THE INGENIOUS CANOE-SOLAR BUS THAT CROSSES THE AMAZON
The first solar canoe in the Amazon concluded its twenty-five-day trip on five major rivers, Ecuador and Peru, in Achuar territory. The promoters of the Kara Solar project , the entire Achuar people and a team coordinated by a young American had just demonstrated that a clean and community-based means of transport could operate in the depths of the jungle. This boat powered exclusively by solar energy is the realization of a dream: to put technology at the service of indigenous peoples and the environment, and at the same time preserve their identity.
Kara means ‘dream’, the dream of our Achuar ancestors. This boat is a kara , a dream come true, “says Hilario Saant, a 52-year-old Achuar who lives in Kapawi and participated in his first trip.
With a roof of 32 solar panels mounted on a traditional canoe of 16 meters long and two wide, Tapiatpia embodies the fusion of modern technology with ancestral knowledge. Made with fiberglass instead of wood to extend its useful life, the canoe borrowed its design from the typical boat of the indigenous people of northern Ecuador. After several studies of navigability, it turned out to be the model that best adapts to the Amazonian conditions.
Since April 2017, the canoe driven by solar energy travels 67 km along the banks of the Pastaza and Capahuari rivers, uniting nine Achuar villages located in the south of the Ecuadorian Amazon, as a means of ecological and cheap transportation . The canoe, however, was built hundreds of kilometers to the north, in the oil province of Sucumbíos. It is in this region strongly affected by pollution, taking advantage of the roads and other infrastructure created by the oil industry, that Kara Solar’s team gave birth to the dream that will allow the Achuar to enter the centers more easily. of medical and educational services, and that will encourage commerce.
The name of the canoe, Tapiatpia , responds to the enormous electric fish of an Amazonian legend that helps the animals of the forest to cross the river. Once assembled and put into service, all that remained was to bring it to the Achuar region. A place where there are no roads and that can only be reached by light plane or boat.
The ship, built according to the traditional model, left the Amazon jungle in northern Ecuador last March and arrived in the village of Sharresa Achuar in the southeast of the country almost a month later. And always in the water. Tapiatpia traveled a total of 1,800 kilometers , descending the Aguarico and Napo rivers to the city of Iquitos, Peru, and then up the Amazon to Marañón and Pastaza a little further. A unique odyssey
Previously, the community depended entirely on gasoline canoes, known as small ones , but they are expensive and only owned by a few families per village.
The canoe costs the passengers only $ 1 for each stop, while the small ones cost $ 5-10 in gas for the same trip. Gasoline costs five times more there than in the capital, Quito, because there are no roads.
The Achuar is an Amazonian community that spans the border between Ecuador and Peru, with a total of around 19,000 people. Their culture focuses on the importance of dreams and visions and they believe in Arutam, the spirit of the rainforest.
Semi-nomadic until the arrival of Christian missionaries in the 1940s, they now live in small villages, sustaining themselves through hunting, fishing and farming. Their remote location has allowed them to preserve their lifestyle.
And the canoe helps strengthen the resistance of the community against road construction.
“Having no roads helps us to maintain our culture, to have the wisdom not to forget what the Achuar culture really is,” says René Canelos, a 27-year-old from Sharamentsa, one of the villages served by the canoe.
The arrival of roads to indigenous communities in northern Ecuador and Peru has led to the development and exploration of oil, and with it, deforestation.
The government of Ecuador has argued that the roads will improve the access of the Achuar to medical care and education, so the canoe helps the community to demonstrate that they can manage without them.