Our four travelers left for Guatemala Saturday, April 9th. We spent the following day traveling to Nebaj, the regional hub of the Ixil Triangle in the northwest part of the country. The region is comprised of Ixil-speaking indigenous people that boast colorful traditional dress and vibrant artisan textiles. This area was very heavily impacted by the violence of the Guatemalan Civil War which lasted in to the 1990s. In Nebaj, we met with our in country counterpart, Diego (a native of Nebaj), who helped us understand the region, culture and history of the area.
On April 11th, we traveled a few hours further on a dirt road to our destination - the community of Sumal Grande. Sumal Grande, now a community of about 1,100 people, was taken over by militants during the violence of the civil war, which disrupted their way of life, and they are still in a process of recovering. We were fortunate enough to spend several days in the community learning about their history, meeting with the water committee, visiting homes, surveying, doing water quality testing and collecting as much information as possible to better inform a possible water system expansion. Sumal Grande currently has a functioning water system but it does not provide enough water for the whole community. The current system was built about 20 years ago, and the community has grown much since then.
Despite the challenges the community faces, we were very impressed by their motivation and effort to provide their whole population with water. They spoke passionately about how they would like to provide water to everyone. Several years ago they raised enough money to build an additional distribution tank, which temporarily helped to provide enough water for the population. More recently, they purchased another spring source to add to the current system, but need financial and technical support to connect it to the existing piping. Additionally, they have been working on making and installing flow reducers to help equalize the amount of water that they do have (something they were doing during our visit).
We are excited to start a partnership between Engineers Without Borders-RMP and the community of Sumal Grande to help provide them with the much needed water system rehabilitation and expansion. We are hitting the ground running this week by starting the technical design process. With any luck, our hope is to be able to implement the design in March of next year. We would love to keep folks updated throughout our process and welcome any questions that you have.