Autonomous energy management in three Mayan communities in Guatemala

Om publikasjonen

  • Utgitt: august 2015
  • Serie: --
  • Type: Gjennomganger fra organisasjoner
  • Utført av: Edda Gaviola & Pedro Toc
  • Bestilt av: Norwegian Church Aid
  • Land: Guatemala
  • Tema: Energi og infrastruktur
  • Antall sider: 33
  • Serienummer: --
  • ISBN: --
  • ISSN: --
NB! Publikasjonen er KUN tilgjengelig elektronisk og kan ikke bestilles på papir


As part of the strategies of Economic Justice and Climate Justice, in cooperation with the Madre Selva and the Solar Foundation, NCA implemented the Autonomous energy management project in three Mayan communities in Guatemala; which is based on two previous projects. This project includes the construction and operation of micro hydropower plants, installing saving stoves, sustainable management of watersheds from a dynamic community selfmanagement of natural resources, boosting local production projects and the equal participation of women and men. These actions were part of community organizational processes that enhance the active participation of all local sectors in order to ensure the sustainability of the processes. The project is implemented in four communities in the municipality of Uspantán, Quiche; and, in Tajumulco, San Marcos. 

Purpose/ Objective

The following aspects were assessed in this evaluation: General objective. Knowing the status of the project "Energy management in three autonomous Mayan communities in Guatemala" through the identification of the results and provide relevant recommendations.

Specific objectives

  1. Identify and assess the relevance of the actions and strategies in the project components.
  2. Assess the impact of the actions in each area of the project. 
  3. Analyze and evaluate the implementation of the approaches established in the project. 
  4. Assess existing capacities regarding the implementation of such kind of projects in NCA, Madre Selva and Fundacion Solar.
  5. Provide recommendations for the design and implementation of similar projects in the future.


The evaluation was conducted as part of the Project’s Management Cycle (PMC). It reconstructs the experience, analyzes the process followed, and understands the type, degree and quality of the scope and of challenges involved. At the end of the process, these elements may serve as inputs for evaluations and in the definition of programmatic, conceptual, methodological and future cooperation strategies.

The qualitative assessment methodology included focus groups with representatives from the communities and interviews of representatives from organizations that are directly involved in the project.

An essential component of the methodology was conducted by Mr. Pedro Toc Cobox, an Engineer. The technical assessment was based on these elements and cross-cutting approaches to sustainability and self-management with gender equity, environmental sustainability and relevance considered. Finally, a specific report was produced as was a summarized data sheet for each community, and this document includes its main observations and conclusions.

The methodology used, can be summarized in the following steps:

  1. Preparation and initial agreements. In a joint meeting, the consultants and the involved staff of NCA and partners was held to define and approved the evaluation’s scope, calendar and the working plan.
  2. Recovering the projects knowledge from documentation. A review and an analysis of documents (including the project document and plan, narrative and financial reports from partners, external audit reports, published educational material and communication documents, as well as many others) was made.
  3. Field visits, interviews, focus group discussions and observations. 35 persons, 18 men and 17 women from the three communities participated in the evaluation process through community focus groups and field visits. Additionally, 9 professionals from the organizations involved and one person representing the Norwegian Embassy participated as well, for a total of 45 persons.
  4. Documenting the results. The consultants documented and gathered the results and conclusions, organized them according to the analyzed topics and proposed recommendations from all discussed by the participants, both for the field visits and the focus groups. The result is the evaluation document.

This document was presented in a meeting with representatives of NCA, Fundacion Solar and Madre Selva and also was fed with inputs and reflections.

Key Findings

The proposed project is internally consistent and clearly provides a roadmap for collective action. Its starting point is that renewable energy is recognized as a human right of communities, and the project seeks to make a contribution to its enjoyment. The possibility of generating productive conditions and economic alternatives based on access to renewable energies is clearly included and, at the same time, the project seeks to make a contribution to community social cohesion and to facilitate discussion among different local and national stakeholders on energy models managed by indigenous peoples and their communities, which is highly relevant in the current context of Guatemala.

