13 July 2007

Nicaragua: Boaco, P, N, & M

13 julio Boaco, P_____, N____, M____ (town names supressed because projects still in proposal stage - sorry!)

We got to P____ first thing in the morning and met up with a woman named Christina. She has a beautiful and clean yellow and blue house with a patio garden on the side.
Jaime started the conversation by introducing the project as a possible project. When asked about health, she said that people got diarrhea and began vomiting when they drink the water from another well; it is contaminated (the N____ well). There are other wells that are privately owned. There are three wells in all, but all are manual.
there is a Water Committee that regulates the water in 7 houses by monitoring how much people take from the well and resolve problems regarding the well. They also have a tariff system, though it is sometimes difficult to get people to pay this.
In regard to sharing the water with the other two communities of M____ and N____, Christina said that they are happy to share the water. The three communities are related by families and have a long history together. The 30m. well was dug by E about 3 years ago and pumps 80 gallons per minute, which Christina described as an “ocean of water”. When we told her about Bramadero’s well that pumps 8 gallons per minute, she said that they and San Jeronimo are suffering, those “pobrecitos”.
Who uses P____’s water? 7 families (5,3,5,6,7,4,4) with 34 people total plus 6 people from the outskirts of the community, totaling 40.
Asked about health conditions. Everyone has a latrine. There is more infirmity during the winter due to mosquitoes. Children in P____ have less sickness than in the other two communities because they have easier access to clean water.
Victor then joined us to show us the proposed site for the tank that will serve the other two communities through gravity-fed system. The tank would be 2km from N____ and 3km to M____. The topographical studies still needs to be done before we can be sure that the gravity-fed system will work.
History of the community: all three communities were formed at about the same time with the first house originally on the same plot of land as the tank will be situated on.
As we viewed the area, Victor said that the previous crop was lost due to lack of water because the rain was not as great this past year. There is currently no irrigation system in the communities.

We went on to M____ to check on the next closest community that would be the beneficiary of the water. They have gone to other wells in the past, but health officials have told them not to drink the water in the closest well. The harvests have small crops which continues the cycle of poverty in the community. Their Committee of Water numbers 12, and the community has 19 houses.
When asked about water conditions, members of the community said that there is no money for latrines; the mayor only helps some. Infirmities include gripe, diarrhea, stomach pains, and laceo (?). their health affects their ability to work.
We went to the first well, which is a manually-operated pump which required 24 revolutions for water to come. The others we spoke with said that they only use the water for bathing and washing (there are two stalls for bucket showers and a wsashboard next to the well), but the women who lived next door to the well said that she drinks the water without issue. It is difficult to understand anything quantifiable or universally accepted.
No one drinks from the second well which is described as salty. It is only for animals and for washing. E pumped the well a long time ago. Irrigation is not possible because the water would dry up the crops. Maria Therese was our model for pumping and washing at this pump.
The 3rd pump (manual pump with exposed rope) apparently does not always have water but is clean water and the only one used for drinking. It is dry April to September, during which time they have to go to P____. When this well needs maintenance, there is a soda can top used to stop the rope from slipping down. Some lucky person is lowered down the well with some chlorine and manually scrubs the sides of the well before getting to the bottom when they scrape the sludge out of the bottom of the well.

We went to M____ next where Marisol and her husband spoke with us. There are 6 houses in the community woth 26 people (5,6,5,6,2,2). Major crops include maize, sorghum, wheat and beans. Every house has a little cattle and small farm parcels (though they work the abuelo’s farm). There are 7 people on the Water Committee which was originally convened when E dug a well a number of years ago.
The well closest to their family is salty and undrinkable. The west well has arsenic in even more concentrated doses than before. There is also an issue with the pump. What happens when they drink the water? It is very dangerous to drink, they said. People get fevers, vomit immediately after drinking, and the animals won’t touch it. It is warmer water. They drink from [barrilon] in the summer. Marisol goes to this well three times per day, requiring 20-30 minutes per trip. The well has water November to January. Sometimes they drink from the stream water, but there are microbes and pesticides that contaminate the water. They sometimes chlorinate this. In March, there is no water to this well but comes back in May and June. There is no arsenic in the stream well and 4 varas of water. The stream well was created in the 90s.
There is one private well and water catchment systems for the 6 houses. They had another well before, but it was destroyed during Hurricane Mitch. Starting in May, “dryness is death for everything.” The descent to the well is steep and has some rubble, making it difficult to balance water on their heads.
When asked about illnesses, they said that there is definitely more infirmity in the winter with more plagues. Illnesses mentioned: dengue, gripe, fevers, diarrhea, [calenture]. They don’t have a clinic in the community and have to pay for medical assistance, traveling to other communities when they need medical help. There is a medic in Teustepe, Rosetta in San ________ and more assistance in faraway Boaco.
There is one large farm owned by Marisol’s 97-year old abuelo, and everyone in the three communities works on this. No other ONGs are working in this area currently.
When describing how they find water, they said that a computer was incredibly expensive and beyond the means of the community. Instead, they use divination with a rope.

