Home to 90,000 inhabitants, the city of Riberalta sits in the Amazonian part of Bolivia; it’s a charming township in the Beni state – also known as “department.” Riberalta is the site of two rivers, Madre de Dios and Beni River. These rivers are tributaries of the world’s second largest: the Amazon.
Rumor has it that Riberalta is one of the world’s top Brazil nut production sites. In fact, when the Missouri & Oklahoma team went on an initial trip to scope out the area of the electrification project, we visited villages there were mostly filled with women and children. We asked about the men’s whereabouts, and we were told they were out in the fields of the rainforest. The reason? It was harvest time for Brazil nuts. To many families, this is their livelihood.
Our team got a taste of the nuts – they were delicious! While attending a board meeting at Cooperativa Electrica Riberalta (CER), one of their employees served bottles of coke and orange soda as well as small serving dishes of Brazil nuts. The nuts are so abundant in the area that CER’s former biomass plan was fueled by Brazilian nutshells.
The villages that the Missouri & Oklahoma crews will electrify this year are in the outskirts of Riberalta. Thankfully for the locals (and for us), Riberalta is home to most of the basic services a community would need: healthcare, schools, banks, hotels, restaurants and some retail. All of these services are available in a modest manner compared to the living standards in the U.S., but still, we’re thankful for the resources close to the village electrification sites.
The climate in Riberalta is tropical. The initial trip in February took place in their summer when temperatures ranged from 85 to 90F. The construction phase of the project will take place in August during their winter and driest season. Average temperatures will be around 65 to 80F. Due to the tropical climate and all the river waters in Riberalta, this is also an area for a higher influx of mosquitoes. In fact, one of the local lineman came down with the Zika virus a day after we left. Thankfully, everyone in our group stayed healthy.
I did come back with my fair share of mosquito bites. I had several rashes. But I’d do it all over again. Even with mosquito bites, the heat, long travel and without some of my usual conveniences (like reliable wi-fi), it was the trip of a lifetime and worth every minute.
View of the City of Riberalta
One of the Board Meetings we attended at Cooperativa Electric Riberalta (CER). Notice small dish with Brazil nuts by the Coca-Cola bottle.