Sunday, 20 July 2008

Family trip to Tomoyo

Despite plans being changed several times over in true Bolivian style we got to visit the area of Tomoyo as a family. What should have been both British families and the Snells visitor sadly resulted in just being Melissa, her two children and us. Their visitor had come down with Pneumonia and Simon felt he needed to be on hand for translating and such like.

But eventually after an early start we were off, and soon venturing further by road than I had ever been. Which wasn't really all that difficult to achieve. Just meters out of the city the roads change from smooth (ish) concrete to dusty trails with many rocks and the occasional pothole. The roads were actually in pretty good condition considering, but I think that's because they have to rebuild most of them each year after the rain has washed parts or entire roads away.

Alana coped remarkably well with the 2 and a half hour journey considering she had not been in a car for longer than 45 minutes in the last year or so. It was Matthew though who decided to revisit his breakfast and then his lunch on the return journey.

As we made our way along the twisty, windy roads, the scenery around us changed from grey barren rocks, to brick red dirt roads and a much lush greener look as we went lower. In the distance we could see amazing rock formations with a myriad of different colours forming wave patterns. One part of the journey took us through an area kind of like a moonscape; only way to describe it would be like sand dunes, but much smaller and more rounded and with a dirt red appearance.

We passed through one small community with a paved road and plaza, but outside of that civilisation was a scattering of dwellings spaced out along the landscape. After 2 and half hours we arrived at Tomoyo and made our way to the FH office for a short time to freshen up before meeting some of the families that FH was directly involved with.

The families we met and chatted with were individuals whom Simon was involved with in helping set up micro enterprise projects. These individuals had recognised the need for diversifying and trying something different, as survival for their families was getting more and more difficult. They weren't prepared to take on the fatalistic attitude of so many people here; they could see that they could change the future for their families.

The first of our visits was to a family who wanted to start baking bread to sell and to use. In a community so spread out and far from any great commercial areas, this would be a great project to run with. The second family we visited was a producer of Amaranti, a small grain cereal crop that is packed full of all sort of good things, he was seeking ways of popping the grain (much like you do popcorn) and then commercialising it. The third man we visited was involved in a project close to my own heart; he wanted to set up a dairy. He was in the process of building a cow shed, from mud bricks, then looking at ways in which to attain more cows by establishing a co operative with neighbours.

After lunch back at the office our visit took on a different form as we went to see the source of the Tomoyo irrigation canal, which we had heard so much about previous to coming to Bolivia. Since it was installed a few years back the canal has positively affected the lives of over 500 families in making their land much more productive from better access to water, and therefore improving nutrition.

From the office we took about a half hour drive along a narrow twisty road blasted into the side of the cliff until we arrived at a beautiful rugged valley, with high overpowering rock faces on either side. So this was where it all started, the water that travels down the canal giving life to the places it passes and life and hope to the families that make use of it.

After spending a bit of time there enjoying the scenery and the kids enjoying the sand we took the journey back to Sucre with three very sleepy children. It was good to actually see how in practice FH is involved in positively changing the lives of people whom eek out an existence in such a harsh place. It made us feel proud to be doing our small part in an organisation that doesn't just talk about making a difference but that actually gets on and does make a difference. What a witness about the practical love of God.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Having talked about it for so long I have finally seen it!

Many of you will have seen the video we showed before we left the UK called 'Water is Life,' about a 15km irrigation canal in Tomoyo that is improving the life's of over 500 families. Well on the 26th and 27th June I got to go and see this project for myself and it is indeed impressive. I was there to help my boss Sergio and an engineer from the office Pablo to check the main canal for any maintenance and repair work that was necessary.

Over the day and a half that we where there we walked the first 10km from the source of the canal set in a deep sided valley, following it along valley side, part of a road that FH has made (another part of FH's work helping to improve the infrastructure in the areas where we work), over aqueducts and out into a wide valley where the families that are benefiting from the canal live. It was also good to be able to give some advice that Sergio and Pablo took on board. I think this was helped by seeing things in a different way from them. At present there is not much growing in the fields as it is winter time here, but I'm told that if I return in October/November time then it will be a different story with green fields and the irrigation system in full flow.
This photo was taken standing by the month of the canal.
This is a bit further down river if you look on the right side of the valley you can is the road cut into the side of the hill that FH made.
Pablo and Ed on the main canal.
Another part of FH's work in Soil conservation building terrances to help reduce erosion.
On of the aquaducts we crossed as we followed the canal route
Sergio and Ed at a secondary canal that takes the water to the fields of some of the families benefiting from the project.