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Rainwater Harvesting for the Good Life

The experience began with their participation in the Agroecology School of the Province of Soto, together with Fundaexpresion in the pedagogical and methodological aspects, in which they were educated in topics related to agroecology, food sovereignty and community conservation. In addition to the training, a process of community management and political indecency for water was carried out in 2006. In this space they carried out local and regional actions in favor of the Angula Lajas micro-watershed located in the municipality of Lebrija. They also conducted walks and local tours in the El Salado area, which allowed them to document the whole problem in order to carry out legal and political actions such as a public forum in the urban area of Lebrija and the production of a video called “piña dulce y agua amarga” (sweet pineapple and bitter water). These actions allowed the communities and organizations to reflect on the problems they were experiencing, strengthen the social and community fabric, and close some garages and sheds in the territory. 

This environmental, social and political process was complemented in practice by agroecological production, which transformed the way we relate to the environment and ecosystems. They also advanced actions that allowed them to be resilient to water scarcity with the implementation of technologies that allow the harvesting of rainwater at the roof and ground level. They linked photovoltaics with rainwater harvesting. 

Their proposal arose as an alternative that would allow them to be resilient to climate change and the water scarcity faced by their territory, and to autonomously manage water for domestic and agricultural use. They also demonstrated the harmful effects of monocultures, megaprojects and agribusiness.  Proposing a change of energy model, whose fundamental principle is water and communities as energy sources.

This proposal is a community process that has had different phases; it is an issue that they have been working on since 2002, it began with a process of education in agroecology, rescue and conservation of native seeds, food sovereignty, participation and community organization and conservation, defense of the territory against the abuses of water concentration for mega-projects such as agribusiness. 

In 2008, ferrocement wells were built at ground level to store rainwater, with an installed capacity of 165,503 liters of water. Similarly, it was analyzed that within rainwater harvesting, the soil is also a source of water catchment. Between 2016 and 2022, they have installed systems for the collection of rainwater at the roof level of the houses to store it in plastic tanks for agricultural and domestic use with a capacity to store 44,000 thousand liters of water. The total capacity of the systems is 209,503 liters of water. In the year 2022, they were reactivated with the strength to harvest water under different perspectives, such as encouraging families to think of water as a source of supply and energy for life. 

At the soil level, they have applied soil management and conservation practices in order to retain moisture in the soil and take advantage of its capacity for water storage and moisture retention, and have promoted crop diversification and the implementation of successional agroforestry systems. They have also promoted family and community nurseries for the diversification of crops.

They have joined the water pumping issue with rainwater harvesting to complement each other and to be able to continue planting and harvesting within the territory.

Technical characteristics of the proposal

The elements and technical aspects that are part of the rainwater harvesting system are as follows: 

Gutters: in order to take advantage of the rainwater that falls on the roof of the houses. This element of the system was designed together with the community, using traditional construction techniques and small technical improvements, making the best use of materials, tools, local knowledge, low cost and high efficiency.

The channels were made with acesco zinc, 1/8″ x 1/4″ pop rivets, galvanized wire, 6″ PVC pipe, 6″ sanitary plug, sikaflex sealant.

The following technical process was followed in its preparation; 

  1. Division of the zinc shingles into three parts lengthwise.
  2. Flatten the zinc tile with a wooden tamp or unfold it by hand.
  3. Assemble between the sections in a flat place.
  4. Bend align, rivet and place 3 cm wide rings at every joint and every meter to stiffen the channel. 
  5. Place half a pvc plug in the upper end of the carcass and rivet it.
  6. Apply sealant on rivets, joints. 
  7. For the installation of the channel, rigid supports were used that were anchored to the roof structure in wood and metal, and as they were installed, the level was checked so that the water would flow towards the pipe and tank.

The channel was connected to the reservoir using pvc piping, the inches of which varied according to the amount of water collected in each of the houses. 

In this part of the system we used 3 or 4 inch pvc pipe, pvc accessories: elbows, unions, reducers, cleaner, pvc glue, test plugs, plastic ties, long stakes for anchoring to the floor.

