Friday, November 29, 2013

11 days into MZ irrigation project (pictures)

Today is day 11 of the construction of the MZ irrigation project.  Everyone involved is working extremely hard.  I can't remember if I have made 2 or 3 trips out in these 11 days... it's a bit foggy.  I put in a lot of hours on the office end as well: getting price quotes for all the materials, sweet-talking and haggling over prices, purchasing, getting a truck loaded and sent out, getting custom parts ordered from steel fabricators, encouraging said steel fabricators to do the jobs and do them well, etc.

Since everyone is so busy, I have had to think of other ways to get out to MZ village to monitor the work.  On Monday I took the watchman from our yard, and the handyman who I have written about before, and drove one of our organization's oldest vehicles.  It's only a '92, but this Toyota Landcruiser has been through the works.  Nearly every part in the thing has been replaced one or two or five times and still it shimmies and shakes down the road.  The most infamous story about this truck is that two days after insurgents stole it (in 2010) they gave it back because it was worthless!  Yep, we're still driving it.  Since it hadn't been out to the village for a long time (it usually just makes runs to the airport or school), I decided we would take the smooth road, park it by the river, and cross the river by raft.  4 men plus a generator seemed like a pretty good load for that small raft, but we made it.

In Monday's monitoring trip I noticed several ways in which the plan had changed once construction started.  I was very glad I came out to remind some people of the plan.  Some changes were already beyond reversal, however, so I am learning some great lessons about how thorough and disciplined the planning process needs to be.  Example: The community men swore up and down that they would have no problem digging the rocky soil, but a few days into the work they were saying they could no longer do it without dynamite.  I wish that in the planning process I would have required them to bring shovels and picks to sample the soil in different parts of the pipeline, and see and understand how much work it was going to be, prior to contract signing.  We compromised and much to their delight, I permitted the use of dynamite on the deepest foundation hole.  I only wish I could have been there too, at a distance, with a hardhat, and goggles.

Yesterday during Thanksgiving celebrations I got a call from my main engineer saying that he was running short on cement and would need more by Friday noon.  I thought about sending it on local transport, but decided instead to use the opportunity to monitor the progress again.  Again I invited our house watchman to come along (big smiles from him, he loves seeing projects), and we went to pick up cement.  We also decided to attempt to bring some pipe to the village.  It was not one of my wisest moments when I willing let ambitious local men load four 4" steel pipes, each 20 feet in length, on the 5-foot-long roof rack of the ancient Landcruiser.  But you know, once they were up there, wound up in a ridiculous amount of rope, it was a situation that summons the inner-asian in me, "come on, try it, if God wills it will work great!"  I added a rope from the front bumper to the pipes hanging overhead, and tied one of my wife's red Christmas cloth napkins to the overhang on the rear, and off we went.  The trip was slow, and we had to stop and retighten ropes once, but there was no other difficulty with the pipes.  We reached the riverbank again, and the raft operator grinned from ear to ear while he said, "you're back, did you bring me a music cassette like I asked?"  He had asked on Monday, and I had forgotten, but lucky for him my watchman had not!  Cassette in pocket, he then eagerly loaded pipes and cement bags on his raft, until the villagers on the other riverbank convinced him with waving hands to not attempt it all in 1 trip, but rather split it into two.  I went on the first trip, along with 1 of the pipes and 2 bags of cement.  My engineer returned, loaded the other 3 pipes and 2 bags of cement, and the raft sat low and teetered.  This was the point where I took off my jacket, vest, and bag.  The thought of getting in that rushing river in December was insane, but if it toppled I would have to go after our watchman who did not know how to swim.  Fortunately the raft did just fine, and I wish I could upload the video I captured.

In monitoring the work today I saw a lot of progress on the hardest parts of the project, but also some additional unexpected changes.  The location, angle, and height of the dam has turned out different than I suggested.  This is tricky, because I don't want to discredit anyone's judgement or hard work, but I am responsible for sharing the best insights I have gathered from several senior engineers on this project.  So I asked a lot of questions to make sure I understood their thinking, then built on what they were looking for with some alternate ideas and concerns that I saw.  I do not know exactly the result of this will be... hope for the best?

