Today – March 22, 2021 – is World Water Day, a day about valuing water: “what water means to people, its true value and how we can better protect this vital resource.” For Mano a Mano, our mission is to create partnerships with Bolivian communities to improve health and increase economic well-being. Communities approach us and ask us to partner with them on the projects that reflect the biggest needs in their communities. Improving their access to water is one of their main requests.

“Water is life. We cannot live without water.” Dona Martina, a subsistence farmer in Ucuchi, Bolivia, approached Mano a Mano with this grim problem and a request: “A large reservoir would hold enough rain water to irrigate our fields once the dry season begins. You saw our ganas (motivation) when we worked together to build a school. We will work hard every day if you build a reservoir with us. Then we could feed our children and still have enough to sell some in the city.”

Blanca Velasquez from Mano a Mano rides a swan boat on the Ucuchi Reservoir during a visit in September 2019. The Ucuchi Reservoir has become part of the San Isidro Ecotourism Park, which you can read more about here.

Since Dona Martina and her neighbors made this request in 2005, our counterpart organization Mano a Mano Nuevo Mundo has constructed 9 reservoirs, plus 458 farm ponds and 42 surface wells. Each project gives farmers access to water for household use, domestic animals, and crop/garden irrigation. Through our Center for Ecological Agriculture in Cochabamba, we complement the construction of water projects by providing tools & training for Bolivian farmers to be able to maximize their resources.

Building Water Reservoirs

Our largest style of water project is constructing reservoirs. These projects hold hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of water. Once a reservoir project is complete, communities organize water Associations (or cooperatives) to manage the water, make small improvements, and schedule when members receive water for their lands.

Our water reservoir projects fall under 2 basic designs: one is where dirt is excavated on flat land to build a levee wall around the area to collect the water, like this reservoir in Laguna Sulti:

The other style is where a levee wall is built on one side to close off a natural collection point with surrounding mountains, like this reservoir shown above in Wirkini. Learn more about some of our larger water reservoir projects at the links below:

In 2012 Mano a Mano dedicated a large water reservoir project in Sancayani, Bolivia. Sancayani is a rural community in the department of Cochabamba high in the Bolivian Andes – about 14,000 feet above sea level.

Drilling Water Wells

With the purchase of well-drilling equipment a few years ago, Mano a Mano is now able to drill surface and deep wells, to provide communities with clean drinking water.

Learn more about some of our well projects at the links below:

Building Water Ponds (Atajados)

In communities that are more dispersed, Mano a Mano typically will construct atajados: small water ponds that provide water for a couple farm families. In communities like Omereque, we have built of improved hundreds of atajados (pictured below).

One of the water ponds improved by Mano a Mano in the Omereque area in 2016/2017.

Partnerships & Hard Work

Every Mano a Mano project is a partnership with a community. The community, their municipal government, and Mano a Mano all have roles and responsibilities to make these projects work. Every single project has many obstacles and challenges along the way. We are grateful to the many people that come together and work hard to complete projects that none of us could do on our own, and have a big impact for communities for many years to come. And we continue to respond to the many communities on our waiting list for water projects, when we have funding available.

Mano a Mano projects are always done in partnership with the community, municipal government, and other groups; here more than 300 community residents turn up for a community work day on the Mano a Mano water reservoir in Sancayani.

Mano a Mano Water Projects – in Pictures