The Engineers Without Borders (EWB) University of Colorado chapter made the original visit to the Ucayali Region with Village Earth in 2006. They participated in the January 2006 regional workshop and documentary film production. They also offered their services to the Shipibo. One Shipibo community, Santa Rosa de Dinamarca in Masisea District, took the initiative and submitted a project application for a clean water project in their community. The Fort Collins Professional Chapter of EWB agreed to take on this project. We are very excited to work together and it is great that we are both based in Fort Collins allowing us to meet periodically to discuss project planning. Santa Rosa de Dinamarca like many Shipibo communities is suffering from lack of clean drinking water. Wells have been installed, however, half are not currently functioning. The present situation reflects the past disconnect between non-governmental organizations (NGOs), funding agencies, and Shipibo communities. The Shipibo complained to us that NGOs came and installed wells in their communities using a design from somewhere else. Therefore, the wells do not function properly in their tropical rainforest environment. This shows the importance of building off local, indigenous knowledge and how local environmental conditions are an essential consideration before taking on any project. As well, local people were not trained in how to install or maintain these wells themselves, so when they break down they remain dormant and unrepaired. Before the wells, Shipibo communities obtained their water from the rivers and lakes surrounding their communities. However with the increase in pollution from upstream, these water sources became highly contaminated. Population centers upstream dump their waste, there is contamination from oil exploitation, and increased sedimentation from logging have all polluted the watershed making the water unsafe for consumption. However, since their wells are not very deep (10 meters at the most) it is most likely that the water in the wells is actually connected to the rest of the contaminated watershed. Therefore, EWB is going to look into the possibility of digging deeper to reach the pure, clean water aquifers.
Below: The community’s watershed
Parasites and other gastrointestinal illnesses are a problem especially for children in this community because of the lack of clean water. Clean water is an essential part of creating sustainable, healthy human communities. Only when people have the basic necessities of life covered (clean water, food security, clothing, shelter) can they begin to take their own self-determination seriously and work for a better future.
Below: Young Shipibo girl from Santa Rosa de Dinamarca
Village Earth and Engineers Without Borders are excited about our partnership and will be visiting the region for an assessment trip immediately following the Indigenous Tribunal event in late June. Village Earth will continue to empower communities to direct their own “development” processes. EWB will be assessing the local situation and doing topographic surveys in order to better understand the local environment, as well as assess community wants and needs. There is a lot of potential for future collaborations between Village Earth, EWB, and the Shipibo people to be working with all communities in need in such projects as sanitation, construction, fishfarming, and survey work to help out with land issues. If you are interested in supporting this project, contributions can be made through Village Earth
or you can attend EWB’s first fundraising event on April 27
. For more information, check out the EWB Fort Collins Professional Chapter’s project website
Above: The Umisha Festival in Santa Rosa de Dinamarca.