El Palmar Road Project Update

El Palmar Road Completed by Mano a Mano in October 2014

El Palmar road.

El Palmar road.

In late October 2014, Mano a Mano dedicated one of our most challenging projects to date – a 37+ mile road project in El Palmar, Bolivia, a small community in the department of Chuquisaca, province of Sud Cinti, municipality of Culpina (there were 7 dedication celebrations, in 7 communities along the new road!). As with all Mano a Mano projects, this road was a huge collaborative effort, with financial support from:

  • Mano a Mano International Partners
  • our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Nuevo Mundo
  • the Gobierno Autonomo Municipal de Culpina
  • the communities themselves
  • Caterpillar Foundation
  • Lored Foundation
  • Open Road Alliance

El Palmar Road Project Update – New Schools, Bridges, Housing, Electricity

Mano a Mano staff were recently back in the El Palmar area in April 2015, and there is a lot of activity going on, in large part thanks to the road. (Even before the road was finished, there were many events going on that were only possible because of the improved transportation.) Now that buses and trucks can travel to these communities on a daily basis and connect with larger markets (mostly in Tarija), there are a number of large projects underway:
  • new school and teacher housing project in El Palmar
  • 3 new bridges
  • electricity installation project
  • new housing for families along the road
Traveling on the new road in El Palmar.

Traveling on the new road in El Palmar.

Building a Road Has a Huge Impact

The core goals of building this road, for Mano a Mano, were to improve access for residents to larger markets and improve families’ incomes, while also drastically reducing travel times (before the direct route the new road provides, travelers would have to drive hundreds of kilometers out of their way to travel around this impassable region; driving from St. Paul, MN to Omaha, NE to reach Fargo, ND would be an approximate U.S. equivalent). But we are very impressed by the many other projects underway that the road made possible.

Aerial view of a section of the El Palmar road.

All of these new projects – the schools, bridges, housing, and electricity – are showing the wide-reaching impact that a road can have. The new projects are being funded and built by the Bolivian government, municipal governments, and others; Mano a Mano has no direct involvement. Once the basic infrastucture of a road was put in place, it can open up many new possibilities.

Here is a quick look at the new projects taking place in El Palmar:

El Palmar School

The new school will provide access to education for 500 students in the El Palmar area and surrounding communities. It is funded and being built by the National and Municipal governments.

New El Palmar school currently under construction by the Municipal and National government. All materials were transported on the new Mano a Mano road.

New El Palmar school currently under construction by the Municipal and National government. All materials were transported on the new Mano a Mano road.

3 New Bridges

3 new bridges are being built in the area, which are especially needed during the rainy season when the rivers dangerously overflow and sometimes flood. The new bridges will provide a much more consistent and safe means of transportation. The bridges will cross the Pilaya (near Canon Verde), Ipirenda, and Pilcomayo rivers.

The Pilaya river, and location where one of the bridges is being built. Driving through the river is the only way currently to cross.

The Pilaya river, and location where one of the bridges is being built. Driving through the river is the only way currently to cross.

Location of the 3 bridge projects.

Location of the 3 bridge projects in the El Palmar area.

New Housing

With the ability to transport materials, the government is building new housing for some area residents.

One of the new houses built.

One of the new houses built.

Focusing on Basic Needs to Improve Rural Bolivian Communities

At its core, Mano a Mano is a community development organization; we partner with Bolivian communities and work with them to build projects that they request  - whether it is a road, water project, school, clinic, community bathrooms, or small-scale agricultural project – to improve their quality of life. But once the project is completed, it becomes their project. The community is in charge of maintaining and administering the project. While we definitely stay involved, it is up to the community and their municipal governments to take advantage of the projects – we are focused on helping them to help themselves.

Dedication ceremony for the El Palmar road project, November 2014.

Dedication ceremony for the El Palmar road project, November 2014. More pictures from the dedication are available HERE

This road was by far one of the largest and most challenging projects we have ever done. While we typically do not do projects of this scale, as they can really stretch our capacity as an organization, it is extremely gratifying to see the positive impact that this project is having for the roughly 18,000 residents in the area, and to see the response from the communities and local & national governments as they take advantage of opportunities that the road provides. This is really what we hope for with our projects – to build a base that can be built upon by the communities themselves.

Thanks to everyone that worked to make this road possible!



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