Water Harvesting Project: Las Magueyes and La Palma, Guanajuato, Mexico
The impetus for this project came when a woman from Las Magueyes, a tiny rural community in the central Mexican highlands, heard on the radio about Rotary's water harvesting projects and attended on her own a meeting of the San Miguel de Allende Midday Rotary Club to say that her community desperately needed clean water. With the assistance of SMA Midday Rotary and its cooperating organization CEDESA, she and some of her neighbors created a list of families who were interested in participating in a project, and having determined that there was sufficient interest, the Middletown CT and Calgary Chinook (Canada) Clubs were approached regarding support of a project focusing on Las Magueyes and a nearby community, La Palma. Many families in these two communities had either no drinking water at all or well water which was contaminated with flouride and arsenic.
Once funding was secured (from the three clubs and from Rotary District 7980), community residents held a series of meetings to make potential participants aware of the obligations of participation and construction. A final list of families was determined, and a series of meetings took place with the support of CEDESA. Participants were taught how to run and participate in meetings and they elected a coordinator. The families committed to the attendance of at least one member at all meetings, to attend the demonstration/pilot construction days to learn the technical skills required to then build their own cisterns, and then be prepared to work in groups of 4-6 families to construct all of the cisterns for all of the families in that group (co-operatively). 3 work groups of families were formed and 2 leaders were appointed as the "go-to" people for each group. Members of the communities developed themselves a prioritization of the families in need.
A pilot cistern was then constructed and this demonstration served as a train the trainers event. Each group was represented by at least 2 people who attended all 4 days and hence learned the construction process from beginning to end. They made all key decisions about the process, including the amount of materials needed and the order of construction. Although in some communities it has been necessary to hire a mason for the concrete application, participants in Las Magueyes and La Palma had the necessary masonry skills and were able to complete all elements of the work themselves. This also meant that the community members understood fully how the cisterns work and can readily carry out the minimal but important maintenance required in future years.
Following completion of the pilot cistern, the three mutual aid work groups began construction of the remaining cisterns, and all cisterns in Las Magueyes and La Palma were completed by the middle of April. Completion by this date was very important in order to be ready for the rainy season, which in this part of Mexico begins in late spring. The rain which falls during the coming season will fill the cisterns and provide sufficient water for families of up to 14 members for the next year. A celebration of the project's completion was held on April 19, 2013.
While the project technically ends with the completion of the cisterns, its effects will continue indefinitely. The families will continue to conduct community meetings and seek solutions to the many other health, education and development needs of their communities. They will now be an ongoing part of COCIRA, the regional citizens council in this part of rural Mexico. Through COCIRA they will work to address issues such as sanitary waste, food production and processing, and health. Their experience working together on this project will help them immensely in their work with neighbor communities, as they identify common issues and work together to obtain solutions. And the participating families now have permanent and affordable access to clean water for drinking and cooking. The adults and children in the participating families will avoid the major health problems caused by the contaminated well water in their area, especially the disease of flourosis. Educational and socio-economic progress will no longer be hampered by the effects of these health issues on the children and their parents.
Click here for a video on this project.
For more information contact Howard Reid