Environmental conflicts produced by economic development and natural resources exploitation, are discussed. Main causes of conflicts in developing countries were shown to arise from geographically external investments, inefficiency of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), and the lack of communication between government and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs). Citizen participation can only intervene during late stages of the EIA, which is considered as one of the main shortcomings in satisfying demands of local people.
This study aims to assess the potential of solar energy technology for improving access to water and hence the livelihood strategies of rural communities in Baja California Sur, Mexico. It focuses on livestock ranches and photovoltaic water-pumptechnology as well as other water extraction methods. The methodology used are the Sustainable Livelihoods and the Appropriate Technology approaches. A household survey was applied in June of 2006 to 32 ranches in the municipality, of which 22 used PV pumps; and semi-structured interviews were conducted. Findings indicate that solar pumps have in fact helped people improve their quality of life by allowing them to pursue a different livelihood strategy and that improved access to water -not necessarily as more water but as less effort to extract and collect it- does not automatically imply overexploitation of the resource; consumption is based on basic needs as well as on storage and pumping capacity. Justification for such systems lies in the avoidance of logistical problems associated to fossil fuels, PV pumps proved to be the most beneficial when substituting gasoline or diesel equipment but of dubious advantage if intended to replace wind or gravity systems. Solar water pumping technology-s main obstacle to dissemination are high investment and repairs costs and it is therefore not suitable for all cases even when insolation rates and water availability are adequate. In cases where affordability is not an obstacle it has become an important asset that contributes –by means of reduced expenses, less effort and saved time- to the improvement of livestock, the main livelihood provider for these ranches.