, we found that most of the Precious Plastics projects are built and run by tinkerers, not entreprenuers, and we have yet to find an operating factory using the Precious Plastics design. 

Disheartened, but still hopeful, we are laying this project on the back-burner for Guatemala. Nonetheless, our volunteers working at the Makerspace in Ann Arbor, Michigan continue to work on building these machines, with the potential to ship them to Guatemala to experiment with potential products here.

Hang on, and keep in touch, we really want to incentivize lake clean-up and reduction of plastic wastes in illegal dumps around Lake Atitlan. Creating a value for this trash will motivate people to separate and deliver their plastic to an up-cycling center.

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