On my way down the valley and back to the river raft I took some great photos for you.  Before today's photos, here's a before shot of the dam and tank location... The water comes down the valley from the upper-left.

And here is the current...

The dam catches the water, directing it to the left-side of the valley which is out of the floodway.  Then a canal routes the water to a small settling tank (bottom center), where the 2" pipe begins.

Here's a couple shots of the men of the village hard at work digging the ditch and installing the pipe.

In the above shot you see the foundation for the suspension bridge that is yet to be built.

800 meters of trench is nothing to sneeze at, but add the hard rocky layers, and it's been a pretty tough job!  

We're hoping for 4 more strong days, then I have to pull my lead engineer back for the weekend (he's worked through the past 3 in a row).  Then in the week following that, this project should be done.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The tricky topics

Lately my 3 year old (soon to be 4), has been making massive inquiries into the world around him.  His been asking a lot of spiritual questions, which have been a joy to discuss with him.  He is also asking things like, "where do babies come from?" 

This latter type of question can be a bit tongue-tying.  For that reason I am so glad for the advice of a good friend of my wife's.  She said that when her children started to need some explanations about sex and reproduction, she found it best to give concise answers to their small questions, one by one.  She said this was better than trying to disclose the whole topic in one sitting, which can overwhelm the child (and the parent!)  So that is how we are proceeding with our little boy and his interesting inquiries. 

Today two of my staff began to ask some interesting spiritual questions.  This also could have been a tongue-tying moment, but for different reasons than my example above.  Spiritual questions are tricky in this place, and perhaps especially at this time.  Conservative religious sentiment is rising, as is criticism of foreigners here.  This is not a time or place to proclaim too loudly your beliefs or differences from the order here.  In this context, genuine religious questions and discussions are seldom.  So when my staff started asking questions today, it took me a minute to find my bearing and decide where to go with their questions.  In that moment, I thought to myself, "okay, just like talking with my 3 year old about sex, I cannot give them more answers than they are ready for, I only need to address their questions one at a time.

I cannot detail for you all that we discussed, but I will tell you what point I decided to stick to.  I kept my answers and thus their follow-up questions around the point that there was nothing I could do to save myself, it was only Christ that could save me.  As I found out, there is a lot that can be said around this point, if the questions keep bringing it out.  After a while however, something distracted us and we went on to discussing irrigation flow rates, or panning for gold, or something like that. 

Ironically enough, important discussions with my son are just like this; he comes with keen interest and we talk for a few minutes before he drifts off to the next thing.  The funny thing is, at random times, he will remember the previous questions, and with Interest we will pick up right where we left off.  In this way it takes weeks to discuss something I could give him a 15-minute lecture on.  I'm more than okay with that though, because I have lots and lots of weeks to spend with my son, and I want him to learn from me in the way that serves his little heart and mind the best.

Time will tell, but right now I would not be surprised if the discussion started today by my staff would soon come up again.  I have plenty of time here as well, and step-by-step is fine with me.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What it took to sign the contract for the MZ irrigation water project

 A lot has gone on in the past week regarding the irrigation project that I wrote about recently.  Last week I thought we might have shovels in the ground on Mon or Tues.  Thats hilarious, because on Monday morning we ran into a challenge in the community that almost derailed the whole project!  The short story is: we got through it, and the project has started.  The longer story goes like this:

Got to the MZ village on Sun morning, went straight to measuring some fields to verify the irrigation sample figures we had received from farmers in the community.  We very quickly realized that the numbers had been skewed, either by hopeful bias (aka lying), or for not knowing better.  Went to other villages to get more sample figures to try to get better data triangulation.  Found some consistent figures.  Now we know more accurately what the irrigation need for the village is.  Success. 

