San Antonio de Lomerío is an indigenous municipality from the Chiquitano Forest Region of eastern Bolivia. It is a typical Chiquitano village with traditional Chiquitano culture. The data from the National Poverty Maps place the municipality of San Antonio at a 90.9% poverty rate, making it one of the poorest municipalities (counties), in the poorest country of South America (the poorest of the poor). In San Antonio de Lomerío there isn’t electricity but there is a government project to bring it to the municipality. There is no television signal, but there are both local and regional radio signals. There are three public telephones that function with a solar panel.
The Ecosystem is very fragile in San Antonio. During the rainy season precipitation is high, often making travel difficult. In the dry season, access to water is very limited; and the sources of water often dry out completely. Currently the municipality is supplied by way of hand pumps from five new wells. It is a very long story, but these wells were drilled years ago by the Bolivian & Japanese governments, but never had pumps on them; just left with open casings on the surface. Over the last 6 months EIA, the Foundation for the Preservation of the Chiquitano Forest, and Rotary International have put hand pumps on these five wells that range from approximately 20 meters to 80 meters in depth. This is the first ‘clean’ water the community has had. However the shallower wells dry up during the dry season. We need additional deep wells and a good delivery system.
The objective is to improve the quality of life of the families of San Antonio de Lomerío. The greatest need is access to clean potable water in order to reduce Water Born Diseases. Another objective is reducing the workload of women and children, who must walk carrying water in buckets an average of 30 minutes a day. In many cases families stop all activities in order to do this job. According to the WHO, diarrheal disease is the 3rd leading cause of death in Bolivia, and is a result largely of drinking contaminated water.
There are several keys to the sustainability of this program:
1. Only do top priority projects in a community – EIA engineers, working in the community to maintain the existing wells, have listened to the community leaders concerns for additional wells.
2. Insuring that the community plays an active role in the planning and implementation of the projects. The community has already formed a water commission and they are planning to work in cooperation with EWB and EIA.
3. Local maintenance and repair: EWB will work with the community to make sure an adequate fee structure is in place to maintain the systems and that the potential expansion of the community is planned. EWB will do initial training of a local ‘water technician’ on proper operations of the project and basic repair and maintenance. EIA will provide continuing and repetitive education for the Water Technician on proper operation and maintenance.
4. Engineering Backup for major problems and accountability: EIA’s Bolivian engineers will occasionally visit San Antonio when the project is completed to check on its operation, and serve as a back-up to the Water Technician and a resource for the Water Commission on more complicated repair and maintenance issues.
5. The EWB chapter will stay connected indefinitely through EIA for reports.
The San Antonio de Lomerio project has been adopted by EWB Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) chapter and the James River professional chapter in summer 2011.
VCU and James River chapters did an assessment trip last October 2011.
Currently, they are working on a water distribution system design and planning to do an implementation trip this fall 2012.