Location: The community is located along the river just outside of the small city of Belisario Dominguez on the coastal side of the Sierra Madre mountain range.
Problem to be addressed: The amount of water available to the community has diminished significantly due to logging and to the changing climate conditions of recent years. As a result there is not enough water for household use. During the dry season, people go for many weeks without water.
To make matters worse, the coffee harvest happens at the time of year when springs and creeks stop flowing, leaving them without the water they must have to remove the sticky fruit from the coffee beans. That means that in spite of a year of hard work to produce their coffee, without water to wash it the coffee ferments making it difficult to sell for more than the lowest price. Often the cost of production over a year is more than they earn for their efforts. Potentially, properly prepared coffee can attract specialty buyers who pay more for quality and are always looking for groups with whom they can do business year after year. In 2020 the community was approved by the local government Ejido Arenal to purchase a new water source. The cost of acquiring it was shared by the members of their water association, a significant effort for them which required sacrifice. While this was a great achievement, the cost of materials to build the water line and the necessary structures is more than the people can assume given the severe poverty in which they live.
Description of the Community: The Sierra Madre district of southern Mexico is an agricultural region where most people make a living as peasant farmers. There are very few alternative sources of work other than small-scale farming. Traditionally the father of a family owns the land which he gives to his eldest son(s) when he no longer can work it. Often the land is divided among several children. Since families are large, not all children inherit land because there is not enough to divide into meaningfully productive parcels. Those who do not inherit land have to leave to find new lands to cultivate.
Ocho de Julio was founded in 2012 when a group of people left the high country to find land to farm. They were fortunate to find a large coffee grower who sold them his land that was already in production. The people were able to acquire their individual plots by making payments. This allowed some to take advantage of existing coffee trees while others opened unfarmed areas to coffee production.
The community is located along the river just outside of the small city of Belisario Dominguez on the coastal side of the Sierra Madre mountain range. It is home to 63 families with a population over 300 people. While they now make their living by producing coffee on their small plots of land, their labor intensive work only provides a life of poverty.
Description of the Project: The new communal water source is a perineal creek 4 kilometers up the steep, forested slope from the homes. This project will consist of installing a 2 inch diameter hose from the source to the community. To accomplish this we propose to provide them the materials they need including 40 rolls of 100 meter sturdy polyduct hose and other materials to build the water line. We will use metal O rings that are screwed tightly over each end of the joined sections of hose to prevent water pressure or vandals from disconnecting them. This is the system that we have successfully used in 2 dozen projects elsewhere in the region. The hose will be buried to protect it and keep it out of the sun, a strategy recommended by the manufacturer to prolong its life.
Sexto Sol will advise them on how to manage variations in water pressure along the line to create even flow and maintain the hose in good working order. We will also provide them with a specially designed water uptake filter to help cut down on the work of maintaining the system.
The community is prepared to share the cost associated with building a distribution tank. Masons who live in the community will supervise the building of the tank that will be constructed of stone that is available on site. Stone water tanks are considered to be the strongest that can be built. By using locally available stone, the cost of building the tank will be accessible to the families when their resources are pooled. Each household will connect their individual hose to the tank to bring the water to their home.
The community is represented by the “agente municipal” who is elected to serve. He will be organizing the men to do the work to build their system. Under his supervision, the men have begun the necessary work of clearing a path through the dense forest where they will be able to install the hose.
Who will benefit: There are 63 coffee-farming families who will benefit from this project. The elementary school in the community needs water for sanitation. By having reliable access to water, each household will be able to process their coffee while enjoying a significantly better quality of life, free from the difficulties of not having access to water.
Administration of the Project: The project will be administered by Tamara Brennan, Ph.D. of The Sexto Sol Center for Community Action, an award-winning non-profit that has had a permanent presence in the region since 1997. She has been working with the community to review technical issues and develop the plan to be followed.
This project will be part of the on-going effort of the Sierra Madre Water Program, a comprehensive collaboration of the Sexto Sol Center with Water Charity and the National Peace Corps to improve water access in the underserved impoverished communities in the Sierra Madre region of Chiapas, Mexico and Guatemala. To date this multi-year effort has brought water to more than 11,000 people.
Monitoring and Maintenance The people in Ocho de Julio are well organized and committed to working collaboratively to secure water for all. The agente municipal and the other officers of the water committee will oversee the long term maintenance of the system. A designated person will administer the delivery of the water to the different parts of the community under a schedule when needed to insure equitable distribution and to make sure the resource is used wisely. They are anxious to begin the work so that the years of hardship will finally end.
This project has been funded by Michael and Carla Boyle, of Foster, WV.