Next up: afternoon meeting with village elders.  The point was to discuss the project design one last time before the contract meeting.  This is the point when it becomes real to everyone: this project is going to happen, say your beef, if you have one, now.  No one had any lingering concerns, so we planned to do contract meeting after supper.

We all split for prayers and supper, and when the men came back, it was a different feel altogether, and couple of the key guys were not there.  Where were they?  One man I had never met launched into complaints about the locations of both ends of the pipe.  Where was he during the surveys in the past month?  Why hasnt this come up before now?  Arguments start between the men present.  My local staff, worn out after long days, join in the arguments.  Several attempts are made by the white beards to calm the arguments.  The one man will not back down, and his complaining gets obscene.  I sit and listen, puzzling for the background story on this one man.  I decide I will call him saboteur.  The scene is chaotic for 15 minutes, then finally one white beard gets control and says, Were going to quit arguing, because were here with our foreign guest.  Were going to ask him to make this simple for us and say whether we can move the start of the pipe up the valley, or not!  Simple is what I gave them, with, Anyone who wants to discuss what has been surveyed and look at other possibilities, Ill see you out in the valley at 6 in the morning.  Goodnight grumpy men.

Next morning, out with the sun we were, walking the line planned for the pipe again.  We went first to the village side.  Saboteur was arguing for the pipe and project to better accommodate him, but his points dont make sense.  He claims that one man will be upset because part of his field will be left out.  That man appears and represents himself, I dont have a problem with the plan that has been laid out.  Saboteur gets really upset and obscene.  I regret I understand his language so well because his slander is raising my blood pressure by the minute.

We continue the walk to the source side.  My local staff and I stand on the spot we have carefully surveyed for the best possibility to gather maximum water and stand resilient to spring floods.  Saboteurs slander continues.  We follow him up the valley to his proposal.  His suggestion is spending 2 weeks digging a large reservoir in the bed of the valley to get to the real source of the water.  In this valley that experiences violent, boulder-littering floods its impossible.  I cant figure this guy out.  I also cant figure out the council leader, who sits idly by.  I call him out, saying, you have been with us the last two three times weve been up here surveying, why have we not heard this other opinion before now, and why wont you represent the opinion of everyone else right now?  He stood strangely silent.  Saboteur is again slandering everything: our surveying, our local staff, our project that has done nothing, and I wont say how he views foreigners.  Ive had enough, I call my local staff to head back to the village.  Weighing for one more moment the pros and cons of speaking out, I go for it.  Sir, this is a community project, and the community has led us to the plans that are now fully prepared.  Where were you when this was going on?  Have you sat back with the goal of wrecking this project?  Have you wanted everyone to lose this chance of irrigation?  Youre reaching that goal.  And we exit, with swift steps down the valley.

Walking back to the village, my local engineer is charged and angry.  He is ready to quit working with this community altogether.  I calm him down and tell him to think it through.  We both calm down, and talk it through carefully before reaching our room in the community.  We decide that the council leaders need to be challenged about this lapse in their representation.  If this guy was credible, they needed to represent him earlier- why hadnt they?  If he was nuts, why did they let him wreak so much havoc on last nights and this mornings meetings?  We decide to take it one step further, and let the council know that their leadership is so important to our projects that if theyre not going to take the lead, theres nothing more we can do here, and well pack and leave immediately.  A severe ultimatum of sorts, which should be used carefully, but its what we calculated as the best way to respond now.  If we went through with this, then only the action and request of the council could bring us back. 

As it turned out, we did not have to wait long for the action and request of the council.  As the men of the community returned from the valley, 3 key leaders made a bee-line for our room.  The old council leader, the new council leader, and one other key man came to our room and asked if we could solve the problem right away.  They apologized for the way last night and this morning had went.  Then they assured us that they had and will continue to deal with the saboteur.  They state that they have officially put him, under their authority, out of eligibility to hassle us any further.  We record the statement, and they sign and thumbprint that written statement.  Next they state that the whole community was in consensus opinion about the project, and wanted it to continue.  They asked if we would overlook the arguments and complaints of one man, and continue.  We agreed.  Then we all spent some time making statements that in essence smoothed the relationship back out.  They apologized for making the foreigner angry.  I assured them that I was not angry for any personal reason, but because of the great potential change that was being sabotaged by one man.  They liked that statement, and said that my statements in the valley to the saboteur woke them up to see what an opportunity they were potentially losing for the whole community.  Thats when they decided they needed to act and discipline the saboteur, and catch up to us before we left.

