Shoes & Hope Community Assessment: El Maguey, Zacapa, Guatemala

Date: 7/21/15

Today we were able to meet with 5 members of El Maguey’s COCODE (village leaders).  Pictured above from left to right: Oscar, Nilss, Diego, Alejandro, and Moses.

From the meeting, we definitely got a sense that they have a strong leadership there, who are good examples for their village.  They volunteer for their positions, but then are elected for 2 year terms.  Once their term is up, they can volunteer again, and be up for re-election.  There is a Mayor (or Leader), Vice- Mayor, Secretary, Treasurer, and then different representatives for certain aspects of their community.  Nilss has been mayor for 3 years so far (as of July 2015), and has about 1 year left.  The COCODE get official cards stating their position, and here is an example of one:

Oscar (pictured in the middle above) is the Vice-Mayor.  Their village is about an hour from Gualan, back towards Zacapa.  It is kind of like a suburb to Zacapa City.  Its terrain is very similar to Gualan and Los Limones, where it is flatter than where we’re used to working.  There are some hills, but it’s mostly flatter.  Nilss will be our point of contact for this project.  Their population is roughly 850 people, with 260-275 families there presently, but about 280 families being served in total.  We were told that some find work in the US, and send money back to Guatemala for their family to build a house.  They have a multi-generational household population, with an average of 3 to 4 people, which seemed lower than we were expecting.  Their rainy season is May through October.  This year there has not been much rain yet, and crops are definitely suffering.  We’ve heard that from multiple villages, and from the CALMS workers.  El Maguey’s primary employment is agriculture, so when the crops suffer, the village suffers.  Their village also has jobs in cigar-making, and during cantaloupe harvest season there is some extra work as well.  

Their village does have electricity, a church, and a school.  They don’t have a clinic, but there are 2 that are fairly close. The bigger of the 2 is in Zacapa city, which is about 10 to 15 minutes away.  The smaller one is in El Terrero which is about 5 to 10 minutes away.  It is only for smaller things, like shots, basic medicine, etc.

We asked them about diseases that affect their community, and they said that everyone there was very conscious of contaminated water, so there are not many issues with disease caused from their water.  They did have a break-out of Chikungunya which is transmitted through mosquitos (a couple of months ago).  It affected everyone, but especially the young and elderly.

They have latrines in both their homes and schools.  Handwashing with soap is taught in the schools and clinics, and they have a lot of signs in public places about hand-washing as well.  They don’t have the specific WASH program though.  We did not ask about their menstrual hygiene management, because there were no females from their village leadership there.

Their primary foods eat are corn and beans.  Corn and bean empanadas are popular.  They don’t have many gardens, but they have easy access to vegetables from the market since they are close to the city.  Also vegetable trucks come to their village to sell their produce as well.  They are able to grow la roco, which is a flower that they use for juice or soup. The children are part of an Incaparina program funded by Carmel Lutheran.

They have 2 sources of water.  Most of their water comes from a spring, but they also have a well.  Their spring water is distributed by gravity.  Their distribution tank is up high.  Water comes to their homes from the well, which is clean, not contaminated.  They have well water 2 hours every other day.  Their village is divided into 12 sections- 7 sections have water at one time, and then 5 sections have the water the other days.  Since they are so limited on their use of well water, they buy water to drink.  It is delivered to their homes for 10 Qs for a 5 gallon tank of purified water.  They have easier access to having water delivered because they are so close to Zacapa city.  They currently have no method of treatment or purification.  They are looking into the cost for that and how to do that best.  Right now their spring water is often contaminated from people throwing their grey water into the river, which feeds into the spring.  In the rainy season, they don’t use the spring at all.  If they had a filter, they would be able to use.

The impact of this project would be more water pressure, and more water getting to the families.  Currently they have an overflow in the tank, so that’s why they want to replace pipes to bring more water to families.  We would be replacing existing pipe that was replaced roughly 15 years ago.  This section of pipe was originally put in for 10 families, but they have grown, so now this section of pipe serves about 30 families.  Right now there is 3 inch pipe to the distribution tank, which is overflowing, and only 2 inch pipe in the village which is short on water.  As they’ve been replacing the pipe, they have been replacing the 2 inch pipe with 3 inch pipe, to get more water to the families of the village who need it.  The village has already saved and replaced a lot of the sections of pipe, but this is the last section that needs to be replaced.

They pro-actively walk their pipes to make sure there are no leaks or other problems.  Everybody puts in money to replace the pipes, which the Treasurer of the COCODE is in charge of collecting on a monthly basis.  With this money, they also hire someone in the village to maintain their water system, and they pay the electric bill for the water pump for the well.  During the summer, it’s about Q35 ($4.67 USD), and during the rainy season, it’s about Q60 ($8 USD), because they use the well only, which makes the electric bill for the water pump higher.  The men in their village have more regular jobs than in some of the other villages, so they can’t always dedicate their time to repair the pipes.   

The timeline would be ASAP.  They will be paving roads soon where the pipe needs to go, and it would be more difficult to do that once the paving is done.  El Maguey already has asphalt on their main streets.  The village of El Terrero, where the clinic is, is putting asphalt on their streets.  El Terrero uses the same spring as El Maguey, and they are basically waiting for the water project to be finished before they can pave.  El Maguey has already exhausted their resources to get the water project to this point.  The project is estimated to take 1 month or shorter to complete.

The cost of the project is Q18,415 ($2456 USD).  The labor will be completed by the men of the village which will save Q8,500 ($1,133 USD).  Please see “Materials Sheet” for pricing breakdown of the materials.

Here are some pictures of our meeting with the El Maguey COCODE: