Water for Life project

History of Sowing Opportunities’ Water for Life project, from 1990 to 2021

See Sowing Opportunities’ recent Neighborhood View article and our recent newsletter email.

Globally, more than 1 billion people lack access to clean water.

Over 2.5 billion people lack sanitation.

Guatemala’s Water Problems:

  • Poor distribution … dry season
  • Overabundance … rainy season
  • Lack of access to safe water
  •   … especially in rural areas
  • Sanitation: less access to drinking water

Source: 2015 Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) data

We seek to help Chajmaic to become self-sustaining, but first they must have access to clean water and food so that they can think of options.

Our pilot project in the village of Chajmaic is water access for the village, population 3,000:

1) Set up a system to access water for the village, with 3 milestones: water accessibility, water filtration, water hygiene education

2) Set up greenhouse tiered farming and teach a team how to continue this work and why it’s important

3) Teach the people to plant non-native vegetables to feed themselves, on their land, and to sell the vegetables to the other villages

How to Build a Water Tower!

Meetings in the municipality of Fray Bartolomé de las Casas to develop the “Water for Life” project

In May 2018, Ricardo and his team traveled to the neighboring municipality of Fray Bartolomé de las Casas to maintain good relationships and ensure to the mayor of Fray as well as the COCODE (village leaders of Chajmaic) that we have the intention to carry out our mission to deliver clean and accessible water to the village.  We need to keep the door open while we seek a large donor to begin the project in earnest, now that we have our tax-exempt status.

Lillian García Contreras, Alcaldesa Municipal de Fray Bartolomé, 12.12.2017

In December Ricardo and his team met with the mayor of Fray Bartolomé and she (the mayor) showed them the water filtration system on which Ricardo and his team will model the pump system for Chajmaic.

Piping and Pump House in Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, on which the “Water for Life” project will be modeled

Ricardo took these photos in December 2017
This is the piping leading from the river in Fray Bartolomé de las Casas to the pump house, to purify the river for the municipality.
Photos taken in Fray, December 12, 2017
Below is the pump house in Fray, on which the one in Chajmaic will be modeled.
Photo taken in Fray, December 12, 2017
Below is the pump house in Fray, on which the one in Chajmaic will be modeled.

Geography and History of Guatemala: Understanding the Problem in Context

It is important to realize the historical significance of Ricardo bringing together the municipal government and the village leadership.   The government is mostly comprised of mestizos (mixed Amerindian-Spanish).  While the 26 indigenous Mayan groups in Guatemala constitute a majority of the population, they are very much treated as a minority.

This map represents the more than 20 indigenous groups in Guatemala, according to the Comisión de Oficialización de los Dialectos Indígenas de Guatemala. The “Castilian” areas represent Spanish-speaking areas.

Throughout history, the indigenous have been ignored, meaning inequitable access to health care, education, and other resources.  Worse, they endure deep-rooted ethnic discrimination that has fueled many atrocities, including loss of land and rights, and most recently, the 36-year Guatemalan internal armed struggle, in which 200,000 unarmed, indigenous Mayan were slaughtered.

This map represents the more than 20 indigenous groups in Guatemala, according to the Comisión de Oficialización de los Dialectos Indígenas de Guatemala. The “Castilian” areas represent Spanish-speaking areas.

This has resulted in a distrust of outsiders among the indigenous and particularly regarding any government programs, which provide a paucity of options for education, family finances, and skill development.  So, Ricardo and Antonio’s efforts are nothing short of a peace mission, which are providing healing and developing collaborative relationships.

Building a Greenhouse to Grow Vegetables for Food and Livelihood: The Next Phase

Ricardo is not operating alone; on the contrary, he is working closely with key trusted individuals within the village of Chajmaic, who are very much on board with his strategic plan.  The idea is to not only provide the villagers with potable, accessible water, but also growing food (agriculture) to sustain them, and a livelihood selling the food that they grow.

This entails renting a relatively small portion of land to build a tiered greenhouse, bringing in vegetables that are not native to Chajmaic.  The team will use the now clean water for growing crops.

Possible land site for greenhouse, Chajmaic – photo by Ricardo December 2017

This is a full project rather than partial, in that the villagers will have food and jobs to sustain them, as well as the education to maintain their livelihood – not only clean water.  This more fully fulfills the mission of Sowing Opportunities to cultivate self-sustainability, education, and wellness in rural Guatemala.

Annual Costs for the Project

The total annual cost is $266,134, and we need 1/3 up front to start the project, in order to pay for equipment, supplies, land rental, and partial salary, as in the U.S.  This includes the cost of pumping water that will deliver suctioned water uphill and draw it into a tank that they must build in order to purify the water.  They will send this water to the entire village by force of pressure and gravity push, approximately 450 gallons per hour, 24 hours a day.  This will eliminate gastrointestinal diseases.  The cost also includes maintenance of the system, the building of a greenhouse, renting land for erecting the greenhouse, and salaries for one year: project director, 2 agricultural engineers, greenhouse guardian, and assistant engineer.  This will provide clean water – eliminating gastrointestinal diseases – nourishment, and a livelihood for 1,750 people (250 families).



* Update: In the fall of 2018, these costs were updated because the municipality of Fray Bartolomé de las Casas took on the water project.  By December 2018, a 600,000 gallon capacity water tank had been built at the top of a steep hill in Chajmaic, with inflow and outflow piping, going to faucets at each home.  In addition, a pump house and electricity had been installed alongside the road in Chajmaic.  All that remains is the electricity.  This has saved us $157,048.  The updated cost table is at the bottom of this news bulletin: Updates Since Returning from Guatemala .  In December 2018, we also learned that the village had grown to 3,000 people.  This is still 250 families, using the same resources (same number of homes and land).

On August 16-19, 2020, Sowing Opportunities sent our trusted associates Ricardo (project manager) and Antonio (agricultural engineer) to the village of Chajmaic to conduct needs assessments, meet with village and municipal leaders, and test the water for filtration needs.  Details from our most recent newsletter are here, and at this web page.  The updated budget is at this link.