Creating Sustainable Communities in Puerto Rico (AMANESER 2025)
The Alliance for Sustainable Resources Management (AMANESER 2025) is an ecumenical network of grassroots organizations whose purpose is to promote sustainability in Puerto Rico so that the island can design its development as “prosperous, fair, democratic, sustainable and happy.”
To this end, AMANESER 2025 is beginning to equip local communities with the organizational and material resources to improve their resiliency in the midst of natural disasters and to reduce the community’s dependency on outside assistance in responding to these disasters. Material resources provided to the community include:
- solar energy panels
- community refrigeration system
- rainwater harvesting system, which can hold 2,000-4,000 gallons
- individual water filters that can filter up to 30,000 gallons
- battery operated communication devices
Each community will develop their own strategic plan for becoming a more sustainable community in the face of climate change. In walking with the community, AMANASER 2025 will provide technical and organizational training. Through this process, each community will come together to write a vision statement, identify priority areas, and develop strategies and activities to work toward their vision for the future.
Over the past year, 19 workshops and 50 educational meeting have been offered by AMANESER 2025, training over 200 community leaders, cooperative members, trade unionists, religious leaders, academics, and professionals in climate change and energy democracy. Since Hurricane Maria struck in 2017, the majority of the population of Puerto Rico has learned that public services do not work for them, and that the privatization of the Electric Power Authority is harmful to their communities in the face of climate change and natural disasters. With growing individualism and privatization, and the impact of climate change beginning to strike home, some have begun to be receptive towards solutions that will create sustainable and resilient communities capable of dealing with larger hurricanes and storms. The connections between climate change and Christian spirituality are at the core of AMANESER 2025’s work, and in the coming years they will be facilitating conversations addressing climate change as a social, moral, and religious issue.
The work of AMANESER 2025 can be felt in Veguita Zama—a rural community, in the remote and isolated village of Jayuya. There is limited access to services and opportunities—a situation that worsens after large storms cut access to power and drinking water. After Hurricane Maria, the community of Veguita Zama was forgotten by almost everyone, further complicating the situation. The community was without power from the Electric Power Authority for nine months, and during that time the community center that AMANESER 2025 helped establish continued to distribute materials, provisions, and aid to the local residents in large part due to the solar panel systems and training they provided. Two of the three systems with which the center operated were developed through AMANESER 2025. The first began operating early in 2018 and the installation was used as part of the workshops being offered to community leaders on sustainable resilience. Along with solar panels, water filters and replacement cartridges were distributed that will allow the community to filter more than 7,000 gallons of water and a small office refrigerator that was installed to preserve medicines for the local residents. The community of Veguita Zama is not waiting for someone to come and solve their problems, they are doing it themselves with assistance and training from AMANESER 2025.
Despite this progress, there is a strong resistance to change in the region. One year after Maria, people have begun to return to their lives before the storm. Many of the participants of the workshops want to build large solar panel systems in order to continue living as before María—lifestyles that consumed unsustainable amounts of power. However, through education and training, local residents are beginning to desire to change their lifestyles.
As AMANESER 2025 prepares for 2019, they are seeking to expand their message through Puerto Rico. In the past year AMANESER 2025 has been making the most with limited resources, but thanks to the contributions received by special gifts, including Global Ministries support, AMANESER 2025 has been encouraging hope and empowerment in the communities where they have worked.
Juan Rosario, of AMANESER 2025, was present for the 2019 General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and the 2019 General Synod of the United Church of Christ. During the workshops at both events, Juan spoke about the current work of AMANESER 2025.
Juan affirmed that the mission of AMANESER 2025 is to collaborate in the creation of self-reliant and sufficient communities. In pursuing this mission AMANESER 2025 has been hard at work since Hurricane Maria. AMANESER 2025 has deployed many small back-up power systems which are made up of one kilowatt inverters and batteries. These systems can power a refrigerator, lights, medical devices, radio, or other small appliances. These systems are being installed in thirteen communities throughout Puerto Rico. Many of these communities didn’t have any power for nine months following Maria, and still rely heavily on these back-up systems when intermittent power outages occur. In many communities, these outages still occur about once a week.
AMANESER 2025 now is working with communities to deploy larger systems that are 2.5 kw converters. This increased capacity can run a whole house. The goal of these systems is not to replace the power grid, but to create resilient communities that through community organizing can build back-up power sources that enable them to avoid the pain and suffering that was experienced after Hurricane Maria. AMANESER 2025 has been testing these 2.5 kw systems.
AMANESER 2025 also is excited to continue working with additional communities to help them organize themselves to secure sustainable back-up energy grids for their community. AMANESER 2025 is working with five new communities that already have received training to build and install their systems. One of these communities is Borinquen Atravesada, which is a community that suffered greatly after Maria. Part of AMANESER 2025’s model is to try and place at least one system into many different communities so that other communities nearby might become interested as well.
