The Village of Palmira de Ivon is located in the north east of Bolivia in the Department of Beni Province of Vaca Diez, which belongs to the Riberalta Municipality, 50km south of Riberalta. It can be reached by river or road, and was visited by Just a Drop’s project engineer, Julian Butter in September 2012 as part of the Scientific Exploration Society’s KOTA MAMA VIII expedition. The expedition carried out a reconnaissance survey and some reporting work on behalf of Just a Drop.
After travelling in a 4×4 for 1 ½ hours along the Riberalta Rumenabaque Highway, Julian – accompanied by the Riberalta municipality representative, a community representative from Palmira and Alfredo Terrazas of Sumaj Husai (the local implementing partner for the project) – reached the left bank of the river Ivo. Arriving at the village by canoe, they found that the villagers were spread between two centres. One site located close to the river bank (Site 1), and the other about a 10-15 minute walk away (as seen on the map on the left).
The poverty level in Bolivia is very high and as a consequence the general health situation is poor. The majority of the communities do not have access to a doctor, a dentist or medicines. Accessible routes to the village are sometimes a problem and these factors are aggravated by the lack of a system for safe, clean drinking water.
Most of the families in Palmira de Ivon harvest Brazil nuts or partake in small scale agriculture. The average family’s monthly income is approximately £110 (the basic salary). At present, there is no school in Palmira Village for the approximately 20 school aged children in the community as it was destroyed by a bush fire over two years ago.
The fire also destroyed much of the village. Consequently many of the community, especially the younger families, currently stay in Riberalta during the week so their children can go to school and travel back to Riberalta for the weekends.
When Julian visited Palmira Village, the community were collecting water from the two open unlined pit wells – one for each of the main settlement areas. These were open to contamination from dust, insects and animals. Furthermore, in the dry season (September to November), the wells would become dry and the community would be forced to take water from the River Ivo.
All of these issues means water-related diseases are common, especially in children. The most common diseases are parasitism, diarrhoea, dysentery, and fungal skin infections. Many of these are caused by the inadequate water situation in the village.
Twice a year a group of doctors come to the village to provide medical and dental aid, but they don’t leave any medicines. Medicines have to be paid for and the people of Palmira lack the funds for this and so diseases like diarrhoea can be fatal.
In August 2013, the Sumaj Huasi Foundation – with the support of Just a Drop and funding from the Newport Uskmouth Rotary Club – began work on a project to provide clean safe water to the Palmira de Ivon community. The project set out to drill a borehole and upgrade the two existing shallow hand dug wells (this plan was a modification to the original plan but was assessed and approved by all). A water purification system would also be distributed around the village so that every family will have filters of ceramic candles.
It was essential that the local community committed to participating fully in the project, from agreeing to the concept of the project through to final ownership and management. When Julian visited in September, Sumaj Huasi and the community president held an open discussion with the community as to their needs and possible solutions.
The families in Palmira de Ivon have very limited economic means, and thus the support and contribution they offered was in the form of unskilled labour. Julian noted that although the reconstruction of the village was slow due to lack of resources the quality was good, giving confidence that the community would take good long-term care of the new and improved wells.
In August 2013, Alfredo met with the community to agree the final arrangements. Transportation of materials and equipment needed for the works and storage were then organised. Mobilising and transporting material and equipment from La Paz to Palmira took the best part of a week. With everything ready work began on 9th August and completion was achieved on 16th September.
Initially it was anticipated that the borehole would be 70 metres deep, whereas in fact, 84 metres were drilled. The drilling equipment used was the “AYNI manual well drilling system” which comprises of manual drilling by percussion and rotation. This type of drilling is suitable for use in tertiary and quaternary soils (these are geological terms for younger and therefore generally softer strata). Normal progress of such drilling is 30 metres per day, but progress can vary from a minimum 0.3 metres per day to a maximum 60 metres in six hours. The maximum depth that can be reach using this method is 120 metres.
The well is artesian (the pressure in the sub strata is sufficient to bring the water up to ground level without the need of a pump) has a yield of six litres per minute, is 84 metres deep and of two inch diameter. The borehole was lined with class nine pipe of two inch diameter and has a flow of six litres per minute. An AYNI hand pump 15 metres long was supplied which will be inserted in times of low ground water level (when the well is not artesian) by Señor Faustino who has this responsibility and who has been trained for this activity. Two spare piston valves were also supplied for future maintenance.
Upgrading two hand-dug wells:
Two existing pit wells of 6-7 metres depth were upgraded. The upgrade comprised of cleaning the wells and then constructing surrounding brickwork walls 0.3 metres high and approximately 1.5m by 1.7m in size.
Two reinforced concrete cover slabs were then constructed to be placed over the brickwork walls, each one containing an inspection (manhole) cover for ease of maintenance. An AYNI hand pump 6-7m in depth was then installed in each well.
Alfredo also suggested that 20 assembled domestic filters were supplied to every family on a list prepared by Sr. Juan Yarari, president of the Palmira de Ivon community. The domestic filters comprised of a plastic container with a cover of 20 litre capacity and another of 15 litre capacity with a plastic tap. Ceramic filters candles were also supplied along with a spare candle for use as a replacement when this becomes necessary.
Upon completion of the borehole and improvements to the two existing pit wells, training in their maintenance was given to permanent resident Señor Faustino to enable him to be responsible in future servicing and maintenance of the AYNI hand pumps. At the same time training was given in the use and replacement of the ceramic filter candles which are easily available from Riberalta.
Our sincere thanks to the Newport Uskmouth Rotary Club for making this project possible.
Date of Project: November 2013
NB. This report is based on the Sumaj Huasi report translated into English by Julian Butter (with the addition of supplementary background information)