Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pasmata Water Project Progress Report - 12/10

This will serve as our last in country progress report. Jessie and I are a few hours away from crossing over the Nicaraguan/Costa Rican boarder, and I am thankful for this time to reflect on how we left things in the field. So here goes.

The ideal situation would have been a 1 month overlap of a new and qualified FCP rep (I think had we started searching for one in August like I had suggested in my first report this could have been accomplished). However, based on some fortunate circumstances, we may be in a decently good place given the help of two eager Peace Corp members (Lindsey and Trey) who are currently holding down the fort while we find someone to represent FCP.

Accomplished since the last post:

Community Meeting: A whole community assembly took place on December 4th. I made a 10ft Google map printout composted of 33, 11x17” screen shots assembled like a puzzle. It took 2 days, but I feel it was worth it since it allowed folks to see where their house was in respect to the planned project, and to see that this project is for real! Karla and I also made about 6 other informational posters. The meeting again took place at the Pasmata primary school. This meeting was very important because it had been indicated to the community in the meeting the month before as the due date of all 140 household donations of 200 cordobas along with an agreement to pay 30 cordobas/month along with using water meters to quantify water use for evidence in disputes over unreasonable usage. We have decided that unless at least 90% of the community pays the initial payment, and agrees to the tariff and meters, we will not do this project. A project that is not supported by the community would be a complete waste of time and donor money, so we cannot sway from this.

90% of the community means roughly 125 people on board with the project. Only 54 people came to the meeting this time, down 75 from the previous meeting where we laid the non-negotiable’s of cost and metering. From this meeting we increased community initial 200 cordoba payment from 20 households to 44, and I would imagine over the last week, we might expect a few more. In the meeting I presented each non-negotiable, and then had it explained a second time by one of the water board members to ensure everyone understood what was being said. There was a great deal of grumbling concerning the monthly tariff and metering. After about 15 minutes of complaining about the 30 cordobas, I made it known that due to a survey done on 600 of the people living in Pasmata (about 90% of the population), that I knew that the majority of folks were paying significantly more (sometimes triple to quadruple) just for their cell phone service alone--not considering cigarettes and candy. I then outlined that the use of meters and the payment of 30 cordobas monthly was not something to be discussed, and if we didn’t get agreement from all community members for these costs, that we would find another community. Where we stand now is waiting to see if and when we can expect to have the desired 90% of folks.

The Google map now has nearly every household leaders name associated with each house waypoint. The goal will be to write down the names of folks who have paid and who are on board with the way this project is being managed, and then mark them on the map to see if the disagreement is spatially related, and to predict how a disagreement could affect the way water is provided to different areas. Lindsey and Trey from Peace Corps have agreed to help get better figures on who has paid, and go house to house to ask again for the initial 200 cords and to see who is willing to pay the monthly fee.

Assembling the troops: We still only have 81 people assigned to work squads. We were hoping to have 140, but 81 would work if we had 8, 10 person squads. Trey, Lindsey and I will continue to be in communication to see how these squads are changing and of how any meetings go.

Designs: I have designed the system components completely, all except the dam; however we do know the exact dimensions and location of this dam, what’s lacking now is just sitting down and figuring out how this will look exactly based on typical details. I visited the source one last time with the foreman we’re hoping to contract, Jaime, and he made some insightful suggestions on how this design should look, furthering my belief that he’s got what it takes to run this project from the technical and construction side of things.

The system hydraulics have also been completely calculated both for the conduction and distribution/domestic lines. I am still waiting to hear back from a few fellow engineers on how these calculations look, and to decide exactly what pipe size we can afford where hydraulics meet economic feasibility. At this point it looks like utilizing between 2-3” piping for the conduction and distribution lines, and the typical ½” PVC tubing for domestic lines. I’m excited to present this hydraulic data at the FCP holiday party, it will be easier to explain in person and with a few more figures.

Permissions: I have in my possession, a copy of the formal contract written by the alcaldia’s lawyer outlining the official donation of the Finca de Pasmat’s land to take 35gal/min of water and run 1.5km of conduction line until the distribution tank. What we are still lacking is written permission from land owners: Dona Camila, Dona Maria, and Dona Ofelia. All three of these women have given oral approval; however, we are still waiting on the alcaldia’s lawyer to write up the official contract to pass the tube. We are planning on putting the tank on Dona Maria’s land, in a location outlined on the Google map kmz file. She has donated a 25mx25m plot, which saved us about $500.

Getting these written permissions will be quite easy once this is written up by the alcaldia, however, based on their past performance, this could take another month. We have our Peace Corps friends putting pressure on the alcaldia’s office, and will distribute these permissions in person when we have the contracts written.

Updated Project Budget: I had a meeting with the owner of a ferreteria (hardware store) named “Agro Ferreteria”, which supplies the majority of the water system components to projects by the alcaldia. This ferreteria was recommended by Reyna, and she got me in contact with the owner, his name is Juan Jose, and he appears to be awesome. I presented him a list of the components that we need, and he is currently filling in the form with exact prices. He is also placing recommendations he sees for how we might both make the system money while potentially saving some money. Obviously I’m skeptical on the money saving part of this since if he saves us money, he loses money. But the thought was nice, and I trust him. I will present an update of the project budget when he returns the list to me.

Rotary Involvement: This has been somewhat trying. After passing the matching grants form back and forth between Boulder Rotaries and the Rotary in Somoto, we started to realize that there was a great deal of information lacking to complete the form, and that it was going to take more work that we had originally thought. The form has been in the hands of the Boulder Rotaries for about a month now, and it’s just about done, however, when a request for written confirmation by Somoto was sent to Ivonne, the President, she returned my email(s) with a “I will get to this in January” response. I have yet to draft up a retort, explaining to her that WE (Boulder Rotary) will be in charge of sending the form work off to Rotary International once we have everything complete, and that all we’re needing from them is their commitment signified by approving to supervise the project and pay $100.

