The Village That Discovered Light

Mushuk Llamas is a small village picturesquely perched on a hillside overlooking the Cordillera Escalera, a regional conservation area in Peru’s San Martin region. Historically, the community—presently made up of 25 families—supported itself through agriculture, primarily the cultivation of coffee.

In 2015, with the help of Pumarinri Lodge (owned by Tres Nortes Peru), the Mushuk Llamas community started to get involved in ecotourism and experiential tourism activities. Members of the community served as guides and porters helping travelers trek through the forest to the Pucayaquillo Waterfalls.

Part of the Mushuk Llamas appeal is its remoteness. The village is inaccessible by road, and getting there requires a two-hour hike. As a result, Mushuk Llamas has always been off the grid. The village’s only electricity comes from a gasoline generator, and is used to provide power to the school.

The situation in Mushuk Llamas came to the attention of an employee of Twende Solar while he was vacationing in Peru. Twende is a non-profit organization (based in Portland, OR) that is dedicated to empowering energy-deficient populations with renewable energy systems.

Twende, which means “let’s go” in Swahili, was founded in 2015. Twende addresses the needs of many communities like Mushuk Llamas, that are totally off-grid, where it’s not only cost-prohibitive to bring traditional electricity, but it could also have a negative environmental impact.

Members of the Mushuk Llamas community met with people from Twende, and they collectively agreed that putting a solar installation in the community was an ideal project for everyone. Also championing the idea was Lluis Dalmau, CEO of Peru Tres Nortes, and employer of many of the Mushuk Llamas residents.

Soon Twende set to work to buying the necessary solar equipment. It reached out to their network of like-minded companies, and received equipment donations–from solar panels to batteries–valued around $30,000*.

Twende also assembled 15 volunteers to come to Peru and help with the Mushuk Llamas solar installation. For ten days, the volunteers (who paid for their own travel expenses, and helped raise money for the project) worked beside the villagers, who not only carried the equipment over the two-hour hike to the village, but were instrumental in many aspects of the construction.

At 6:00 pm, on January 16, 2019, a switch was thrown, the solar-generated electricity began to flow, and community leader Apu Miguel called across the village, “Tenemos luz!” (We have light!).

The 7.2kW solar facility on the Mushuk Llamas hillside now pours electricity into the villages’s homes, the school and the small medical center. No longer do villagers spend half their days in the dark. Not only are meals are being prepared, homework being done and businesses being started, but with the help of Peru Tres Nortes, a community center that will be able to receive visitors is being built. Having light after the sun goes down also means new opportunity for social and leisure activities with family and friends, leading to an overall increased quality of life.

Thanks to Tres Nortes Peru, you now have the chance to visit Mushuk Llamas, and see the effect of its new solar installation yourself. You’ll also get to experience some of the benefits of the village’s new power by purchasing handicrafts and enjoying fresh coffee and meals—all things that were difficult, if not impossible, for the villagers to provide prior to the new power system. You’ll stay at the Pumarinri Lodge, and be able to explore many of the wonders of the Cordillera Escalera. Please see the trip below for details.

*Twende Solar and the people of Mushuk Llamas wish to thank the following companies for their donations to this project: SimpliPhi Power, Unirac, Signal Energy Construction, CED Greentech.