Barrio Tierra Linda Water Project – Mexico

Barrio Tierra Linda Meeting
Location: Motozintla, Chiapas, Mexico

Description of the Community: Tierra Linda, Beautiful Place, is the name the residents gave to their neighborhood on the outskirts of the mountain town of Motozintla in Chiapas, Mexico. Their homes are located on the ridge rising steeply from the town’s central plaza until it reaches the continental divide of the Sierra Madre Mountains. Over 15 years ago, these families came down from higher elevation where the cold and fog made life pretty miserable, especially for those raising small children. They came to enjoy a better quality of life at the lower elevation where the sun shines most of the time and schools are within walking distance. There are 30 families in the water association with a total of 158 people.

Some of the families maintain large cornfields in the higher elevations on their ancestral lands. There they produce a corn harvest during the rainy season to provide the staple food that will sustain their families. The only commerce in the neighborhood is tied to the highway that passes through. There is a small store, a little stand that sells snacks, and a pleasant café owned by the beloved science teacher from town, all catering to motorists who pass through. One family sells inexpensive pine furniture. Another family makes a living by fixing flat tires when an occasional traveler on the highway falls into bad luck. One man has a low paying job for the city turning the valves to ration the municipal water to the various parts of the city below. Most households have to find a way to get by without a stable income. Homes are very modest and unexpected situations like illness can wipe out all their resources.
There are several multi-generational households. For example, the groundskeeper at Sexto Sol’s permaculture demonstration project is raising his family while caring for a frail parent and his widowed sister and her daughters whose young children call him Papá. He and his wife did not finish elementary school but two of their three children are now attending college on scholarships while working to meet expenses. They will become the first professionals in a large extended family of original inhabitants of this part of the Sierra Madre.

Problem to be addressed: Once the people started building houses, they organized to create the Tierra Linda water association. They collaborated to build their water system, drawing water from the river several kilometers away. They built a stone tank to hold the water for distribution to their homes. That system is still in good condition. However, over the years the supply of water has diminished significantly due to the new, emerging pattern of irregular rainfall in recent years and also because more people from the drought stricken region are now drawing water from the same river. Demand for water has increased in Barrio Tierra Linda as more families have built homes in the neighborhood and their grown children are now raising families of their own. During the dry season the water that they rely on for all domestic uses dries up for very long periods. The community has secured the rights to a second source of good quality water as a necessary step to assure that there will be enough water for everyone. They have been granted the exclusive rights to use it by the local peasant authority, the Ejido of Motozintla, a significant win for them. The creek is located at a good elevation so it will provide excellent water pressure for a gravity-fed system. The challenge is that it is 8.6 kilometers away so they will have to establish a second water line in rugged terrain through old growth forest. They have a communal fund for buying hose but it is beyond their reach to buy the entire amount needed. They ask for assistance to purchase 5.5 kilometers of hose. This will put them over the top with what they need to move ahead with their project so that all households will finally have water security.

Description of the Project

The project will consist of installing 1.5 inch diameter hose and connecting it to the existing hose that supplies their water tank. Each joint will be connected with good quality connectors and each end secured with metal rings to prevent water pressure from disconnecting the joints. They will build a small structure to house the valves that they will use to regulate the amount of water from each hose to manage changes in the supply given seasonal variations. While we will provide them 56 rolls (5.5 kilometers) of 1 ½ inch hose, we will also be able to negotiate on their behalf with our supplier so that they can enjoy the discount the Sexto Sol receives for the purchase of the other hose that they will need to finish the work. This will mean a significant savings for each family. The men have already begun opening up the pathway for the hose by clearing brush and debris. While it is a lot of work on such a long track, it follows the kind of terrain that they have farmed for generations. By working together, the men will be able to install and bury the hose “in no time” they say. We estimate it will take about 4 weeks to complete depending on the weather and when they can do the work given other commitments. Project Impact The water hose will bring clean water from a pristine creek that is far from any dwellings. This will alleviate the extreme scarcity that the people have suffered during the six months or more of the dry season. It will provide water for all domestic uses including drinking and watering small food gardens.

Project Administration

The project for the Barrio Tierra Linda water association will be administered by Tamara Brennan, Ph.D. She is the Executive Director of The Sexto Sol Center for Community Action, an award-winning nonprofit that has been working in the region since had 1997. This project will be part of the ongoing Sierra Madre Water Program – Mexico & Guatemala, a comprehensive collaboration between Sexto Sol, Water Charity, and the National Peace Corps Association. The program aims to improve access to water in the under-served and impoverished settlements in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas region of Mexico, spanning the border with Guatemala. The program has already brought water to over 20 communities, improving the lives of more than 10,000 people.

Monitoring and Maintenance The members of the Water Association are well organized and committed to doing all that it will take to build the water system and to keeping it maintained as has been their established routine. Each year a new member is elected to direct the association. The Patronato del Agua is charged with organizing the men and youth from each household to collaborate to maintain the system. Should any problems arise in the future, the members would share the costs of any needed repairs. The hose is guaranteed by the manufacturer to last more than 15 years.

This project has been successfully completed.  To see the conclusion report, CLICK HERE. This project has been funded through the generosity of Michael and Carla Boyle of Foster, WV.