The community of Kisalaya is located along the Rio Coco in Nicaragua, near the border of Honduras.  Kisalaya is a rural indigenous, farming community of about 200 families, or about 2,000 men, women and children.

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The community is divided into four neighborhoods each containing their own water sources. There are about a dozen wells, all of which were contaminated and none of which had working pumps.  The community retrieves water by bucket from the wells primarily for non-drinking uses, but also travels to the river’s edge where a natural spring trickles out of a somewhat poorly constructed and maintained concrete box.  The spring box area, used for drinking water access as well as bathing, has become a communal meeting place, but due to extreme weather patterns and flooding, it is often inaccessible for up to several weeks during the rainy season.

The Need

There is need to either improve the well water quality and accessibility or provide an alternative clean water source.  Our ultimate goal is to establish a rainwater harvesting system.

The EWB-USA Response

In 2008, the RTP Professional Chapter of EWB-USA partnered with Rose Cunningham of Wangki Tangni Women’s Center and MADRE to work with the community of Kisalaya. Rose was seeking engineering-related assistance for clean water sources in Kisalaya and possibly other communities near Waspam.

During January of 2010, members from the RTP Chapter traveled to Kisalaya to meet the community, establish relationships and to perform an initial assessment of the community’s needs. While in Kisalaya, they visited and catalogued many of the water sources.  They also performed several basic water quality measurements. During the trip, the team established a working relationship with our key contact, Rose.  Rose is an indigenous Miskitu woman, who, in many ways, acts as a social worker in her community by bringing together community leaders (from Waspam and surrounding villages, such as Kisalaya) to address issues of women’s rights, gender equality, drinking water quality, sanitation, education, community involvement/partnership, and small business creation/sustainability.

In March of 2011, our chapter returned to Kisalaya once again. This time the purpose of their trip was several small implementation projects in the form of a Pilot-Scale Implementation Trip.  The purpose of the Pilot-Scale Implementation Trip was to test the sustainability and commitment of the community by implementing smaller-scale improvements to their existing well systems. As part of the implementation, the team repaired one rope pump and installed an electric pump. While in the community, the team also helped organize a water board and committees, prioritized water systems for repair, and conducted a community survey on their needs. The team participated in cleaning the spring box together with the community. They also participated in several educational seminars with the community.

Six members traveled to Nicaragua in March of 2012 for a combined implementation, assessment and monitoring trip.  For the implementation part of the trip, they worked with the community to install two new rope pumps and improve an electrical pump on a well. The group also met with members of the community to reestablish representatives and roles. They held a Maintenance/Purification Education Workshop with the community. The workshop addressed one of the trip goals to establish priority of the community needs as far as water sanitation, sources and supply. This allowed for a dialogue among the community and with the local government as to their priorities.  The team also conducted an educational outreach event at a local elementary school to address clean water.  While in the community, they also collected data needed for the full scale implantation design process. This data included GPS coordinates for non-dry water supply wells and finding potential locations for a water system. Before leaving, the community and the group worked together to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and to sign the agreement.

Thus far five rope pumps have been repaired, and one electric pump installed.  More importantly, with the cooperation of the community, we have established a maintenance routine and representatives as well as a communication plan so that we can stay closely involved.

Moving Forward

Our next steps are to install a rainwater harvesting system at the new school that will supply potable water during the rainy season to over 100 students.

Currently, the chapter is working on developing several design ideas for a rainwater harvesting system. We have been conducting research and communicating with our contacts in Kisalaya throughout the design process.

We are planning to take a trip to Kisalaya in the spring of 2014 to implement our project.

Breakdown of Facts about Kisalaya, Nicaragua:

  • Location

          – Near Atlantic Ocean

          – Along Rio Coco, border with Honduras

  • Culture

          – Indigenous

  • Population

          -2,000 people

  • 4 neighborhoods
  • Water Sources

          – Wells

  • All are contaminated
  • Some with rope pump parts
  • Can be dry for up to 2 months

          – Spring Box

  • Relatively “clean”, but can be Submerged up to 2 weeks during high flows
  • Social Center, but not centrally located
  • Issues

          – Sustainability of Maintenance

  • Cleaning; Pump Repair

          – Access to clean water during high flow

  • Storage Tank (rainwater or well)

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