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Well construction project in Guatemala

Back in August 2009, we decided to support a well construction project in Guatemala. The project comprises the building of 35 wells in the village of Tzananbaj in the region of Cunén, approximately 100 kilometres north of Guatemala City and has a total cost of 8,352.70 euros. Rope pump well with crankshaft mechanism.
The project was introduced to us by Susanne and Maria, two of Sarah’s fellow students. As both had already completed a placement with “FUNCEDESCRI”, the Guatemalan NGO in charge of the project, they were able to convince us of the trustworthiness of our new partner.
Guatemala is one of the poorest countries in South America with an HDI of 0.704, putting it in 122nd place. Nearly 60% of the population lives below the poverty line; 25% are officially malnourished. No other country in Latin America has a higher proportion of malnourished people. This problem was exacerbated earlier this year when an extreme drought struck as a result of the climate phenomenon known as “El Niño”. President Álvara Colom was thus forced to declare a state of famine in September.
Furthermore, Guatemala suffered the effects of Hurricane Ida in early November, when rainfall caused floods of Biblical proportions across the entire country. To this day, many families in the area covered by the project still lack satisfactory access to enough water for drinking and cleaning. Streams can often only be reached after long treks on foot, something which puts great physical strain on the women in particular. In addition, during the dry season, families require water for their smallholdings.
The families in the project region often have smallholdings on which they can grow basic foodstuffs and vegetables to feed themselves. As they lack any viable alternative forms of income, growing food for themselves is essential to ensure that families get enough to eat.
Frequently, however, these smallholdings are affected by droughts in the dry season. To ensure sufficient productivity and to allow crops to ripen, they need to be able to water them.
The region is home to streams of groundwater situated around 10-30 metres underground, which are replenished in the rainy season. However, the water cannot be accessed at the surface during the dry season. For this reason, it is necessary to build wells and install simple irrigation systems. The goal of the well construction project is to provide the families with water for drinking and cleaning as well as growing crops. This will improve their health and hygiene and relieve the burden placed on women and girls. Diets will improve as food production in subsistence agriculture is guaranteed. In addition, opportunities to work and earn money will be created locally: on the one hand for labourers involved in  building the wells, and on the other hand – and in the long term – for the families who can sell the food that they produce at the local markets. 
The project encompasses the sinking of the wells, irrigation hoses and a rope pump as well as the training of selected personnel to ensure that the pump and well installations are properly maintained.
At the end of November, Susanne updated us once again on the latest development. The next few days will see the start of the crucial phase, and by March all wells should have been set up. To this end, however, a diagnosis must first be drawn up to verify the sources precisely. This has hitherto not been possible, as the water level cannot be reliably calculated in winter. However, this is set to be done over the next few days and weeks, meaning that we can expect our first report on the successful construction and commissioning of the wells around March. 
Update on 19.05.2010: 
All the wells should now be built. The wells are between 4 and 13 metres deep and have been made by the families themselves, who received training before carrying out the construction. Five local technicians were also trained in the production of cement piping which is designed to strengthen the well walls. Each family received three of these cement pipes. Five more technicians were trained in assembling the pumps, all of which were handed out to the families, who were instructed on how to use and maintain them. An unexpected bonus for the project was the fact that two other communities had already installed supply pumps like these and so could offer their experience. The families involved are very confident that the wells will make their lives easier.

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