The project has responded well to community needs, and communities value it highly as now they have electric power, which was unthinkable in the past because of their characteristics.

An example is Zona Reina, a rural isolated area which is not a priority for the national interconnected electric system; or Los Ángeles Ucubujá, a community that is heavily affected the effects of climate change. The strategic vision of NCA is that indigenous communities have a right to electric power. This favors autonomy in community management and adequately combines said energy management with the search for economic alternatives in communities that engage mainly in subsistence-level economic activities. It enhances social cohesion of communities with inclusive actions and methodologies, and establishes the grounds for national discussion of an energy model managed by indigenous people, extremely important in the country.

In this manner, NCA has become a strategic ally, not only to mobilize the resources needed to implement projects, but to properly guide communities and national partners involved in the activities, and this adds value to their daily activities.

The relevance of this type of project comes from understanding that energy is the means to the self-determination of people, and from the need to create conditions for the development of local entrepreneurship.

The project focuses on Norway’s development priorities, mainly addressing: indigenous people, human rights, the rights of women and, specifically, the whole topic of renewable energies that is extremely important to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

For partner organizations, the project has meant adding value to their regular practices. The case of Madre Selva has involved the search of alternative models to defend indigenous peoples’ territories, in other words, moving from “protest to proposal”. In the case of Fundación Solar, which has significant experience in the installation of micro-hydroelectric power plants, the project has meant a challenge in the area of social and political accompaniment and community organization.

From the point of view of project effectiveness, the most important outcome has to do with access by communities to renewable energy, while ensuring environmental sustainability. The three interventions in the project have characteristics marked by location, access to technology and availability of natural resources, which is relevant and enhances self-management, which is positive. In the three communities, household energy is operating fully according to plan.

An important success of the project was that it provided improved stoves to 150 families from the three communities. This component has multiple considerations from the point of view of effectiveness. On the one hand, it reduces the use of biomass considerably, with savings of approximately 60% in firewood consumption, which will probably have a positive impact on reforestation. Another important accomplishment is the saving of money and the impact this has on families’ finances. Without a question this is the essential consideration for women and the care of their health and their home environment, since the number of hours required to cook food is reduced and the amount of smoke they inhale drops. Another equally important consideration is how women are now motivated to participate in community affairs and to attend meetings.

Regarding the creation of economic alternatives, there is consensus among the various participants in the project that this is the newest component in the process. There is awareness by NCA and its partners of the need to include economic activities in strategic longterm planning with community development models aimed at more structural transformations.

In Los Ángeles Ucubujá there are no updated estimations as to when the community will be able to make the coffee mill work; as to how milling services can be offered to neighboring villages, or as to the consequences of the mill not operating.

On the enhancement of social cohesion in Zona Reina, the strategic vision has generated one of the most visible impacts of the project, which is a sort of cohesion and collaboration among the different communities that share the micro-basin and that have been able to change their history of antagonism and competition, without which energy autonomy would be unthinkable.

The community has made progress in ascertaining its indigenous identity and as a people that follow their own ancestral authority structures while, at the same time, women have been included in decision-making processes. These latter needs to be reinforced with long-term actions since women have faced inequality for far too long. 

In Los Ángeles Ucubujá, the various activities undertaken by Fundación Solar show that this community is ready to participate. This notwithstanding, it is necessary to have a sound, comprehensive accompaniment strategy in place that is able to strengthen the bonds of identity and belonging beyond specific actions to benefit the population (enterprises, improved stoves, and nurseries, to mention just those that are most important).

Finally, in terms of efficiency, resources have made it possible to properly carry out the activities that were planned. Implementing organizations Madre Selva and Fundación Solar have professionals who are committed to the development of communities and implement their plans efficiently.

