Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Friday, May 11, 2012

La Pita - Still working, 5 years later

A few months ago, El Porvenir had the opportunity to visit La Pita, Terrabona. In 2007, thanks to our supporters at Create Good Foundation and Global Water, El Porvenir worked with the community as they built their gravity flow water system and household latrines. We wanted to go back and see how things were holding up five years later. (This story was also featured in more detail in our recent newsletter.)

Staff interviewed Victoria Hernández in her one room brick home. She told El Porvenir how life was before they had water and latrines in their homes. Victoria used to walk 2km (1.25 miles) to a creek to collect water to carry home. They used to wait in line for some time and the water was contaminated, often by the community members themselves, as they did not have sanitation facilities. The contamination led to illness, usually diarrhea and/or parasites.  

"I had two miscarriages because I had to carry water from far away, carrying one bucket on my head and one on my hip. Many children got sick during that time; some died." - Victoria Hernández

Victoria proudly shows off the water spigot in her yard.
Now, things are much different. Victoria has water just outside her door and a latrine nearby. The families are healthly, the women have more time available and their lives are improved. Victoria's husband works as a day laborer and Victoria had time now to open a small store in their home. The family earns $6/day —much higher than the average of rural Nicaraguans: $1-2/day.

"We have more savings because we don’t have to spend our money on medicine." - Victoria Hernández

Victoria also happens to be the Treasurer on the local Potable Water Committee. She collects all the families monthly fees and reports back to the community and their collective maintenance fund. She reported to El Porvenir that the committee has c$12,000 saved (about $520US).

Victoria shows us how she washes at her house.
"We thank the donors that supported us in the latrine and water system projects.  Always we will care for it; we will not let it fail." - Victoria Hernández

People like Victoria are what inspire us to continue our work to provide clean water and sanition to people in Nicaragua. We are working towards long lasting solutions that empower the people we work with. There is more to be done, can you help? Consider a gift to Rob's birthday.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The rope pump, a local solution

New year, new post. Here at El Porvenir, we wish you a Happy New Year!

Well and rope pump in Puente Ocho, Sauce, Nicaragua, photo credit: Nile Sprague

El Porvenir is well-known (where we work in Nicaragua at least) for its hand-dug wells. Even on the machine drilled wells, however, we use the rope pump - the standard for water pumping in rural Nicaragua.

Rope pump in Tule Oriental, Camoapa, Nicaragua, example of a machine drilled well.

The rope pump was invented by the Chinese thousands of years ago. Local stories say that the Nicaraguan version of the rope pump was invented by a Belgian technician, Jan Haemhouts, with Nicaraguan campesinos in the early 1980s. The rope pump caught on widely in Nicaragua and is the standard, as mentioned above. The rope pump technology has been exported to India and Africa as well.

What is the rope pump? From ropepumps.org: "The Rope pump consists of a wheel that pulls up an endless rope with cone shaped high precision washers that pass through a PVC pump tube, in this way lifting the water." A picture is worth a thousand words, so this diagram may help: http://www.akvo.org/wiki/index.php/File:Rope_pump_cross_section.jpg

Rope pumps are basically a bicycle wheel with a crank. Photo credit: Nile Sprague

Data from a few years ago showed more than 70,000 rope pumps installed in Nicaragua. Why did it catch on so well? The technology is fairly simple in concept and in fabrication. Thus it is easy to understand and repair. It is cheaper than most handpumps in terms of upfront costs and maintenance. In Nicaragua particularly -since it is our local standard - it is easy to find someone in a community or a nearby community that can repair a rope pump if something needs fixing.

12 year old boy repairing rope pump, photo credit: Lynn Gleason

For El Porvenir, it is part of the sustainability of our projects into the long term. We make sure the people install the rope pump with our staff so they know how to fix it. Parts are available in each rural town. Let us know what you think.

Further reading:


Friday, July 29, 2011

Site visit to La Rinconada, Achuapa

It's been on the busy side here in Nicaragua at El Porvenir, but I had a wonderful visit to the community of La Rinconada, Achuapa this week; I thought it was worth sharing. Our valued partner Global Water was here to visit the communities and schools they have been supporting.

We drove up from visits to schools in Cuidad Darío and Terrabona the day before and stayed in the new hotel in El Sauce. The following morning, Kathleen and I had an early breakfast then joined Erick for our trip. We took the "highway" to Estelí about an hour drive up - literally - for the most part uphill. We left the vehicle in Campamento and met Chepe from the community of La Rinconada, who had brought down 3 horses for us to ride up on.

