Water scarcity remains a deeply rooted and unresolved issue in Cochabamba, Bolivia and families—many with female heads of households—struggle with a limited ability to access and store clean water. In the rural community María Auxiliadora, outside of Cochabamba, water delivery to this dry region is both vital and unreliable. Families depend on a delivery truck to pump water into small storage containers that are easily contaminated. Luckily, a pilot program started by the community organization Fundación Pro Hábitat, and supported by FSD Intern Manuela Vasconcelos, is changing the tide.
Fundación Pro Hábitat is committed to improving living conditions of low-income families in rural areas of Cochabamba. An FSD partner for over ten years, Pro Hábitat builds the capacity of socially and economically marginalized families through workshops on environmentally friendly resource management, including water conservation and construction of sanitation systems. In partnership with Pro Hábitat FSD Intern Manuela implemented a project to target water management in María Auxiliadora. A Brazilian-American student in her senior year at the University of San Francisco, Manuela participated in a ten-week internship with FSD in Cochabamba through USF’s Sarlo Scholars program. The Sarlo Scholars program afforded Manuela the opportunity to receive extensive community development training with FSD prior to her departure, during her orientation, and throughout the internship.
Manuela built relationships with local leaders and eventually received an FSD intern grant, in addition to her seed grant, to develop plans to build a low-cost water tank system. The Pileta Pública project was conceptualized through a community-based approach with the objective of improving access to clean water in the community. The low-cost water tank holds 5,000 liters and incorporates appropriate technologies for the zone. As a pilot-program project, the tank was constructed with materials Manuela purchased under the supervision of Pro Hábitat and the enthusiastic Enrique Canaza, a water technician and community member.
Mauricio Ramirez, FSD’s Program Director in Cochabamba, recently visited María Auxiliadora and photographed the progress of the water tank project. The tank currently provides 18 families (approximately 70-90 people) with water for cooking and other household uses. During her stay, Manuela organized several workshops on the proper use of water and its impact on health and personal hygiene. She also organized a fundraising campaign to provide children in the community with reusable water bottles as an incentive to drink water as a daily habit. This important project is a great example of a low-cost, high-impact initiative utilizing local materials and labor.
Upon her return, Manuela continued her involvement with FSD by interning at the San Francisco office. She is passionate about development work and hopes to continue her involvement with FSD. In her own words: “I believe that connecting people around the world with the same vision and passion can promote innovative opportunities for sustainable development.” FSD is proud to continue our support for Fundación Pro Hábitat in their efforts to improve health and sanitation in rural Bolivia.