So, everything was smoothed out in less than a day since it all started to blow up.  Thats sort of how things work here sometimes.  The above is the story as it happened.  Now, let me add a little underlying meaning for you.  The old council leader has been in that position for 22 years.  Just last month the others in the council, recently trained in community leadership by our local staff, decided they wanted to replace the council leader.  They said he was not matching up to the standards that our leadership course introduced to them, and they had an idea of a man who would better fill the role.  The old council leader was not happy, but reluctantly accepting the will of the people.  The new council leader, then, was very recently chosen by the people, but not officially instated by the government yet, because election time has not yet come.  Due to this background story, my staff and I believe there was some political weaseling behind the above story.

The political conspiracy:
We believe that the old council leader paid or otherwise motivated the saboteur to do what he did.  The proof was in the way the old council leader stood by while it all happened.  It didnt fit.  At the end of the night meeting, we thought that the old council leader was behind it, and that he wanted the project to fail, in an attempt to discredit the leadership of the new council leader.  This still seemed true in the morning, until we were ready to leave, and the old and new council leaders came to stop us and fix the problem.  Then the full motive of the old council leader was revealed: he wanted to save the community from the problem he had created.  The new council leader was also there at the solution session, but it was the old council leader who dominated with implementing the solution.  He definitely wanted his name on saving the day

I left shortly after this story finished, heading on to our two other villages to help with issues going on there.  I got home late that day, did some last checking of our calculations, and made some phone calls with the local staff in MZ to confirm their plan.  Spent most of 6-7am the next morning on the phone with them again, and by 7am, on Tues, the contract with the community was signed.  MZ village is officially moving ahead on their irrigation project.  Lets see how much we can get done before freezing temps stop us.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

And then there were 3 water points

Just a note of hurrah to say that the community of AQ village have successfully dug the trench and buried the pipe for their additional 2 waterpoints.  They are waiting for cement to cure on the standpost pads, but later this week they’ll be able to turn them on, get accurate flow rates, and decide how to allot time for each of the 3 neighborhoods to collect water.  At the moment, in what for months has been known as “angry village”, everyone is happy. 

Good things are happening.  Now take heart, and press on with this next beast-like-1900-word post.  

Learning to do irrigation, the hard way

Tomorrow I might be ready for our team to sign a irrigation project contract in MZ village.  Of course I could have said the same thing three weeks ago, and between that time and now I have twice been ready to cancel the project altogether!  It’s anybody’s guess then how tomorrow will go!

More than a year ago, before my time here, the project team was working with the community at addressing different development hurdles and analyzing which ones could be addressed to provide real economic growth for the community.  Irrigation water was named, and so a search for an appropriate water source began.  The community first took our team up the mountain to see the spring that provided “this much” (picture hands round and wide enough to hold a watermelon) water.  They reached the hillside spring and found that it was only “that much” (picture fingers curled around a golf ball).  Thus the team learned early on that this community did not excel in precision of measurements.

All the irrigation options were explored: the upper mountain spring, an electric pump on the riverside with power from a hydroelectric project, a diesel generator, and a nearby valley stream.  All four of the options were ruled impossible for one variable or another: shortage of supply, no suitable site for hydropower project, and generators are expensive to buy and maintain.  The last option, the nearby valley, was pretty much tossed aside by the people of the community, because although some had used that water by means of a dirt ditch, they were not unanimous in feeling it would be a worthwhile source to work for.

