Bolivia

Catching rain, improving nutrition

In dry areas of Bolivia, MCC is helping farming families install systems to catch and store rainwater.

Small tomato, beet and lettuce plants are sprouting for the first time outside of Ezequiel Domingo Velez’s home in the Indigenous Guaraní community of Caipepe in eastern Bolivia.

It’s considered rainy season, but rainfall has become less predictable in this area, which was already drought-prone.

In the past, Velez and other community members have had to buy corn and other vegetables brought in from the nearest city, Santa Cruz, because scarce rain in the region made it impossible to grow enough to eat.

Caipepe is a bumpy seven-hour drive from Santa Cruz, so vegetables only come in once a week. They are expensive and aren’t fresh.

This year, though, Velez was able to grow his own vegetables thanks to an MCC project that helped community members install rainwater catchment systems that provide irrigation.

This project is an important way of improving access to healthy foods in Caipepe.”     

– Patrocinio Garvizu Salazar

Velez received a 1,600-liter tank to collect rainwater and plastic piping to funnel water from the roof of his house. The project also provided fencing for new gardens, as well as vegetable seeds.

Today, with rainwater to irrigate his new garden, Velez’s vegetables are growing well.

"I feel very happy and pleased,” he says. “I’m content with what I’ve been able to do here with this tank.”

The purpose of the project is not only to improve access to water in Caipepe, but also to enhance nutrition in the community, says MCC rural program coordinator Patrocinio Garvizu Salazar.

“The major component of Guaraní diets is corn and very few vegetables. This project is an important way of improving access to healthy foods in Caipepe,” Salazar says.

Ezaquial Domingo Velez uses rain water from his rain water catchment system funded by MCC to irrigate his garden and corn field.

The purpose of the project is not only to improve access to water in Caipepe, but also to enhance nutrition in the community, says MCC rural program coordinator Patrocinio Garvizu Salazar.

“The major component of Guaraní diets is corn and very few vegetables. This project is an important way of improving access to healthy foods in Caipepe,” Salazar says.

Velez’s family of seven is one of 15 households in Caipepe that received the catchment system this year. MCC will provide 15 more households with these systems every year until 2020, benefiting a total of 45 households.

In addition, MCC supports drought-affected Low German Mennonite families in the communities of Durango and La Esperanza, providing materials for rainwater catchment systems for 62 families and water distribution systems that connect to wells for 120 families.

MCC has worked in this region for years, helping to provide systems that bring water within reach for both Guaraní and Mennonite communities.

In Caipepe, MCC helped install a windmill in 2009 to pump water from the ground to people’s homes and helped drill eight small wells since 2010. And MCC helped 45 families build dry latrines on their properties to protect the groundwater from being contaminated with human waste.

Community members remember what life was like before water was available at each house.

Carlos Jesus Segundo, Edwardo Segundo, Marcia Ester Segundo, Marcia Romero, and Edward Segundo stand next to the rain water catchment system that MCC funded in Caipepe, Bolivia.

“We had to get up really early in the morning to get water. We had to sometimes carry it in (jugs in) a wheelbarrow and sometimes it wasn’t enough. We had to wash clothes with that water, cook food with it and clean with it,” says Marcia Romero. “It was hard to get enough.”

It would get even worse during droughts. Food staples in the Guaraní diet, including corn, would be especially affected. Sometimes animals would get sick and die, Romero says.

Now, thanks to the windmill, plus a new rainwater catchment system installed in 2017, Romero and her husband Eduardo Segundo can irrigate their vegetable garden and provide clean water for their goats, pigs, chickens and ducks year-round.

“Thanks to God, we have water here constantly,” she says.