Alexander Eaton

Ashoka Fellow
,
Fellow Since 2011
Instituto Internacional de Recursos Renovables

Citation

This profile was prepared when Alexander Eaton was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2011.
The New Idea
By engaging rural famers in a comprehensive, multi-stepped process consisting of financing, installation, training, and long-term accompaniment in the use of appropriate biodigester systems, Alex is fostering a new culture of sustainable resource management in Mexico and Central America. Motivated by a desire to inspire a sense of dignity among poor farming communities that have long been ensnared in a cycle of poverty, Alex and his Sistema Biobolsa team are working to fundamentally change farmers’ attitudes about their ability to change their own lives. Through the significant health and lifestyle benefits that the biodigester and its outputs offer, as well as the opportunity to take advantage of better rural technology in general, Sistema Biobolsa is revolutionizing the relationship between small-scale rural farmers and energy use in a way that is both sustainable and empowering for their particular needs.

In Alex’s view, the biodigester is not an end in and of itself, but rather the means to change rural farmers’ energy use and their perception of their own conditions. Initiatives that use biogas technology to produce renewable energy are well-known around Asia, Africa, and in some parts of Latin America, yet generally they have failed to produce long-lasting, systems-changing results. To overcome these challenges, Alex has designed a new, high-quality yet affordable biodigester that is expressly tailored to the particular needs of a small-scale farmer. Through a relatively easy-to-use technology, farmers can transform their animal waste—which they normally pile in their fields—into an odorless gas usable for cooking or heating water and into an organic fertilizer, for use in further crop production. Alex inspires farmers to consider new ways to integrate renewable and sustainable technology into their lives. He educates farmers in topics of sustainability, energy efficiency, and resource management in the close maintenance activities between the technicians and the farmers. The farmers begin to understand renewable energy and their impact on their community to a far greater extent than ever before. By incorporating close user follow-up, a culturally sensitive education program to bring and keep new users in the program, and an economically and sustainable strategy for both the farmers and Alex’s organization, Alex has created a bold and powerful project far distinguished from other projects with a similar technology around the world, with a greater mission of raising a culture of waste and resource consciousness.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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