The idea of irrigation for the village thus went dormant, until this summer, when the shortage of winter precipitation caused people to think again about the need for irrigation.  This time the valley stream was the first idea to be brought back up, and it quickly, somehow ironically, gathered a consensus opinion from the community: we want that water back!

With interest gathered, I went for a first look at this valley in July.  It was the first time that I had really pondered what it would mean to do an irrigation project.  As I thought about it, these 3 essentials came to mind:

1- Everyone in community must have access.
2- Water supply must be adequate for all to be reached, for the full season needed.
3- The project design must be doable, affordable, and sustainable.

Unfortunately I did not take a minute to write these down at that point, to make sure I got them in the right order.  Then this happened:
We thought we should start with #1 on the list above, so we surveyed and worked with the community until we had ironed out a plan so that all fields of all residents would be included.  I took encouragement in this, because I have heard of many irrigation projects in this country falling apart on this point alone.  I also took encouragement in the fact that the community, once in disagreement about the worth of the project, had united in favor of doing it.  I believed that if the community thought it was worth the hard volunteer labor, it must be worth doing.  I also thought that they could best judge the amount of water the stream would supply, because they had previously used the water coming in a dirt ditch, and thought that this was worthwhile.  Restoring this water source with plastic pipe would only increase the amount that reached the fields. 

My encouragement came from the social development potential I was seeing, but in the next step I made a mistake.  What I should have done next was carefully surveyed the actual supply and demand of water for irrigation.  I should have worked out point #2 before doing anything else.

Instead of getting specific data about the irrigation water supply and demand, I went on to surveying for project design, in other words: how could it be built?  I visited the valley four separate times, each time with a new design question.  I measured, thought, and planned carefully how to make a flood-resilient checkdam, how to minimize and clean out silting in the pipe, how to hang the pipe from a suspension structure to take the pipe across a 37-meter valley, and how to install pressure relief valves to keep the water flow moving well.  It wasn’t that I was engrossed in the fun of construction design.  It was actually rather stressful to face all these technical questions and have to research answers, because I had very little experience in addressing these matters.  So then why didn’t I realize sooner the importance of answering points #2 before moving forward?

I don’t know.  Like I mentioned above, I found encouragement in the development between the people in the community, and in the absence of any real experience calculating water supply and irrigation demand, I let the community and my staff woo me into thinking it would all be alright. 

Everything was looking alright, until I stumbled upon the right questions at the wrong time.  By chance, I asked some men in the village if they had any figures on amount of water needed for any sample size of wheat field.  One man said he has run a petrol generator water pump for 90 minutes to irrigate a field that he sows 6 sers (roughly 93lbs) of wheat seed in.  I broke that down and realized that with the 2.5” pipe from the pump he was irrigating over 36,000 liters per jerib.  At that rate, our project would require 2,781,000 liters to reach everyone one time, and with our current trickle of a flow rate that would require 128 days!

I went home dumbfounded, literally, because I had just found out how dumb I had been.  This was the first time that I considered canceling the project, because it seemed just plain impossible.  Then I got to work penciling out all the details and thinking of ways we could change this up.  I thought of restricting the field size per family that could be irrigated.  If no one could irrigate more than the average field size of all, that would reduce the irrigated land by 30%.  Not enough.  I took into consideration that spring flow rates are said to be much better, and made some calculations of what could be done with steady flow rates of 1L/second up to 5L/second (the max for our 2.5” pipe).  This brought the days needed down between 6.5 and 32 days.  An improvement, but much too big of a range, and too unpredictable!

The stress of this was getting to me, so I went to talk with one of my lead local staff on the weekend, and we formed a new idea.  We had not been able to built a hydroelectric plant there, and we had not been able to petition a neighboring villages to share their hydro power with MZ village, but perhaps we could petition for power only for day-time use, only for a pump?  We both thought this was a fantastic idea, because electricity here is mostly unused in the daytime hours.  Surely the other village would share their power for daytime use for our economic improvement project, right? 

