Mano a Mano plans to construct several projects in the Cochabamba Valley’s Punata region over the next three years:

Punata, Bolivia.

Area farmers have seen and experienced the benefits that the Laguna Sulti reservoir has brought to those who have had access to its water. They have requested partnership with Mano a Mano on additional projects, recognizing the opportunity to transform their communities. In response, our Bolivian staff have been meeting and planning these projects with municipal officials and community leaders during the past year, as possible, given restrictions related to the pandemic.

Mano a Mano is a grassroots organization that responds to needs identified by rural Bolivian communities. We do not simply make decisions and develop plans in the United States for implementation in Bolivia. Instead, we begin by listening to community residents as they approach us with identified needs, and to our 4 Bolivian counterpart organizations as we consider together how to best respond to these needs.

On May 12, following a productive harvest, the leaders of this community decided to celebrate their expanded partnership with Mano a Mano. Officials and leaders made speeches, bands played, Save and Rescue (SAR) volunteers parachuted from a rented aircraft onto a local field to demonstrate how they rescue injured persons from inaccessible spaces, and local chicheras served their corn brew throughout the day and evening.

Don Primo Speaking to His Community

Banner honoring Epifanio Velasquez at Laguna Sulti.

Community leaders, without the knowledge of Mano a Mano, decided to name the Laguna Sulti reservoir in honor of Epifanio Velasquez, deceased father of the founders of Mano a Mano (the Velasquez family is originally from the area). Don Primo (Primitivo Montano) spoke to the celebrating crowd about why they made this choice. (The video of his Quechua speech includes an English translation below.)

“For many years I was president of the association of farmers who irrigate.

I remember when el Papa, Don Epifanio Velasquez, advocated on our behalf with Mano a Mano. He said, “How is it that you would not want to ask them to make this project a reality (the reservoir built in 2006). They are working in every place. Why would they not want to work in this place, the area of their birth?”

El Papa encouraged us. Don Mario Torrico and I were the leaders and he encouraged us. We worked. We walked. We talked to everybody and brought them along. Now, we can see it. It became a reality. We have it. It benefits us.

We are 12 communities. We irrigate with it. We water to produce a harvest. It was not that way in the past. These fields were salty pampas that produced nothing. Now you can see it. There are alfalfa fields, corn fields. We have everything we need, my friends.

We give thanks to Don Ivo Velasquez, his brother Segundo Velasquez in the U.S. They made these improvements possible. I am grateful and give thanks that this project was constructed in your name (referring to the people of the community) to benefit you.

Today they are encouraging us to continue to work, to move us forward.

We cannot forget this organization. I give my thanks on your behalf.”

Mano a Mano and Laguna Sulti leaders boating across the Laguna Sulti reservoir during a visit one month ago.

Mano a Mano Has Partnered with Laguna Sulti on Many Projects

Mano a Mano built this new health clinic in Laguna Sulti, Bolivia in 2006. We also completed a clinic project in 1999 in the community.

Don Primo celebrating the water pump starting to flow at Mano a Mano’s water reservoir in Laguna Sulti, Bolivia, years ago.

Mano a Mano partnered with the Laguna Sulti community to build this water reservoir, which has been expanded multiple times over the past few years.

Farmers from Laguna Sulti have received training through Mano a Mano’s Center for Ecological Agriculture.