Demotech, design for self reliance

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A three weeks course with farmers in Guatemala

Xetapan, a village, now on most days enveloped in mist, the clouds from the Pacific that drift over this high area, close to Patzun. Patzun is the city where we find Internet to do this blog and to get the materials for our 3 weeks crash course to make rope pumps. One week is done now from the time we arrived in Guatemala-City. The course is running quiet well. We have a women group in the afternoon and a mans group in the evening. People wanted it like this as they farm in the day time, as it is rainy season. There is no back-up NGO. We just asked some villagers if there was need and interest, then contacted the mayor, followed by an introduction meeting where people could enlist for the course to make water pumps. Work progresses well: most of our technical tricks are new to them. They like these new ideas that can be materialized with the sharp edge of the long knife, that is the basic tool of every farmer. Work done now is cement, cutting metal sheet to size and working wood for the rotating pump parts. The women specialize in making the pump rope with the small washers.

Looking around in Xetapan, finding water wells and checking interest
The first farmer we met in Xetapan showed his source of water. then took us to his colleagues. So we got an idea of the general condition of water wells. They were used only for household use. There was also piped water, but this had proven to be unreliable.
We showed (in the red folder) a picture of the water pump we offered to tech and train. Understanding was correct, comments to the point. No problem with communication about our plans.
The level of local technology
Clear to see in this picture how a pulley has been constructed. Used is metal wire, wood and a piece of concrete re-bar. Fastening of parts is primitive but works. Everything is home-made.
At this level of self-reliance we should operate.
For washing clothes
A flat piece of stone, next to one of the wells is used for washing clothes. More often a wash basin is used that is factory-made and practical for laundry and washing-up.
It seemed that the level of poverty did not allow this solution in this case.
Construction of top of the well
A ring of cement blocks is masoned together, just two blocks high and direct on the soil. There are no rings in the well. However the direct surrounding of the well is kept dry by a tin roof. Its roof structure is also used for mounting a pulley wheel (see first picture).
Working with the women during the course
Absolute fun! Very joyful and in togetherness.
Difficult for us to tune in to the best way of making a pump rope with them.
We started with disk cut from slippers we had bought at the market. This worked fine in Indonesia. But here we were not so sure if cutting up slippers was right, when there were still women walking bare feet. So we turned back to the use of rubber washers, what leads to other complications we still have to solve.

Mother and daughter
Many of the eight women we worked with, brought their babies of children to the course. The work to do fits the older children well and they like to assist, often faster is getting grip on the new method then their mother.
Our place to work
Next to the community center where we gave our presentations, a small plot was offered to us for giving the course. Farmers made the structure from poles and rope to support the plastic cover we brought. It offers just the space we need and gives good protection against the rain. And it is raining plenty!
Sharp knives
To use sharp knives is not common for these women for their normal work. But for making the washers for the pump rope a sharp knife is a must.
So we made the making and the sharpening of a little knife part of the course. From most metal workshops worn down or broken metal hack saw blades can be had for free. Such blades can be then be ground to be very sharp. A rubber strip cut from a car inner tire, that is wound aroud one end gives a comfortable grip.
To make a knive like this was a new idea for them and they liked it.
Who attended?
We kept track with this form if people turned up. Up to now this is no problem at all, one woman was ill one day, this was neatly reported.
We also use this form to register what people bring in, like an oil drum that one man donated.
Working with the men
Our new technologies worked smoothly with the fifteen male participants. They brought in their razor sharp cutlasses and their hoes.
Their hoes are ideal for quickly making a flat site to work or build, in our case a place for making the cement parts. Their cutlasses are needed for woodwork. An old cutlass is effective for cutting sheet metal.
The picture shows the use of the cutlass for making the pump wheel from a large size car tire.
Working with cement
As cement is the most costly material that is used in our design for this rope pump, we use it very carefully. It is mixed with sand, gravel and water is small batches. Mixing is done fast and easy by rolling the batch over and back on a plastic sheet.
Then this sheet with its content is taken to the place of use and applied. In this way there is no spillage at all and cleaning the sheet is easily done after a day's work.
Getting used to new methods
We used a trip of sheet metal as pictured to show our ideas how we planned to make and reinforce parts from concrete. The farmers found it a practical approach and it worked well.
Working late
Electricity for the three lamps came from the Community center. Somehow the cost of electricity had to be covered.
It was not accepted that Demotech should pay for that. No, they would organize a little fundraising among themselves instead. This type of willingness not to lean on a donor was a refreshing experience.
Their way of learning is for sure part of our learning how to run this project best. We find that the technologies for making rather complex constructions work well enough. The rope pump we introduce in this project is far from simple. But we find that what is called "local capacity" is ample so far to get it done. We have an other two weeks to go in this project and course.
For sure learning will be both ways, for farmers as well as for Demotech.