Stories articles Amazonia

The workshop supported by Nia Tero was led by Indigenous technicians from Fundación Kara Solar in Achuar language. Photo: Kara Solar Foundation.

The workshop supported by Nia Tero was led by Indigenous technicians from Fundación Kara Solar in Achuar language. Photo: Kara Solar Foundation.

March 19, 2024

Indigenous-Led Workshop Kicks Off Internet Installations for Achuar Communities in the Amazon

The Kara Solar Foundation trained four Achuar communities in Ecuador to increase connectivity and strengthen Indigenous guardianship.

In February, a workshop led by and for Achuar People trained members of four Indigenous communities on how to install solar-powered internet stations within their territories in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

With the support of Nia Tero, the trainings were held in Puyo, the capital of Pastaza Province in Ecuador, by Achuar technicians from the Kara Solar Foundation – an Ecuadorian non-profit that builds solar-powered river transportation and energy networks through a partnership between the Achuar People and local allies. The workshop was held in the Achuar People's native language, and with an emphasis on upholding Indigenous sovereignty in knowledge transmission.

This training model – developed for the Wichimi, Wampuik, Charapacocha, and Chichirat communities – serves as inspiration for an ambitious future rollout of internet installations across the region, while ensuring that Indigenous Peoples lead the process of increasing connectivity for the benefit of their communities, further strengthening governance within their territories.

“The aim is for the participants to become new technicians in their own communities in the future, thus being able to provide services and maintenance for internet equipment,” said Angel Wasump, a member of the Wayusenta community working with the Kara Solar Foundation. “This workshop strengthens autonomy in Achuar territories.”

Workshop participants learned how to install and configure satellite internet, which included setting up smart routers and content filters. This equips Indigenous communities to independently determine the amount, frequency, and type of global internet content accessible to their members.

“The challenge is to enable connectivity that positively serves Indigenous guardianship while minimizing negative impacts on Indigenous cultural continuity,” said Marc Ballandras, Director of Innovation and Infrastructure at Nia Tero.

The workshop also trained participants to install and maintain a basic solar power system to provide electricity for the internet station as well as for the new technology in their areas, if required.

By gaining access to high-bandwidth, reliable, and affordable internet connectivity, Indigenous communities will be able to more easily communicate with each other and use the internet to engage and share information on a global scale.

Solar Powered Connectivity

Solar power has become a key element of life in Achuar territory. Since 2018, members of the Achuar People have partnered with engineers, anthropologists, communicators, and other allies through the Kara Solar Foundation to reduce the use of gas-powered boats in favor of a sustainable alternative. As a result, the Achuar have not only embraced electric transportation powered by solar energy, but have also begun using solar power to operate computers, including in local schools that serve their communities.

“I want to teach [the Achuar youth] about computers, about technology and the correct use of the internet, which is very important,” Luis Mukucham, an Indigenous school principal in Achuar territory, told The Washington Post.

Alliances With the Indigenous Youth

The four communities chosen for the internet installation workshop are home to young Indigenous leaders who participated in Nia Tero's Leadership Fellows Program in Amazonia for 2023. Grounded in Indigenous teaching methods, the fellowship aims to empower younger generations to assume essential leadership roles within their territories, rooted in ancestral knowledge passed down through their communities.

Partnering with Indigenous youth and centering their aspirations for their communities, with the guidance of traditional leaders, is a core aspect of Nia Tero’s work in the Amazon. Indigenous youth play an essential role in leading their territories on the use of new technologies, as they have the potential to address technical challenges and advise community leaders about best practices.

“One of the beautiful elements of the program has been allowing fellows to discover new and contemporary solutions with the guidance of their traditional leaders. By doing so, we continue to learn new ways to respond to the needs of the communities,” said Joel Cerda, Andes Amazon Lead and Leadership Fellows Program Coordinator at Nia Tero.