On Tuesday, Liakos (our ram pump intern) and I were joined by Maricela (Sales at XelaTeco) on a visit to â€˜La Finca Palmera Xolhuitzâ€™ deep in the coffee growing country near Retalhuleu. Since 2005 the people of La Palmera have been the proud owners of their own finca (coffee plantation), having previously relied on intermittent employment on other plantations. They have formed a co-operative, working together to produce coffee, bananas and macadamia nuts and are in the process of improving the infrastructure of their community.
La Palmera currently only has one small pila (large concrete washbasin) which they are sharing between the 47 families which reside there. The women collect water in plastic cantaros, and use it conservatively, primarily for cooking and drinking. The representative of the Junta Directiva (joint committee) Mardo Queo, explained that the resource was not sufficient for all the families, particularly in the dry season, and was not clean, which they suspect is the cause of a number of sicknesses.
Gallantly Liakos and Maricela braved the torrential rain to conduct feasibility tests on a potential ram pump installation in a valley below the community (whilst I chatted with other community representatives on cultural, political and seasonality issues, sharing the relative comfort of an umbrella!). The outcome seems good, the small falls are currently providing more than sufficient water to pump it up to the community without needing electricity. With the additional, potentially year round water provided by a ram pump, the people of La Palmera will have a sufficient, as well as cleaner supply to meet their needs.
And so we left the community smiling, on the back of a truck, soggy, inspired and with a bag of fresh coffee beans! We hope that we can work together with the community in the future, not only to provide a new water supply but potentially on other infrastructure improvements too.