Monday, January 19, 2009

Summer 2008: Jaraña´s work

OK, so apparently a rushed conclusion to the trip to Bolivia last summer followed by the craziness of moving to Vancouver and starting our master´s degrees has not been conducive to keeping this blog updated... apologies to all those who have continued checking for updates...

Now that I´m back in South America (Currently in Lima, Peru waiting to get onsite at a mine in the Peruvian highlands where I´ll be working on a study of the effects of mine waste rock on water quality in the region) I´m feeling inspired to recount the tales of the last few weeks of our trip.

Our week with Jaraña left quite an impression on Felipe, Janaki and I. We were all deeply impressed by their commitment to help their less fortunate neighbours in rural areas, as well as with their ability to really get community members involved with every stage of their projects. It was also refreshing to be able to openly discuss the shortcomings of Jaraña´s work as easily as their successes. There was no hint of trying to hide the fact that sometimes (as is ALWAYS the case in development work) things don´t work out. They understand that the key is learning from their mistakes to improve future projects.

The week continued with a visits to a few other small communities where Jaraña had helped set up shallow wells with simple, easily maintained pumps, more greenhouses, and rainwater harvesting units (see the Jaraña section at We finished our stay in Oruro by meeting with Jaraña to discuss ways that we could collaborate in the future.

Overall, it was not just the fact that Jaraña had some innovative projects that made us want to incorporate them into the Bolivian-Canadian Clean Water Network, it was their vision. Their projects are a demonstration of how the appropriate use of simple technologies can provide for a sustainable and lifestyle in a very harsh environment. Their dream is that this demonstration will be applied at a larger scale to help stem the massive tide of internal immigration in Bolivia from the highlands to the lowlands, and in so doing, help the Áymara retain their ancient culture, on top of releaving pressure on Bolivia´s amazon basin, the eventual destination of many of Oruro´s migrants.

Although things are moving slightly slower than we had hoped, the lines of communication remain open and we are working towards effective collaboration.