Today – March 22, 2022 – is World Water Day, a day about valuing water: “World Water Day is on 22 March every year. It is an annual United Nations Observance, started in 1993, that celebrates water and raises awareness of the 2 billion people currently living without access to safe water. A core focus of World Water Day is to inspire action towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030.”

Mano a Mano Partners with Communities in Rural Bolivia

For Mano a Mano, our mission is “Partnering together – Hand in Hand – to transform the health and well-being of Bolivian communities in need.” 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. (There are currently 30+ communities on our waiting list for water projects.)

Mano a Mano’s First Major Water Project – A Reservoir in Ucuchi in 2005

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.

“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.”

One of the most important aspects of these projects for Mano a Mano is 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 an example of this, watch this video about our road project in El Palmar, Bolivia.) In 2017, the Cochabamba newspaper Los Tiempos ran an article about the San Isidro Ecotourism Park, and Mano a Mano’s Ucuchi water reservoir is an integral part of the park. We are happy to see the impact that this project continues to have, more than 15 years since its dedication in March 2006.

The San Isidro Ecotourism Park hosts fishing tournaments (pictured here from April 2021) and other extreme sports & ecotourism events (pictured here from December 2020).

Building Water Projects in Partnership with Communities Since 2005

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, 42 surface wells, and 14 deep 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 from 2021 at the links below:

  1. Pucara
  2. Chaupi Suyu
  3. Chirusi Rosario
  4. Villa Rosario
  5. Pampa Grande
  6. Punata Central

Building Water Ponds (Atajados)

In communities where the population is 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