Mano a Mano staff and community volunteers are currently working on a water reservoir in Jusk’u Molle, Bolivia.

Mano a Mano staff arriving onsite at the beginning of construction. Local radio and TV stations from Punata were present to commemorate the start of the project.

The community of Jusk’u Molle is located in the high Andean Cochabamba Valley about 30 miles from the city of Cochabamba, in the municipality of Punata. The fertile land in this area can produce excellent potatoes, corn, vegetables, and small grains if sufficient water is available. During several dry months the land lies fallow because the farmers have no access to water.

Goals for the Reservoir

  • Increase community capacity to raise sufficient quantities and varieties of foods to provide food security and a healthy diet for its population.
  • Create community capacity to produce crops and livestock that can be sold in larger urban markets and thus increase farm family income. As a result of this project, families will be able to substantially increase crop yields and livestock and thus double or triple their income.

Project Description

The project will access four sources of water:

  • Seasonal rain
  • Spring snow melt
  • The Lampacillo River
  • The Morro River

The reservoir will be constructed on open land, as opposed to within a mountain ravine. To maintain water evaporation to a minimum and to allow the surface water to feed into the reservoir, the reservoir construction will consist of building a 1.5-meter-high levee around the perimeter of the projected 3-acre reservoir. The major water-holding capacity will be a result of digging or removing 2 meters of soil from the basin of the reservoir. Digging in, rather than expanding the holding area, will reduce tremendously the loss of water through evaporation.

When complete, the Jusk'u Molle reservoir will be similar to this water reservoir that Mano a Mano built in neighboring Laguna Sulti

Mano a Mano will work with Jusk’u Molle farmers to consider changing their traditional flooded-field method of irrigation method to a sprinkling method. The local agronomist projects that water available for irrigation could be increased by up to 40 percent if farmers accept this change in practice.

Working with the Community

This project began with a request from the community and subsequent review of its needs by Mano a Mano staff. Each community must demonstrate its willingness to be a full partner in the requested project. Local authorities are fully expected to play a significant role, as well. In addition to making a substantial monetary contribution to the project, they assign municipal engineers to work with Mano a Mano engineers to complete the design and implement  the project. Extensive discussions lay the groundwork for developing formal written agreements among community leaders, municipal officials, and Mano a Mano. These agreements define, prior to construction, the contributions and responsibilities of each participating entity. Community residents must participate in all aspects of planning, construction, and operation of the project.

Design for the reservoir

The municipality of Punata and Mano a Mano engineers worked together to design the Jusk’u Molle water reservoir project and channels, including  a study of the terrain and water flow through the Valley in the surrounding area. The local government and community residents will contribute 32% of the total costs for the project. The agreement among project participants becomes the blueprint for ongoing relationships between Mano a Mano and its partners. Mano a Mano uses every available opportunity to stimulate community involvement, reinforcing this sense of ownership of and responsibility for projects, and focusing on their long-term viability.

Mano a Mano staff will organize local farmers to take on all unskilled labor required to complete the project, beginning with the assumption that these farmers are capable, motivated individuals who lack the material and educational resources required to improve their circumstances. Farmers contributed more than 30,000 hours of volunteer labor to their water projects last year. Jusk’u Molle residents have agreed to provide 4-10 volunteers for eight hours daily to work on the reservoir until it is completed.

Mano a Mano will provide the heavy machinery, expertise, and the equipment operators needed to accomplish the construction. Once the project is complete, Mano a Mano will assist farmers to create a water cooperative that will schedule water release to fields, assume responsibility for reservoir management and maintenance, establish a fee schedule, and manage funds collected by the cooperative. Jusk’u Moll’e will benefit  300 – 400 farm families (1,800 – 2,400 individuals), providing them with predictable access to water for their crops and livestock, as well as household use.  Access to water will dramatically increase income and reduce malnutrition for these families.

Mano a Mano heavy equipment working on Jusk'u Molle reservoir

Water Project Results

From inception to completion, all Mano a Mano projects focus on long-term sustainability. The following factors help ensure the viability of projects over the long term:

  • extensive involvement of local government officials and community residents in every phase of the project;
  • developing project engineering designs that are appropriate for the climate and terrain;
  • training residents to maintain their completed projects;
  • assisting residents to create cooperatives and other organizational structures through which projects will be managed.

Partnerships with communities and their local governments have resulted in success of every project that Mano a Mano has undertaken. Consistent involvement of residents, the ultimate beneficiaries, creates an intense sense of ownership of the project. Seeing the fruits of their labors once projects are completed further motivates residents to learn to operate and maintain them. Water projects provide subsistence farmers with the means to improve their standard of living for many years to come.

A farmer showing off his crops