Regarding the impacts of the project, there is no question that the greatest impact of this project has been to offer a service that is essential to the quality of life and wellbeing of the families that live in all three communities. Every person interviewed expressed satisfaction over reduced spending and its impact on family finances; happiness to have electric power to carry out activities in the evening; dine as a family, have a conversation, read, write, work, watch movies, listen to the radio, spend time together as family. They also value their ability to vary their food, walk safely out in the streets, carry out other activities in schools, and ultimately be able to organize to undertake other activities that benefit the community. The project allows people to socialize more, which builds their self-esteem and, above all, highlights the importance of organization. This allows them to set new goals for their personal, family and collective wellbeing. It also helps to build their indigenous identity, essential to the recovery of their dignity, self-esteem and community organization. These communities are a point of reference for others and that has a positive impact on their self-esteem and on the pride that carrying out these processes of shared benefits gives them.

Finally, sustainability is determined by the more or less leading role that organized communities have in promoting initiatives, particularly of access to renewable energy as a basic human right. Strengthening this role and the management and operation of a microhydroelectric power plant are the main elements in the construction of a development model which is an alternative to dominant economic and territorial logics, and is based on their possibilities and dreams. In addition to making pilot experiences like these possible, this element helps them overcome territorial disputes and neoliberal logics that do not necessarily work in favor of communities and indigenous people in Guatemala.


For NCA: The comprehensive energy management program for and with indigenous peoples of Guatemala for the next 5 years reflects the experience, the lessons and the pillars aimed at strategic actions. It is necessary to:

  • Take care of outcomes and indicators in the design and development of projects according to the desired accomplishment in the proposed time frame.
  • Receive advice from specialists on project implementation to better guide technical procedures to build micro-hydroelectric power plants and productive processes, and to analyze their risks.

To fine-tune technical and political support tools that make it possible to visualize critical points and monitor them properly, as well as to establish exit strategies for processes currently underway;

  • To create synergies among organizations and communities to delve into lessons learned and community support strategies;
  • To enhance national and international discussions on autonomous clean energy models developed in communities in Guatemala; on new development and productivity models in indigenous communities in Guatemala; on food sovereignty and environmental impact; on defense of territory and autonomously-managed energy models.

For Norwegian Development Cooperation: To continue to make financial contributions in coming years for the Integrated Program designed by NCA and, jointly, to inquire about synergies that may be accomplished with national partners in other initiatives that receive development cooperation of the Norwegian government, particularly with the Maya Program.

For Madre Selva:

  • To keep and strengthen indigenous people and women’s identity and rights’ processes while emphasizing violence against women and participation at every level of administration and decision-making as concerns energy and the design of productive processes
  • To strengthen community management and risk processes in micro-basins
  • To strengthen community processes of operation and management of electric power, with women included in every level of the operation

For Fundación Solar:

  • To strengthen and improve political and social support, by enhancing community processes with ethnic-cultural and gender relevance
  • To strengthen community processes of risk management in the micro-basin
  • To design an exit strategy for Los Ángeles Ucubujá, particularly as concerns the relationship with the coffee mill and its alternatives

Comments from Norwegian Church Aid

NCA agrees and is confident of the findings, conclusions and recommendations of this evaluation. The methodology applied had extensive discussions and reflections with representative of the different actors involved. The evaluation confirms some findings previously identified by other assessments processes and reaffirms aspects related with lessons learned.

The evaluation it is oriented to the improvement because it gives a "feedback" about actions and interventions that have been carried out and, at the same time, proposes ways to improve and make progress. The evaluation is also expressed as a process of learning of the intervention itself.

The evaluation expresses responsibilities and accountability actions and their linkage to the commitments undertaken, both with the donor (NCA and others), but also with the communities targeted by the project. Reports what it has happened in the programmatic, financial, relationship and other levels.

NCA will closely follow up the implementation of the recommendations both by NCA itself as well as with the partners involved (FS and MS). A plan for follow up and learning will be developed jointly with the partners as part of the three years 2015-2017 agreement.

Publisert 28.10.2016
Sist oppdatert 31.10.2016