Mexico: Where Renewables Make Salad Grow
Mexico: Where Renewables Make Salad Grow
In the area around the Vientos del Altiplano wind farm, small vegetable gardens have been started that guarantee that local food needs are met and help to develop the local trade of fruit and vegetables. An EGP project in collaboration with the Chapingo Autonomous University, which has given shape to a model of sustainable domestic agriculture.
Is it easier to build 50 wind turbines, or cultivate 50 heads of lettuce? If you ask the residents of the municipalities of Mazapil and Villa de Cos, in the Mexican state of Zacatecas, you might get the answer: “It depends”. In the region of the Altopiano, it rains very little, there is a lot of sun and wind: favourable conditions for a wind farm, but not for cultivating food.
In this mountainous area, Enel Green Power built the Vientos del Altiplano wind farm, able to generate more than 280 GWh. A complex and challenging job, launched in 2015 and finished in November 2016, which was not limited to just the implementation of technology to produce clean energy.
While our construction site saw 50 turbines grow towards the sky, below, we were laying the groundwork for a shared project with the local population to start cultivation able to overcome the difficult environmental conditions and produce needed food for the residents of the area.
"With this plant, we’re working towards goals of clean energy generation for Mexico as well as the creation of shared value for communities through sustainable agriculture."
Paolo Romanacci, Country Manager for Enel Green Power in Mexico and Central America
The Challenges: Gardens and Water
In the state of Zacatecas, water is a valuable resource that is not easily accessible. The residents of the communities near our plant, in the towns of Majoma, Mazapil, Primero de Mayo and Villa de Cos, have to deal with low precipitation and high levels of salinity in the water.
"The development of agriculture in the area has historically been limited to the cultivation of corn, beans and chili peppers in the mildest periods of the year."
Thanks to a collaboration with the Chapingo Autonomous University, we created a progressive process of technology and educational transfer to the local populations, in order to start up new cultivation of fruit and vegetables, in different periods of the year, that are able to meet the nutrition needs of the inhabitants of the area.
The first phase of the project, launched in an experimental phase in 2016, involved schools and families in carrying out the first kinds cultivation able to overcome the harsh winters.
University engineers taught 20 housewives and 20 young students how to cultivate oats and prickly pears in five different plots divided between home gardens and schoolyards.
Given the success of the first phase of experimentation, the project has grown, now with a 10 gardens growing garlic, broccoli, lettuce, cabbage and onions, produce that is not native, but is suited to the low winter temperatures and that don’t require large quantities of water and meet local nutrition needs.
From Consumption to Trade
The gardens of the Altiplano now produce vegetables in up to three different seasonal cycles. Cultivation is carried out by the local population, diversified based on season and designed for consumption of the families of the project, but not only that.
"Of the 1,800 plants produced in a garden on average, 30% go to direct consumption and the remaining 70% is sold on the local market."
The experimental cultivation carried out by women and children in the communities of Mazapil and Villa de Cos has become a small example of how to develop an agricultural economy, which also allows the families to save the 150-km trip to the city of Zacatecas to buy fruit and vegetables.
Technologies to desalinise the water for cultivation, small greenhouses to protect the plants from the sun, techniques of drip irrigation and ecological agriculture all guarantee healthy nutrition to the families of the area, as well as earnings of almost 2,000 dollars a year from the sale of products and a savings of more than 800 dollars in purchasing food that is made in Vientos del Altiplano.