On a chilly September morning, Mano a Mano Nuevo Mundo staff and 20 leaders from communities that surround Laguna Sulti boarded the municipality’s bus, ready to embark on a trip they had been planning for months. The group included Remberto Gonzales, president of the Irrigators Association, and Walter Moruno, the leader of a sub-central (a set of very small communities). Another 30 leaders who had intended to join this group were waylaid by an unscheduled visit from Bolivia’s president, Luis Arce; they hope for another opportunity.

Their travel together had three destinations: Wirkini, Ucuchi, and Mano a Mano’s Center for Ecological Agriculture in El Abra, Cochabamba.

Wirkini Water Reservoir

Farmers look on excitedly as water begins flowing at the Wirkini reservoir dedication in October 2016.

Their first: the high altitude ravine-based Wirkini water reservoir that was completed in 2016. The leaders learned that the overflow water from this completely filled reservoir is now irrigating the Wirkini farmer’s potatoes, corn, fava beans, and other crops that were recently planted.

Wirkini water reservoir at overflow level, September 2022.

Nuevo Mundo staff used this opportunity to view the continued water retention capacity of this reservoir, to ensure that its retaining levee is in good condition, and that the reservoir is functioning as designed.

Laguna Sulti leaders in front of the reservoir, excited to hear of its success (and grateful that they don’t live with the constant fog and cold that they experienced at Wirkini, which is 14,000 feet above sea level).

Ucuchi Water Reservoir

The second stop: the Ucuchi water reservoir, which Mano a Mano has expanded 3 times since 2006. The visitors found that this ravine-based reservoir is also filled to the brim and ready for irrigating Ucuchi farmer’s wide variety of crops, including fruit trees, tumbo vines, and alfalfa.

Dedication of Ucuchi water reservoir in 2005 – our first major water project.

Seeing this community’s successful use of the reservoir to attract day-visits from city dwellers, the Laguna Sulti leaders said, “This visit has made us wake up. We’re ready to work hard to make this happen at our reservoir.“

The visits to these two reservoirs, a once-in-a lifetime travel experience, gave these farmer-leaders an opportunity to learn how other communities have used their year-round access to water to spur development of local micro businesses and community-based cooperatives.

The San Isidro Ecotourism Park (that has been built up around the Ucuchi reservoir) hosts fishing tournaments (pictured here from April 2021) and other extreme sports & ecotourism events (pictured here from December 2020).

Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA)

Aerial view of the CEA.

The final stop, our Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA), provided a first-hand view of sanitary care of farm animals, and environmentally sound methods for raising vegetable and fodder. Filled with new ideas, the farmers returned home, determined to act on what they had learned.

Partnering with Communities

Every Mano a Mano project is a partnership; this includes many meetings with the community, municipal leaders, and others involved with the project – before, during, and after any specific project. We currently have multiple projects in the area of Laguna Sulti, and these recent site visits with their leaders to other Mano a Mano projects are important to show the impact of our projects, and the hard work of the communities, years down the road.

Sustainability of Mano a Mano Projects

One of the most important aspects for Mano a Mano is focusing on the sustainability of projects that have been built; we want to ensure that anything that we build is used efficiently, is used for its intended purpose, and is in use for a long time. A basic philosophy of Mano a Mano in our community-based development model is to provide the most basic needs for communities – clinics, schools, roads, water projects, aviation runways, agricultural tools and training – that can serve as a springboard for other projects.

For another example of the impact a Mano a Mano project can have for creating opportunities in the community, read about our road project in El Palmar, Bolivia, or watch the video below:

This Mano a Mano clinic has been in Candelaria has been in operation since 2001, with no ongoing funding from Mano a Mano:

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