Wednesday, February 3, 2010
A day of meetings first with Juan Jose of INSO. He gave us a crash course in Oaxacan politics 101. It was an intense time but helpful for understanding how and where we need to go from here. The second was with Erik Martinez Torres from UABJO in which he gave us some preliminary results of the water-testing. The third was a lunch meeting with Kaki Kamman and Augustin of ProMexico, a volunteer organization which plugs Americans into various work projects and seeks out opportunities for indigenous women to sell products.
We had dinner at a place around the corner from Rosalinda’s and invited Francine (from Nova Scotia via New Westminster B.C.) to accompany us. She gave us the lowdown on how well the Canadian health care system works compared with that of the US. We then walked home to bed.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
We spent the morning at the “office.” Yesterday and today we were “lucky” to get “fresh” mango from the local fruit lady. Tonight we meet with the town council of elders from Santo Domingo Barrio Bajo Etla to ask their ideas for Operations and Maintenance of whatever sewage treatment plant is built, and to let them know that we (WFH) and INSO are here to help them navigate the political landscape. We have a unique opportunity to implement a project from grassroots (bottom up) support. One of our near term goals is to formally engage State and Federal agencies such that this example can be shown to work in situations where the local municipal politics are in-effective at moving things forward.
The Council of Elders Meeting
The meeting with the town elders was very encouraging. There were 9 members present. The discussion covered many aspects off of implementing a solution to the defunct treatment plant. After listening to them we focused on how to provide ongoing operations and maintenance (O&M). This is one of many aspects that have to be considered as part of the package, whatever plan is adopted.
Maria started the meeting by doing a great introduction of WFH, how we “landed in Santo Domingo,” and the ongoing communications we have had over the past few months.
The council is hungry for an answer to the defunct treatment plant. For some background of how things normally work down here, when a city has an idea or requirement for a treatment system, a long line of consultants and engineering firms come and “sell” there product as it will solve all their problems. From what we can determine these are just “sales pitches” in that the proposals do not appear to be designed for the specific community. The proposals do not have the proper background engineering data to design a solution or determine the proper technology. Given this, in the beginning of the meeting the council wanted to “see” our proposal (technology, schedule and cost). We stressed that in order to define a scope of work the proper background engineering must be completed, as without good effluent data (volume, chemical makeup and nominal and peak flow) one can’t properly design a system that will work. We stressed that with Maria’s help we now have a site survey (topographic map). We have just completed a 5-day water testing process in which we hope to have the results of the 5 basic chemical properties needed to define the effluent. In addition we need to better understand the nominal and peak flow of the effluent. Once the council members understood this, they were excited to know that whatever we propose as a technology solution will actually work! They also stressed they did not want to “be an experiment,” i.e. they want a solution that has a track record of working.
The meeting then changed focus to discuss the difficult task of both stressing the importance of O&M and how it can be implemented. Everyone agreed that a solution for the O&M is a key part of any solution, as they have seen (way too many times) that systems get built, break, and stop functioning due to the lack of O&M. We discussed ways to generate revenue including: taxing municipal water used, “selling” the system output water, Hydroponics, Aquaculture, and “humanure” as compost. Everyone was impressed that we followed through and are committed to helping Santo Domingo come up with a sustainable solution to this issue. From this meeting Maria will be setting up a follow-up meeting with and some Etla Government officials early next week to introduce ourselves and our project ideas. The meeting ended around 10 pm. In the local style, the elders formally invited us to a breakfast and to peruse the weekly Sunday market day in Santo Domingo. Nelly drove us back to Rosalinda’s in a torrential downpour.
February 5, 2010, Friday
We met together to debrief after the meeting last night and came up with some strategies to come along side the community to support them in this project. We met with Carlos Placencia to get organized for the Oaxaca Water Forum that Stan, Rick, and Nelly will present the project at next Friday. The forum is a collaboration between Federal, State and local agencies along with communities in the state of Oaxaca. This is a place of great exchange of ideas and information. There will also be a guided tour of the Botanical Garden. The forum has continued even with many changes in administrative governments and gives everyone a voice. After a quick lunch we inte3rviewed a potential Civil Engineer who is interested in our project.
Finally, it is the WEEKEND and Saturday is a full day off :)