The elaboration consisted of:

  1. Measure and calculate the required amount of pipe, supports, fittings.
  2. Place a bell to the system for the entrance of the water from the canal to the pvc pipe.
  3. Cutting, assembling, gluing.
  4. Assemble and place a solids trap, adding a T, a tube of 50 cm before the entrance to the tank for dust and other elements that the water of the first drops of rain drags to stay there.

Finally they have the storage or reservoir, in order to keep the water clean and free of insects, they use plastic tanks with a capacity to store 2000 liters of water, with an outlet of one inch.

Productive, community, environmental, or economic processes or activities that were positively impacted by the implementation of the community experience of TEJ.

One of the most important impacts that water harvesting has had on their lives is that thanks to this technological proposal, they have access to water for the development of their agricultural and domestic activities, which has allowed them to develop productive initiatives (breeding of small species, pigs, vegetable gardens, family nurseries) that contribute to their economy, which they could not develop before because they did not have access to water.

Their workload has also been lightened, they no longer have to walk 30 to 60 minutes to carry the water on our back, and we can use that time to develop other activities or rest.

Women from four (4) committees of Ammucale; El Aguirre, El Salado, La Cuchilla, a total of 22 families participated and 450 linear meters of canal were built, with a capacity to store 44,000 liters of rainwater.

Beneficiaries of the experience

43 females, 41 males, 10 adolescents and young adults (between 12 and 18 years old), 21 children (between 0 and 12 years old)

The impacts of the implementation of these systems have been positive and have contributed to improving the quality of life, strengthening the social fabric, as well as encouraging the protection and conservation of their territory, among which the following stand out: 

  1. They have developed and applied technological proposals for rainwater harvesting that have been technically and economically successful.  This has allowed them to be resilient in the face of the scarcity of water resources facing their territory and at the same time they have developed technical skills that have allowed them to apply and maintain these technologies in an autonomous manner. 
  2. Rainwater harvesting has allowed them to have access to water for domestic and agricultural activities , allowing women to have productive initiatives such as raising chickens, vegetable gardens, nurseries, food production for self-consumption. Their workloads have been lightened; they no longer have to carry water to prepare food. 
  3. The harvesting of rainwater in the interior of  Its organization has been a process that has involved social, cultural, organizational and productive processes, linked to the participation of women in community and technical spaces, soil conservation and care, agroecological production, the rescue and conservation of native seeds, diversification of crops, protection of water sources, and family and community nurseries.
  1. There is difficulty with water hoarding by several agribusinesses, especially poultry and swine.
  2. These industries have also polluted water sources.
  3. Water management should be better supported by state institutions.
Women’s participation in the TEJ community experience

Since its creation, Ammucale has promoted gender equity, the community experience has strengthened women and encouraged them to become more involved in the processes. In the case of energy transition, training not only a group of mothers, but also daughters and granddaughters.

Similarly, women have been involved in strengthening economies by improving access to markets. Also, in order to fight for better living conditions and dignity, Ammucale has linked many strategies of community participation of women in the community aqueducts, in the mingas, in the community action boards, in the committees of each of the villages in which Ammucale has been strengthened.

In the area of rainwater harvesting and catchment, the community has participated and youth and women’s groups have been involved.

The canals were built in community mingas, in which the women participated on behalf of the families, contributing their experience and labor in the process of elaboration and installation of the system in general.

Women from four (4) committees of Ammucale; El Aguirre, El Salado, La Cuchilla, a total of 20 families participated and 450 linear meters of canal were built, with a capacity to store 44,000 liters of rainwater in its last phase of work.

Impact of the community experience of TEJ on public policy

Changes have been generated in development plans, laws, sensitization of authorities, opening of spaces for participation, among others.

There have been several spaces for participation in the debates on environmental issues in the municipality, on food sovereignty. More than an impact on laws, we have had an impact on communities, on women’s groups in Santander, Colombia and other countries.

Ammucale has opened spaces such as participation in the demand for water as a fundamental right. Especially with the educational videos, the material that has been rotated in the communities, in the spirit of disseminating and learning from the experiences of women who for many years have remained in the territory.