As noted above (under “Community Boat”) La Libertad position on the Amazon River 20km from Leticia meaning it is fairly isolated and dependent on river transport for contact with the “outside world”. However, diesel fuel is expensive and can be a limiting factor in ensuring the village have access to supplies, health care, and opportunities for economic development.
Biofuels have been cited in recent years as a potential solution to issues of rural development (by providing an economic, locally-sourced fuel and localised employment opportunities). A number of studies have indicated the potential for developing biofuels in the Amazon region:
- Jennifer Wood’s dissertation - A Role for Biofuels In The Drug Wars?
The villagers have access to land surrounding La Libertad (each family has a “chagra” in which their subsistence crops are tendered). There is the potential therefore that the chagras could be used to grow biofuel crops which could then (following processing) be used in an adapted biofuel boat engine. (Excess fuel could also be sold to neighbouring villages). It is understood that each family own their own chagra so communal growth of biofuels would need to be considered.
Suggested next steps:
Given the potential benefits from growing and processing biofuels, but also the complexity of the issue, further study is needed to better understand the situation specific to La Libertad and viability of the enterprise.
The project could form the basis of a university-level dissertation, focussing on the following aspects:
o Viability of jatropha in the Amazon region, and other potential biofuels
o Technical requirements for processing crops to produce usable fuels
o Economic viability of biofuels (i.e. cost per litre of traditional fuel vs. cost per litre of biofuel production) taking into account initial investment required, and on-going crop growth and processing costs
o Anticipated environmental impact of small scale biofuel growth
o Requirements for (and feasibility of) adapting traditional diesel engine to run on biofuels.