During PST we WASHers learned about various strategies to overcome the challenge of non-potable water in the community. Aside from repairing an aqueduct with spring water (or in most cases river water), an alternative source can come from rainwater. Particularly in the campo, where there are low levels of air pollution, rainwater can be one of the cleanest sources around.
In local hardware stores, plastic rainwater tanks are usually sold. Unfortunately, they are quite costly, which is not very practical for the community members with whom we live. Nor are they sustainable for the long-term, as there is no easy repair for a big crack in a plastic tank. Therefore, we were taught all about ferrocement rainwater tanks, which are cost-effective and more sustainable.
RPCV Luis Grahm spear-headed initiatives with ferrocement, from latrine planchas and seats, to aqueduct distribution tanks. With the help of his incredible guide (found on his blog), and PCVs that were trained directly by Grahm, we were able to learn this method of construction. Our first hands-on experience creating a tank was during PST Tech Week in Quebrada Pastor. I absolutely fell in love with the process, and found repellaring cement to be artistically meditative. After Swearing-In, moving to Renacimiento, and conducting a Needs Assessment, I gauged the interest of the community to pursue a rainwater tank project.
After inviting people to come observe me building my own household tank, there was overwhelming interest and it was determined that we would write a PCPP (a Peace Corps Grant)! This took several months, as we needed to hold meetings determining who would participate, create a budget and timeline, communicate with the hardware store, and hold pre-project charlas. By June 2016 our PCPP passed and in the first week of July we raised all the funds. The project began in August and tank construction was completed by October. It took several more months to slowly install the ten tanks, as the families were in charge of building their own tables. About two were installed per month, during which we monitored and reported on the initially installed tanks. This project was submitted in my March VRF and the grant was closed during COSC in May 2017. The entire process took about a year, with tons of other activities and projects sprinkled in.
To learn more about actually building a ferrocement rainwater tank, please visit Grahm’s blog. He goes into detail from sewing the cloth forms to putting the last repello on the inside. My favorite part about “Rainwater for Renacimiento” was the overall collaboration of the community. By the end, ten households (practically half of the community) installed tanks, but even more came out to learn and work. Women, men and children all got involved, and found tasks they enjoyed. We were very careful not to place any children at risk and gave them lighter tasks like sifting sand. One of the most special memories from the project came from a grieving woman, Elia, who unexpectedly lost her 16-year old son in July 2016. During the month of work in September, we saw her laughing and smiling for the first time since her loss, as she took charge mixing cement with a tarp. It was so beautiful, and so was the whole project. Of course there were times of frustration, but all in all everyone showed up to work with positive attitudes and courage to learn.