Luisa Siquerira | Brazil | 7 November 2016
I first started working with JTI as an Operations Trainee in 2009. Since then I’ve worked in the Utility Department and the Maintenance Department, and in 2013 I became the Coordinator for the Maintenance Planning and Control Department in Brazil. In 2014, I was selected to become a Field Project Supervisor, which is my current role. Part of my responsibilities include coordinating the ARISE Program. I’m also responsible for JTI’s Grower Support Program and Community Investment activities.
The Project was inspired by the need to create sustainable strategies that ensure the continuity of the ARISE after school activities. We want to make sure that the workshops can financially support themselves in the long-term. How the Project works is that solar panels generate green energy at José Luchese School in Lagoa Bonita do Sul, and help to reduce the school’s energy bills. The government has pledged to use the budget savings to maintain an ARISE Program after school workshop.
We believe that the Project is a key step for the sustainability of the ARISE Program. The fact that the after school workshop can continue without ARISE is what makes it sustainable. Looking at the big picture, the system also contributes to the reduction of global warming because solar energy is considered an energy source that preserves natural resources. As an alternative energy source, the panels can prevent the flooding of fertile land for new hydroelectric dams, and the use of firewood, cooking gas and diesel that traditionally power the turbines that create electricity. The Project also contributes to many of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, for example Quality Education, Clean and Accessible Energy, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Action Against Global Climate Change, and Partnerships.
The Project was developed by JTI but we had some important partners that also contributed and helped to make it happen. The Governor and First Lady of Rio Grande do Sul were also involved, as was the State Secretary of Education, and the Regional Education Office. The Principal of Jose Luchese School also got involved, as did the ARISE team in Brazil. JTI led the engagements with the Government, and the installation of the solar panels. It was also responsible for raising awareness in the school regarding the importance of this investment.
The children were interested to learn more about solar energy and they developed Projects about renewable energy and how to ensure a better future through conscientious attitudes. Actually there was also side-benefit of the Project that the students appreciate. The school had received 30 computers from the Federal Government as part of a program to promote digital inclusion. Unfortunately, because of the lack of capacity in the power grid, they were never put to use and were stored in a closet. Now, because of the Photovoltaic Project, the power grid has been resized and the school now has a computer lab at the school which is used by the pupils for learning. For the community and farmers, it’s actually been a good opportunity to learn more about the importance of renewable energy, a topic that is not discussed frequently in Brazil. They appreciate it because it helps to guarantee a better future for themselves and their children. I’ve even heard reports that some of the farmers have started to get estimates for installing solar panels in their homes and tobacco kilns.
The Project is already considered successful! The panels started generating energy in September this year, and in the first month estimated savings were almost BRL 790 (approx. US $240). The after school workshops promised by the Rio Grande do Sul State Government began on 18 October. In my opinion, a successful social Project is one that, even without funding, can continue to provide benefit. In this case, there are about 40 teenagers, two workshops of 20 adolescents, who are directly prevented from engaging in child labor after school hours. In fact, it was so successful that our team in Brazil is even thinking about trying to replicate it in other states to cover a larger number of adolescents and JTI farmers.