Monday, September 12, 2011

Pasmata Water Project – Progress report for 9/12/2011

There were less steps forward this week than in previous weeks due to a bit of sickness on my part, and a few delays due to highway blockades and the lack of proactiveness (and apparent interest) on the part of the alcaldia. Please let me say first of all, everyone has told me that the government is corrupt, it’s a common theme in most governments, especially those in Latin America. And I would like to operate in the innocent until proven guilty prose. However, I am starting to see that the government, while not completely corrupt (they are doing something here and they’re overly busy and they are doing the best with what they can, amidst the obvious dissonance of gossip, jealousy, and keeping a jovial and serving public façade), just doesn’t produce when they say they will. I know, I should have seen this coming.

Ok on to what was accomplished of the pending project tasks:

Accomplished Project Tasks:

Water tests – I met with Karla at 8:00 and we left for the office of the alcaldia with Reyna (awkward, this happened because of our conversation on Saturday, when I told her Karla and I were meeting on Monday to get some tests set up), and went to MINSA to solicit their help to acquire water samples for the aforementioned tests (previous post). MINSA confirmed that they would be able to send a person into the field to appropriately bottle up the samples, but that they could only do total coliform, and physical chemical tests (pH, temperature), not E.coli, and the rest of the mineral/chemical tests. It’s funny, because when we talked to MINSA before, they said they were able to do the gambit of tests we needed. MINSA told us that we would have to get the tests done by ENECAL, and that the samples would need to be sent to Managua the same day the samples were taken from the source. Reyna told us that she would write up a letter and solicit the help of ENECAL, meanwhile we had made plans to meet with MINSA at 6:00AM on Wednesday to take the samples.

Reyna did in fact, to her credit, send a letter to ENECAL, however ENECAL replied by saying they didn’t have time on Wednesday to do the samples in Managua, and therefore we would have to wait for an open spot later in the week so that the samples could be picked up and delivered for processing within 24 hours. Due to blockades, we were not able to get ENECAL to confirm a time to test the samples, and therefore we have MINSA on hold until we can get a date. It doesn’t look like this is going to go quickly.

Permitting After determining where we want the source to be, we now know that we need to have the following contracts signed:

Finca de Pasmata: Karla sent a letter soliciting their approval to pass a pipe on their land, and to use the water with a dam and sedimentation basin, one after the other, per best management practices (waiting on the turbidity results to see exactly how necessary a sedimentation basin and potential sand filter will be)

Finca de Dona Camilia: asking for 20m x 20m of land to place the tank

Finca de Dona Maria, y de Dona Fila: Asking to run the pipe through their land.

These will hopefully be delivered and signed by next week, and we should head from the finca de pasmata by next Tuesday, September 20th per the demands of our letter.

Community Meeting (soliciting community financial input and manual labor) – We are still working to figure out a way to have an informative meeting pertaining to the projects scope of work, and desired sweat equity, and financial contribution, by the community. We are hoping to have this meeting when Travis arrives in the second week of October.

Soliciting 2 year FCP representative – Cole has told us that he is likely not able to be the next 2 year representative, which means we need to seek other avenues for soliciting volunteers.

Project Design: I was supposed to meet with Reyna tomorrow to do one final walk of the water line, since I figured she would have the experience needed to know exactly where a line should be run, but she unfortunately had to postpone to the following Tuesday. With the upcoming Independence Day holiday, and the Festival de Mais, I am thinking that not much work is going to be done in terms of exacting the design of this system based on a real pipe layout.

Report to Somoto: This report was sent out last Tuesday, and was received by Ivonne in Somoto. They are reading over the details and will be getting back to us hopefully this week.

Further Pipe Mapping: We are planning to have a group of 10-12 machete toting landscapers clear a line for the staking of the pipe layout. We have already bought the flags and paint, all we’re needing now is an exact location of the pipe.

Selecting Necessary Elements for a Successful Project: Travis and I spoke this last week about what we felt should be a required from the community for FCP support to be given. We felt that this list should be created to ensure that we stick to our gun with what we know to be true concerning crucial community contributions needed to ensure proper buyin, community pride and ownership, and ultimately a well run and maintained project. These elements were:

Initial community contribution: We had this set at $1000, or roughly $6 or 130 C$ per household

Sweat Equity: The community would have to construct the system with their own manual labor

Monthly Tariff: The community would have to provide a monthly payment, of around 1$, or 23 C$ for each household. This is crucial because this payment would help fund maintenance of the system and future system overhaul. It would also fund a worker to maintain the system. Greg told me that a maintenance operator in Champigny is paid around 300 $C per month to work 10hr/week maintaining the system. This person could be paid by simply 15 household contributions of 1$, where the rest would go into a savings account.

Maintenance worker: The aforementioned maintenance worker would have to be hired, trained, and held accountable for his work.

Water Board: A trustworthy water board would need to be elected, and hold meetings once every two weeks to discuss how the system is running, and address complaints from the community pertaining to system performance.

Meters: We are still discussing the use of water meters on each household tap, to monitor water usage, and the possibility of requiring payment by quantity of water used instead of a flat fee. Understandibly, this is a wildly unpopular idea by the current water board, since a larger household that uses more water, likely has less expendable money due having more mouths to feed.

Well maintained project account: We feel that we need to ensure that the community is using their money correctly, while instilling in them that a savings account supplied by monthly tarrifs will be the crucial element of project sustainability given necessary repairs and project upkeep.

Dignity Loan?: The extend of potentially working the monthly payments in a way that can help the community effectively pay back FCP, and thereby buying back their dignity so to speak, is one option we were considering. Plus the fact that if put back in the pocket of FCP, we would be able to continue forward with other water projects outside of Jalapa!

Others: We’re still working on this list, we feel it is very important to have these set into place well before the community meeting.

Pending Project Tasks

Water tests – I will continue to work on getting these underway with the help of Karla. Not having definitive water quality data presents a problem both from the design standpoint (number of filters or sed basin), and from a feasibility standpoint (if the water has evidence of high levels of pesticides, we may find that this source will not work). However, I am pretty confident that the coliform count will be less than what was found at Las Piedras, and that there will be little evidence of pesticides given the distance the source is from the farms upstream, offering a potential for chemical decay.

Permitting We hope to have these all handled by the end of next week

Community Meeting (soliciting community financial input and manual labor) – We will continue to work on the content of this taller. I will be visiting Champigny to see how they ran similar workshops, and see how they delegated labor, and collected financial contributions from each household.

Soliciting 2 year FCP representative – FCP is on it! This is probably the most important aspect of this project right now.

Project Design: I will try to get the majority of the system components designed based on demand and assumed flow and turbidity, and get them sent to Gary and George.

Report to Somoto: I will email Ivonne again to see how this is proceeding.

Further Pipe Mapping: Hopefully we will be able to meet with Reyna and get the path for the tubes cleared by the end of next week.

Necessary Elements for a Successful Project: Continuing to draw up these elements. Any insight on this is greatly appreciated from the Board!

Thanks for reading guys, and thanks for an awesome Skype meeting! More from here in the next few days!

Jeff and Jessie

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