We decided we needed an answer sooner than the start of the week, so we took off on our motorcycles the next day, to get an answer from the other village.  It was not fun to burn my weekend on this project, but I will admit that it was very fun to take this trip on my motorcycle!  The highlight was when we crossed the river by small raft!  Then we searched a couple villages for the boss man who could give us the answer we needed.  We had to climb into a high mountain village in the end to find him, he was there visiting a man who has just returned from the hajj. 

We sat down with boss man and the new hajji, and drank some tea and ate some chickpeas, raisins, and almonds.  We explained our situation and the petition of the MZ village.  My hope in this solution was quickly dashed when the boss man politely but resolutely denied our request.  Actually he fudged it more than anything, he said we could install a pump in his village and pump water to a ditch that would then flow back to MZ village.  A quick calculation told me that just the electric lines and cement for the ditch would cost more than double what we had budgeted for the project.  Thanks for the chai, hajji, no we can’t stay to eat the lamb you’ve slaughtered, maybe next time? 

Back down the mountain we rode, to the river that we would have crossed by raft again, but it was prayer time so the raft man had disappeared.  Probably for the best.  Balancing two motorcycles on a raft made out of just enough wood to hold four truck innertubes in a square was probably a bad enough idea to do once.  Home we went on the dirt road, which made me feel alive as ever.  Then I realized my cell phone had bounced out of my pocket, with over 150 contacts that were only saved on it.  Ahhhhhhhh.

Today I spent most of the day working with figures that I received from some reliable ag workers here.  I had asked them a few days before how much water was needed for wheat here, and one had replied.  I went to work converting acre-inch and gallons per minute figures to sers and jeribs and liters.  It was worth doing, because I’m encouraged by what I’ve found.  For example, alfalfa can be grown in Texas and Arizona on less than 16,000 liters per jerib; less than half of what the MZ farmer told me he was putting on his wheat field here!  I talked with my team about this, and they said, “well, how would he know what a jerib is?”  Yeah, we’re going to measure that field tomorrow.

Here’s the figures I am looking at now:
In the spring I estimate the valley stream can provide 4-5L/second, yielding enough water to cover everyone’s fields in 2.5-3.5 days, at a rate of 16,000L/jerib.  That’s doable, and will get them through the harvest of the winter wheat.  After that it gets harder to say what will be available for a second planting.  Right now I think the community would have to decide what their priority is for the summer: tree planting and domestic water (washing, animals), or irrigating a smaller section of their fields. 

So, tomorrow I go to MZ village, measure the one farmer’s field and see how many liters of irrigation he really applied, and head into discussions with all the white beards.  I’ll give them the good news that I think I’ve found for the spring season and first planting, and then call their attention to the careful planning and monitoring we will need to do for the second crop season.  If we can get some good negotiations started on this, and if no other crazy unforeseen events unfolds, we might be ready to talk project contract tomorrow, and have shovels in the ground on Mon or Tues. 

Or it might not happen, there’s really no telling what the next day will bring here.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Encouragement never hurts

Today I was in AQ village monitoring the progress on the additional water pipelines.  On Friday the community divided up 400 meters of distance that needed a 1 meter deep trench, and got to work.  By Saturday night one of the local staff in the village called me to say that the men were eager to bury the pipe in the first half of the ditch.  This morning, after stopping to address needs at the project in KT village (description coming), I got to AQ at 10:30.  The men of the village had scattered for the day, tired of waiting for me to get there and give approval for them to bury the pipe.  It's actually a good thing that this happened, because the trench was not deep enough, and I needed a chance to work some encouragement into a few individuals, and not be persuaded by an over-excited crowd.

