High in the Andes Mountains in northern Ecuador, where rain is scarce and social services are virtually nonexistent, the small agricultural community of Paragachi is being revitalized by a new irrigation system that brings fresh water to the parched land. Training in organic gardening techniques is helping families grow their own vegetables, and even have produce left over to sell. Soon, mothers forced to leave children home alone while they hire themselves out as agricultural workers, will be able to stay at home to raise their families.
This transformation began with an ambitious plan by the local nonprofit Fundación de Ayuda Social Montañas de Esperanza (Mountains of Hope or MoH) to restore a deteriorated pipe system that could carry clean irrigation water to Paragachi from a large aqueduct about 1.2 miles away, part of an extensive system of aqueducts fed by mountain lakes. “If replaced with new pipe and augmented with a new community distribution network,” said Paul Murtha, MoH's president, “this system could bring enough water to 135 Paragachi families (about 470 people), to enable each to have a productive garden.”
MoH's Water for Paragachi Project, supported by a grant from TPRF, involved replacing deteriorated pipe with better quality piping, installing new suspension rigging over ravines, as well as a new primary intake at the source, renovating two storage tanks and installing a comprehensive distribution system under the streets of Paragachi to bring the water to each family’s potential garden site.
Enthusiastic volunteers from the Paragachi families who benefit from the project did much of the work. MoH coordinated the project with the local Public Works Department, which provided a county backhoe and operator to dig the trenches for the community distribution lines under the streets and into each family garden.
A second phase of the project, underwritten by The Vibrant Village Foundation, whose founder and president, Ken DeLaski, sits on TPRF's Board of Directors, is helping Paragachi families plant productive, sustainable organic gardens through training workshops, technical assistance, and nutrition and cooking classes as well as the distribution of humus, seeds, a hose, and garden tools.
TPRF and MoH previously worked together in 2008, when MoH delivered food supplies to Ecuadoran families displaced by coastal flooding.
“Fundacion Montanas de Esperanza is very grateful to have been selected to receive this wonderful grant,” Murtha said. “Luis Angamarca, Paragachi Community's president, has shared several times how much this effort has unified and inspired the entire community. ‘There is a whole new hope here,’ he says.”