Juan explained one important part of AMANESER 2025’s work is overcoming a growing sense of individualism in Puerto Rico by emphasizing a communal response to hardship. To do this, AMANESER 2025 requires communities to attend community meetings and work together to donate toward future systems to be placed in other communities, as well as being training to install and maintain the systems. All of this is done as a community.
In the future, AMANESER 2025 will continue to work with communities on building rain harvesting and water purification systems, as well as training communities to grow their own food.
In the last two years, AMANESER 2025 participated in several important policy changes. AMANESER 2025 helped to advocate for a new energy policy that was established. This policy states that by 2050, 100% of the electricity in Puerto Rico will be from renewable sources. Additionally, the Puerto Rico Power Authority presented a modified integrated resource plan which held some concerns for AMANESER 2025 and other environmental organizations. Together, with more than a dozen environmental organizations, AMANESER 2025 participated in more than twenty public meetings, administrative hearings, presentations, and strategic sessions to convince the Energy Bureau not to approve this new integrated resource plan. The plan was approved, but with important modifications denying the construction of two gas terminals in Yaboucoa and Mayaguez.
The COVID-19 pandemic affected the work of AMANESER 2025 greatly. For three months, AMANESER 2025 was unable to hold its regular meetings. AMANESER 2025 was able then to adapt and find new ways to operate amid the pandemic. AMANESER 2025 developed new social media strategies and a YouTube channel with videos to help disseminate some of its information. Also, they worked to provide masks and preventative care to the communities it works alongside of. In 2020, 75 individuals were trained on climate change, 32 individuals were trained on renewable energy, 19 individuals enrolled in the sustainable energy program, and 12 systems were partially installed. As parts have become hard to come by during the pandemic, many of these systems are awaiting parts for completion. AMANESER 2025 also continued its work developing a rainwater retention system in Jayuya.
Even amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, AMANESER 2025 has continued to find ways to walk alongside communities in Puerto Rico. In the first part of 2021, AMANESER held 15 workshops focused on building climate change resilient communities, and 30 workshops on the installation of solar panel systems. Six systems were purchased, which was challenging given supply-chain complications. To address these complications, AMANESER is working to become an importer of affordable materials needed for solar panel system upkeep. By doing this AMANESER will help to keep these systems sustainable and ready. AMANESER also increased its capacity to support communities with solar panel systems by recruiting a new part-time employee who works 30 hours per month helping to create and upkeep systems.
AMANESER continues to reach out to new communities in Puerto Rico. They have recently begun working with communities in Cidra and will soon install equipment in Yabucoa. There is also interest in the local governments of Lares, Yabucoa, Cayey and Comerio.
The Alliance for Sustainable Resources Management (AMANESER 2025) is an ecumenical network of grassroots organizations whose purpose is to promote sustainability in Puerto Rico so that the island can design its development as “prosperous, fair, democratic, sustainable and happy.” To this end, AMANESER 2025 is beginning to equip local communities with the organizational and material resources needed to improve their resiliency in the midst of natural disasters and to reduce the community’s dependency on outside assistance in responding to these disasters.
As AMANESER 2025’s work in Puerto Rico continues, they’ve come across challenges that provide opportunities for growth. One such challenge is servicing damaged equipment. As a solution, they have dedicated a line item in their budget for acquiring extra pieces of equipment that AMANESER members can utilize while their primary equipment is under repair.
Another challenge they’ve faced is a lack of technical skills needed within each community to troubleshoot and maintain the equipment on the installed systems. In response, as part of AMANESER’s growth plan, they are in the beginning stages of creating a vocational training institute. They have contacted several organizations to teach some of the workshops that will empower the local communities to work on their own equipment and to be self-sustainable.
In the same way, AMANESER has observed a new model taking shape for system installation. After consulting an expert in the installation of photovoltaic systems, they have established that the minimum cost for installing the solar part of one of their systems is $800. The new installation model would split this cost among all stakeholders, which includes the trained facility leaders and supervisors, AMANESER themselves, the resident who is receiving the system, and volunteers.
The long-term goal for this model would be to establish permanent jobs in the community. It also preserves the neighbors’ social contribution while addressing a serious economic gap between unemployed young and old age groups. This model would also meet the needs of older people who would like to install one of AMANESER’s systems but do not have the physical capacity to participate in the installation process.
In general, AMANESER has been acquiring and installing more equipment in more communities. Two teams were installed in Yabucoa, four teams in Humacao, and three teams in Bayamón. Additionally, several components of a team in Veguita Zama were replaced, including the inverter. This replacement speaks to AMANESER’s commitment that when there is more robust equipment available than what was originally installed, they would replace the originals with a favorable arrangement for the neighbors. During these installations, community members were trained in the installation of these systems. Participation was excellent, and several people traveled from one community to another to support the work.
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- 100% of your gift will be directed to Creating Sustainable Communities in Puerto Rico (AMANESER 2025)
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