Al Jazeera

This documentary was produced for Al Jazeera’s “Witness” series and first broadcast on December 8, 2014.

Director: Nicolas Muñoz
Producers: Frederick Bernas, Ivan Pisarenko
Director of Photography: Leo La Valle
Editors: Raul Coronel, Frederick Bernas

Across Latin America the impact of poverty and climate change is bringing great stress to rural communities.

In arid northern Argentina, people have only one source of fuel – wood. It is often scrawny bushes that are increasingly hard to find.

But the region also has a huge untapped resource – solar radiation – and Virginia Bauso’s mission is to harness its potential and promote solar energy as the main power source for entire villages: from kitchens and ovens to heating, lighting, hot water and even a public phone.

She roams the desert spreading innovative technology, including a “kiosk” she invented that cooks food using the sun’s rays. The community of Misa Rumi is now almost 100 percent solar-functional. Another village recently built a solar quinoa dryer, creating new opportunities for employment.

As deforestation and desertification continue to ravage Argentina and beyond, Bauso’s vision could play a major role in charting a sustainable path to energy independence.

Seizing Solar Power explores how solar energy improves rural life on multiple levels by documenting its impact – in the fields of agriculture, education, health and business, as well as power – and contrasting this with isolated communities that are yet to adopt Bauso’s groundbreaking tools.