Water in the Andes: IUCN CEC member promotes project

"If these few families demonstrate how it is possible to improve production by capturing runoff from rain, then others will find ways to do the same," writes Alonzo Zarzycki, a CEC member from Argentina.

Families in the Andes of La Poma County in northwestern Argentina live without sufficient water. Urundei Foundation seeks to help rural families in the Calchaquies Valleys.

In the Andes, families of La Poma County in northwestern Argentina live without sufficient water. Tourists visit the area to see Inca graneries, Devil's Bridge and the Twin Volcano's, and the small remote towns, but local people benefit little from tourism. Families have experimented with catching the runoff from rain and small springs but their rustic efforts do not hold the water long. They catch only enough water to cultivate hay for their animals in the difficult winter. The challenge is to catch runoff water to improve their incomes, health and water supply.

In the Andes, people live in extreme climatic conditions and struggle to make a living in a beautiful environment. Agriculture in small plots is limited by unpredictable rain. Poverty levels are high. While it is possible to seek welfare from the government, the people here are proud and want make their own living. If these few families demonstrate how it is possible to improve production by capturing runoff from rain, then others will find ways to do the same.

The construction to capture runoff will enable the families to plant food crops to complement the hay grown for their goats from which they produce weavings and cheese.

If these poor families can capture and use runoff water to produce food, they will have healthier diets and sustainable income to invest in making marketable weavings and cheese. Their new income will help them to improve their agriculture, and market handmade local products to tourists.

Urundei Foundation, a member of IUCN, seeks to help rural families living in the Calchaquies Valleys of Salta - Argentina, to catch water in small ponds the runoff of rain coming from the top of the mountains and small springs in the surrounding mountains, to hold and use water for consumption and also to use in irrigation of small plots of agricultural land.

The goal is to construct three small ponds using improved and proved technology to capture runoff water from the mountains in rainy season and from small springs, to implement a water system in a simple and practical way with a low investment, benefiting fifty+ people for ten+ years.

The US$ 8,000 budget will cover costs for local labor, materials, and equipment will run approximately $2000 to $3000 per pond depending on difficulty of excavating rocky terrain. For counterpart, Urundei will provide coordination and transportation, and administration.

The anticipated outcomes are:

  • Irrigation for small plots of agricultural land;
  • Maintain herds of goats and sheep for milk and cheese production;
  • Supply water for domestic consumption in the houses;
  • Improvements in the families production system;
  • Reach to the market with products for tourism;
  • Expanded to more families for better production systems, better health, food security and quality of life.

For more information, contact Alonzo Zarzycki at [email protected] or [email protected] 

Urundei’s background and mission: 

Fundación Urundei www.urundei.org was established in July 2008 with a broad mission to:

  1. promote the conservation of biological diversity and natural resources through projects to support conservation and sustainable economic development through trainings, outreach, research, studies and voluntary works;
  2. encourage environmental responsibility of private business, and promote general public interest in environmental themes to strengthen conservation action by private citizens;
  3. carry out studies about environmental issues and spread information so it is accessible to populations affected by urban and rural environmental problems who can in turn deliberate among themselves to propose legal reforms and new technical regulations; and
  4. join in agreements for cooperation, collaboration and interchanges with public and private entities for socio-environmental and sustainable development activities.   


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