While I walked the ditch through the quiet village, I measured a few spots, and noted the number of large rocks that needed to be chiseled for the pipe to pass.  My local staff walked with me, trying to convince me to give them the go ahead.  He was the first guy who I needed to encourage in order to get the momentum turned.  I started by asking him when the best time was to solve problems with a water supply system.  He and I both knew the answer: preventing the problems before the project is done.  I pointed to a few areas where rocks were forcing the ditch to jut left and right, and asked him when the easiest time was to remove those rocks: now, or January?  "Look at what these men and boys can do in just 1 day," I added, "They will not have any problem digging the ditch to 1 meter, if we encourage them to not give up and settle for a shallow trench that leaves their water supply at greater risk."

I continued to charge up this staff member with the task of building quality and problem prevention into this community's project, and he began to actively agree.  I then praised him for being attentive to the wishes and the pace of the community, but pushed him to see that sometimes we have to motivate people to go far beyond what they were prepared to do, so that they get the results that match their labor; results they deserve.  In this case, they needed a water pipe installed to a depth that is a standard acceptable to the frost and floods of this area.  Then he countered that that I don't know this environment like the community and he knows it.  I agreed, but maintained that we want to urge the community to use every tool they have to decrease their risks.  I assured him that there would be no regrets from working an extra day to ensure this pipe was safe for years.  Our talk went on for a while, and then we were joined by one of the men from the village council.

The staff member that I was talking with was not yet ready to ask the community to keep digging, so I turned next to this village leader.  I used similar messages, but mixed in with his much more positive appraisal of the work that they had done, pointing out the potential it showed for quick and easy completion of the full 1 meter depth.  He needed some examples of why it needed more work, so I showed him the rocks, explained how flow rate is affected by every added source of friction in the pipe, and that they could make the pipe flow better if their trench were done to standard.  We talked for a while, and discussed his doubt of the pipe freezing in a 50cm trench.  I then reminded him that this pipe was not always full of flowing water like a gravity-fed scheme, rather it sits full of unmoving water for most of the day, because of an electricity saving 1-way pipe valve that we installed at the top of the well (it doesn't allow any water to return to the well once it has been pumped out).  His eyebrows went up signaling that he understood.  I praised their hard work some more, and left the rest to him.

The village leader walked part of the length of the ditch, yelling out names of different families as he went.  It didn't take long for boys to appear from a number of the houses around, with shovels and picks in hand.  In minutes, this happened:

It was exciting to see how fast the community leader turned his opinion from "we're done, let's throw in the pipe and call it good enough," to, "let's spend the extra effort and do it right, right now."  The boys might not have been in full agreement, but they listened to their leader and got to work.

Within an hour, enough sections had been dug an extra 20 cm that it would be obvious to everyone which standard was now required.  The boys had set the new standard, and in the afternoon when the rest of the men returned it would be clear what needed to be done.  Well done boys, Monday is pipe install day on this side!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Before the snow flies

Right now is a busy time for physical projects in community development.  All the farm work is done so more men are available, and there are a few weeks remaining until it will be too cold to pour concrete.  In case you are interested I will give you the rundown of the projects we hope to finish before freezing temps and snow, and what each of the participants roles in the projects are.