Until we have this confirmation, we can’t send the form. I see obtaining Rotary money as taking some serious time, and becoming one of the limiting elements holding back the project, since without Rotary money, we’re missing a $14k chunk of our budget.

Visiting Old FCP Projects: I only had the chance to visit one other FCP site, Chusli, since the last board meeting on the 21st of November. It was educational to see how Brandon did this project, and I must say that it’s very impressive that it’s still working. However, Chusli is finding that in the summer the source isn’t enough to provide water to the increasing population, and is therefore soliciting funds from organizations to build a new source further up the mountain, and pipe that water to the existing distribution tank.

Pending Project Tasks:

Defining my future involvement with this project: I agree to do the pending project tasks shown below in order to ensure the success of this project. I will also give a few presentations to bring awareness of the projects status to interested parties, and present a technical debriefing report to be posted on the FCP Dropbox account. However, after these subsequent tasks, I will be dropping out for a while to pursue work as a water engineer, and develop necessary credentials to be effective in the development field within organizations that do water sanitation and hygiene work.

The only involvement I would like to have with FCP will be to remain as the contact between Karla and FCP. After losing Francoise we need someone to be in the same close contact with Karla, since Karla has expressed her fears of losing her connection with FCP since the resignation of Francoise. If I could remain as this contact for FCP, I would love the opportunity.

GETTING A REP: Until we get a new FCP rep, we are depending on our Peace Corps volunteer friends to do the majority of the work in organizing squads, meetings, gathering money, and motivating the people of Pasmata. They have their own assignments and will not likely be giving this project the time it needs to move forward a great deal—but it is my hope that they will allow for the project to not take any steps backwards. That being said, we HAVE to keep the number one priority as obtaining a new rep and getting them to Jalapa as soon as possible, hopefully before February.

Updating our project timeline: With the designs nearly completed, the things that are mainly holding the project back unfortunately are arranging project funds, and obtaining evidence of full community participation. In the next week I will be meeting with Travis to create an updated project timeline based on foreseen progress with our Rotary grant, and with the agreement of the people of Pasmata. The initial idea was to have the project start in February, but based on the fact that we still have so many things up in the air that are out of our control, we may have to push this date back. Things to be cognizant of are that the foreman Jaime is only available Feb, March, April and June, so we’ll likely have to find a different foreman if our project is delayed too long.

Designs: I am meeting with my father who is doing the CAD drawings over the Christmas holidays. We will be putting together the finishing touches on all system components and sending them to Jaime via email for tweaking. By January these drawings should he ready to print by Karla on 11x17 paper and given to Jaime, his masons and work crew. The way in which we want to print of the main pipeline map still remains to be seen, since Google Earth does not allow one to print off high resolution shots of large areas. Apparently Google Earth Pro does, but this costs money; however Travis tells me that we could potentially get this program for free using our non-profit status.

Work Order: Once I get the entire work order looked over by Juan Jose the owner of Agro Ferreteria, I will send it out to you guys. This will also update our budget and give us a more exact figure on exactly how much this project will cost. Hopefully my 10% buffer on the current budget prediction was conservative.

Ordering Up Materials: After the work order and designs are acceptably complete, after all money is secured, permissions in our hands, and at least 90% community paid and signed up to work, we can order the materials from Agro Ferreteria from the United States, which saves us having to transfer large amounts of money to one of the water board members. We have outlined that all materials will be sent to the house of Dona Esmeralda because she has a large amount of storage space and already stores pipes and expensive farming equipment on her property due to the work of her husband. This will be the last thing we do before starting construction.

Community Meetings: We will have to continue having community wide meetings to slowly bring in the necessary 90% contribution and to raise community awareness. Lindsey and Trey will visit households and ask for initial household contribution, and let them know that the due date for community participation will be Jan 15th. This date is changeable, hence the reason we need to think more critically about the project timeline given the current project constraints.

Handling Community Money: This is big. We’ll have Trey and Lindsey go with Julia, Don Francisco and Dona Esmeralda to the bank to open an account that will be used to keep funds contributed by the community. Having 3 people on the account will allow for checks and balances. Again the goal of this account will be to 1.) Pay a maintenance worker to take care of the system, 2.) pay for replacement materials when things inevitably leak and break, 3.) have a nest egg for if another natural disaster comes along, or the system needs to be replaced in the far off future.

Permissions: Lindsey and Trey will continue to help us to get the contract completed by the alcaldia’s lawyer Mario, and have this contract distributed and signed by each of the 3 land owners where the line will pass.

Rotary Involvement: I will continue to work with Ivonne to get Somoto Rotary to be more attentive to our time constraints and inform her about what’s truly needed from them. Hopefully this part of the process will go quickly and all we’ll have to wait for is processing of the application by Rotary International.

Assembling the Troops: I am going to stay in contact with Jaime via email, presenting him with project designs to get his recommendations for designs constructed in the field, utilizing his real world experience with water projects . Lindsey and Trey will begin meeting with Karla and arranging squad meetings to talk over exact project tasks, while meeting with Jaime for his recommendations.

Past FCP Systems: I will be presenting on the status of old FCP projects and using lessons learned from the projects I visited in Champigey, Nueva Esperanza and Chusli, as a basis for the things I recommend for the new project in Pasmata, along with future FCP water projects in Jalapa.

Database: I am working to make sure a project database on the internet is set up in Drop Box. I will be populating existing folders with all of the information I utilized and developed over the past 4 months. If anyone will want access to these files, they will have to download Dropbox from

See everyone on the 18th of December for the Holiday Party!

Jeff and Jessie

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