Chepe leads the way as Erick, Kathleen and I follow on horseback.
We rode for about an hour, across a river and through very muddy tracks - the horses were fantastic, although there were a couple of spots they had trouble getting through. We were pleased to arrive though to a very welcoming community. We saw the well, but also where these families previously collected water. 

This is where Chepe and the nearby families got their drinking water previously.
The above natural spring was unfortunately open and unprotected and not a good, healthy source of drinking water. The community members told us of the problems they faced with diarrhea and parasites in previous years. Since there was a stream right beside it, any rain overflowed it into the spring; also the animals often bathed in the spring as well, contaminating it. However, what choice did the people have, but to drink the water there?

The community members proudly show their latrines, nicely decorated with flowers.
With help from our partner Global Water and others, we were able to provide some of the materials for the project for the community members to build. The community members contributed the labor, sand and rocks for the construction. The community members dug the latrine pits and the well. Then they did all the masonry involved. The well took 18 months (140 person days) to dig and complete.

The families kindly humored us in holding the banner for the photo.
Hearing the stories of how the community was before and how they felt now, it reminded me why our work is so important. There is still more to be done, for example, they are requesting 2 more wells in the area and a washing station, but they have made an excellent start. If you can help, please consider it through our web page or mailing a check. The future is a little brighter for these families and we hope it will continue to get brighter.

Of course, we are in the rainy season, so we got very wet on our way back to the vehicle. It was still worth it though.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Truck Cab Donation

Just for fun, we had a very generous donation of a truck cab to El Porvenir from Johan from Canada. It was a bit of work for Gabriel (shown below) to get it through customs though. Although we cannot use it, we will be selling it and putting the money in our fund for a much needed new pick-up truck. We are very grateful to Johan and Gerdy who brought it down.

Rob pretending he knows how to drive the cab. (photo as per request)
The truck parked outside our office.

Rob and Gabriel - Gabriel did all the work to get it into our parking lot.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Water is Life. Passing it on.

We had a pair of fun visitors here at El Porvenir last month: Canyon and Forest Woodward. Excellent people and excellent photographers.

Check out Canyon's photos and thoughts on his experience here:


One of many photos from Canyon's blog

Friday, April 1, 2011

Why Double Pit Latrines? Continual Improvement

Sneak preview of an article from our next newsletter:

Our philosophy has always been one of continual improvement. If we can do it better, then that's what we try to do. Since I started at El Porvenir, there has been a problem with our sanitation program, but we didn’t have a clear solution until now. The official latrine choice for the government and most groups working in Nicaragua has been the single pit VIP (ventilated improved pit) latrine.

Single pit latrines work well. They eliminate open defecation, contamination of water sources, smells and fly proliferation; they improve the community’s health. However, the problem is that they have a finite capacity. The usual depth of our latrines and the government latrines was about 3 meters or 10 feet deep. These usually filled up in 5-7 years with a typical family. After that, if the family didn’t take the initiative to build another, then they often returned to open defecation. Or, another organization came along and built another latrine, contributing to what we call “latrine cemeteries”. Resources were being wasted and trash created.  

Latrine cemetery: This photo shows 3 different sets of
new and abandoned latrines at a school in Terrabona.

So, we did some research and discovered another option from Africa, the double pit VIP latrine. We have been piloting double pit latrines in a few communities since 2007, building 200 to date. A double pit latrine is the same as the single, but has two pits. The beneficiary can use one pit until it fills, then can move the superstructure to the second pit. Once the second pit fills, then the first pit can be emptied as the bacteria will be dead by that time (likely 2-3 years for the pit to fill, although at least a year is needed for it to be safe). Then the superstructure can be moved back and forth between the pits, with luck endlessly.

Note the second pit on the left. Latrine from El Sauce.

So far, the results from the pilots are promising: 2 families have switched to their second pit. Seeing that the families are accepting the technology so far, we decided to eliminate single pit VIP latrines from our project portfolio in 2011. We’ll keep you up to date on how it is working with the double pits and other technologies but we are excited about this new, more sustainable initiative.   

p.s. Here is the technical design of this latrine, if you are interested, although it is a little faint (if you are having trouble seeing it, email us at info@elporvenir.org and we can email this to you):