Village "MZ"
Situation:  This village is eager to get irrigation working again in their village.  Until 3 or 4 years ago they were directing a mountain spring to their village with dirt canals, but the 700+ meter hillside canals were irreparably damaged by avalanches.  They know that we have done plastic pipelines before so they have requested for us to assist them in making their irrigation more efficient and durable.   
Project:  We are going to dam the stream coming from a mountain spring, and feed it into a 2.5 inch pipe that will run to the top of the village, where it can feed at least 3 different canal routes in order to irrigate all the yards and small fields in the village.
Community's role: They will supply all the labor and local materials.  That means rocks, gravel and sand for building the dam, canal, and settling pool before the pipe.  They will also dig a ditch by hand shovel, the entire 700+ meters length, 1 meter deep. 
CDP team's role: We will supply the non-local materials (like cement and pipe) and the engineering support that exceeds their own capacity.  We also advocate for the poorest farmers in the village to make sure that they do not have to work harder than others to get an even share of the irrigation water. 
My personal role: This is this teams first irrigation project so I am responsible for making sure that it gets done right, and making sure the end result is just and fair for all in the community.  It's easy for guys to miss the social justice or injustice that happens in physical projects, so I'm working with our facilitators every step of the way to make sure that they are noticing all the times and ways that the project can go awry or poor people lose out.  To make sure it goes right I have to be the technical consultant, meaning that I take the plans of my local engineer and test and calculate them to make sure they will work.  The way he was surveying, for example, was lacking accuracy, so I made him a 5-meter fluid communicating vessel and trained him to use that.  We also have to stretch the pipe across a 35 meter valley, so as he gets his materials and plans figured out I'll calculate the weight and figure what kind of foundation anchors we will need on both sides of the valley.
Project cost: CDP team is budgeting $4000.  Local labor will be valued around $2500 (they wont get paid, but this is the value we can attribute to their labor contribution, at the local labor wage)
Project benefit: In the fall this source will not provide much water (14,000 liters/day right now), but the community is very eager to restore this source of irrigation because of the supply it offers in spring and summer.  Using a pipeline will guarantee more water makes it to the village rather than being lost in the dirt canal.  Restoring irrigation will allow this village to double their first-season wheat harvest, plant fruit trees, and plant some second-season crops as well. 

Village AQ:
Context: This is the drinking water pipeline village (aka pants-less welldigger), so I have told this context on several chapters before.
Project: to divert the current single water pipe so that it sends water to 2 additional faucets in different parts of the village, by turn.
Community role: They first have to establish some agreements as a community, before we will start the physical works with them. Then they have to supply local materials and labor.  This means digging the ditch and bringing rocks, gravel and sand for the faucet foundations and valve boxes. 
CDP teams role: Same as in MZ: supply of non-local materials and technical support.  The team does have to work harder on the social aspects of this project, because the problem causing this project is partly their fault- they missed some important and powerful opinions last winter when they were planning the original pipeline. 
My personal role: This is the community that has experienced a number of petty conflicts (and some not-so-petty), so I have made it my job in this village to keep contact with several key people and support them in maintaining peace and cooperation among their own community.  I also play engineer in this project, but mostly I am using my technical work as opportunities to stay among the men and observe how the relationships there work.
Actually, my role in the technical aspect of this has been important, because we are nearing the limit of what the electrical submersible well pump can do.  It is rated for 120 meters of head, but calculating in the inefficiencies and friction throughout the system, and it seems were quite close.  Fortunately on Wed the team and the community were able to carry out a test that I gave them: they rolled 200 meter of 40mm hard plastic pipe up the hill, hooked it up to the reservoir, and turned on the pump to see what the flow rate would be at that higher elevation.  There was about a 40% drop in flow rate from that at the reservoir, but I think the community can reshuffle the number of families that go to each of the 3 water points, so that it stays somewhat equal.
Project cost:  CDP team is budgeting $800.  The communities labor is going to be nearly the same!
Project benefit: Simply put, this project makes 3 water points in a village that has had only 1 since we finished the well and first pipeline in April.  The reason that this is a big deal is that the village counts themselves as 3 neighborhoods.  When I finally realized that, and voiced that back to the community leaders, it changed the whole dynamic of how our relationships and work with them; we had finally seen life through their eyes.  You might still be asking: why 3 neighborhoods?  Gender, religion, age, and rich and poor all factor into this.  Women were not supposed to be crossing from one neighborhood to the other at the time of day that water was available.  Water was supposed to be more locally available for washing for prayers.  Men were continually cutting in line in front of children.  The rich were using vast amounts of water and the poor were not getting enough even for drinking.  Enough convoluted reasons for this paragraph?  To be honest, these new water pipes and collection points are not going to solve the whole issue, but they stand the chance of putting us in a better position to continue to work with this community and get some of these unsavory tendencies dealt with.  In the long run, I believe it will have been worth it to do this extra work and expense.  By the end of this week we should have the pipes installed and water flowing to all three collection points (one at a time that is!)

Village KT:
(writeup coming soon, its too late tonight!)