We headed back up the rubbly hill to Marisol’s house, where her daughter, Esparanza, offered R a very beautiful chicken! It was so sad we had to decline her generosity, offering the reason that chickens would not be allowed on the plane. She offered to kill it for us, but we couldn’t bear that thought, either. Note to self: send her a picture of her with chicken.

We went back to N____ for a community meeting with anyone who could attend. Most of the attendees were women and a few men. The meeting was in the former school which now acts as a church. 22 children go to primary school in the community, and those who can afford to go on to secondary school do so in Teustepe.
Before the meeting, a woman spoke with us and told us that there was more water availability before, but now the streams are dry, and they must rely on spotty wells. They have been cutting the wood for firewood, for more cattle pastures, and for selling (apparently the wood – [ochete] - that grows in this region fetches a high price).

Community Meeting in N____ 12pm
First was to create a map with the houses and wells (functioning, nonfunctioning, 1 public, 2 private, 1 stream). The stream well is 6m. and only has water in the wintertime. Some houses farther up have difficulty getting water. For drinking, they come to the well near the school.
One of the wells doesn’t have sufficient water for 8 months of the year, and the other well is dry for 3-4 months. When these wells dry up, members of the community must go to P____, a 30 minute walk on average.
When asked how many baldes they use daily, they answered 6-7 each on average for 19 houses. Uses for the water include animals, cooking and drinking. They go to the stream with cattle and horses, though chickens and pigs get their water from the well.
Most houses don’t have gardens for tomatoes, etc. because it would take too much water.
Chlorine – they don’t often use this because they don’t like it, but occasionally it is used (weren’t sure exactly how much). They buy the chlorine in Boaco.
Pump maintenance in the community – monthly tariffs aren’t used for most of the well, but it costs $30 on average to fix the pumps when they break, and everyone chips in for the repair cost.
They have not taken water from P____ this year, though last year was pretty dire.
Payment and support for proposed system – people seemed a lot happier about the idea of a metered system, which would be more equitable for the people with only 2 family members. There would have to be a contract with each individual in the community promising to pay monthly tariffs. There was at the end of the meeting a general vote to support the project. Jaime mentioned reforestation as necessary for the water system, which has a direct impact on water tables. The community recognizes this.

After the N____ reunion, the travel-weary crew dragged itself into Teustepe for lunch. R asked what people at the meeting had laughed about when they mentioned her name. at the end of the meeting, Anna had thanked the group for taking the time to meet with us and to answer questions which might seem strange for them but are unknown to us who have a different lifestyle. She mentioned that R had never seen a rooster until a few days before, which caused people to giggle. We got back to Boaco that evening just in time to see the evening procession of San Domingo’s statue. We decided that copious rum was needed to properly celebrate San Domingo. Anna and I set out on a mission for a bottle of Flor de Cana and our ongoing quest for reggaeton. We thought we had lucked out with a barberia, but alas the barbershop only peddled DVDs. Took our liquor and some papas fritas to our hotel balcony (which overlooked the plaza and the church) where we people-watched and listened to music. A marimba band serenaded our table for a few songs. It turns out that the band is comprised of a father and two of his sons with one additional youth to round out the quartet. After strategizing a little about the following day, I turned in early, knowing that I had to get up at 4am for the conference.

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