I am practically a local now. Out of this visit I had the impression that the wishes and actions for the healthy and sustainable development of the Uyaraipa Wayuu Community are taking force. This time the sense of my presence and collaboration there is clearer and stronger due to the interest seen, during these 5 days, by many young people. I will only mention Steven (Stephen Filipiak – alohagambia.wordpress.com) who has a wide experience cultivating in arid regions in Gambia, Africa, and who’s steps I had to follow, observe, and record. He was brought along by the Colombian sustainable organization Organizmo (www.organizmo.org).
There is a lot to say about this third visit and the many young people present, but I will stick to my task. What I do want to emphasize is the feeling of interest and concern for the progress of this project, as I see it, rescuing the cultural values and traditions of this part of the world which are slowly fading away. From my point of view, the goal is to set the healthy and autonomous stand of this community in front of the demands of a globalized world, for the survival of its valuable culture and environment as a part of a nation and the world.
The first days went by with a big gathering of all the representatives of the Rancherias around the Uyaraipa community. The goal of this gathering was to find out and obtain a clear view of the kind of progress desired and the different projects needed for this. The main objectives were made clear. In this way, the investments obtained through the textile work produced by the communities would be focused on these objectives. While pieces of guayaba and coffee were offered to the representatives of the different Rancherias present at the meeting, and while some were amazed by the big seeds which made it difficult to bite the fruit (although guayaba is a typical Colombian fruit, it is the first time they ate it). In the meantime, Steven was already taking notes of his future actions which I was supposed to observe and record. Well, he didn’t understand much of what was being discussed in the gathering, but he could defend himself quite well in the foreign language, taking into account the little time he was immersed in it.
After Ana María Gutierrez from Organizmo and Steven had examined the existing fountains of water that the community had at reach and its disposition: a windmill that only extracted saltwater at low depth (from this water the goats drink to end up with a big belly) and a water tank that is filled halfway by the water truck once a month.
Out of this analysis Steven comes up with his first move, an experiment to see the possibilities of desalinating the water by means of evaporation from the sun heat: A container with saltwater from the windmill and an empty glass that stands in the middle of it is covered with a piece of plastic he found in the surroundings, creating a greenhouse effect that would evaporate the water and leave the salt behind. By putting a small rock on the middle of the plastic piece as the weight he would create a cone-like a shape out of the piece of plastic. The evaporated water would stick to the plastic and slide down to fall into the empty glass.
The next day Steven went to check out the desalinized water in the glass. I asked him if his experiment turned out well. He told me that the water had desalinized, but not enough to use as drinking water but enough to use for watering plants and crops. I was bothering him about the many holes that the piece of plastic had, supposedly creating the greenhouse effect. Steven, with his North American sense of humor, tells me: apart from the little worm he found in the glass (due to the bad hygienic of the plastic bag), that it’s all good.
We needed to go to the Wayuu families that make part of the project but live farther away, to explain to them the process of organization and development of the project we had in mind. At one of those families, Ana María, Steven, and Konrad were surprised by a lonely standing plant, curiously full of green leaves, standing in the middle of the desert. As we came closer to it, we were amazed by the way the plant could achieve such leafiness. By the side of it hanged a bottle of water upside down, which would drip the water in it slowly during the course of the hot days, to keep the plant always fresh drinking water, in this way achieving its leafiness.
Steven would repeat the example discovered the next day, improving it, trying to rescue a weak little plant hidden behind a fence of dry branches that tried to keep the plant safe from the sun rays. But what sense did this make if the rain had forgotten her for three years already? In this case, Steven disposed of empty plastic bottles he picked up in the scattered by the wind garbage around the surroundings. The plastic bottles he would puncture little holes in them and place them around the little plant. Some bottles he put standing up with punctured holes on the bottom. These bottles stand at different depths that would release the water slowly during the day. For these bottles, the tightness of the cap regulates the quantity of water released. Other bottles are hanging upside down on sticks, dripping as much water according to the size of the punctured hole. In this way, the little plant would receive water slowly but constantly during the hot days.
In order for the community to reach a self-supporting and sustainable state, they would need to plant again manioc, watermelon, pumpkin, melon, and corn, how they used to do before it stopped raining. Towards this objective is Stevens step 3: making the compost. In this step, many were present and collaborating. A big metal trash can that was missing its bottom lid was buried in the sand. The trash can would be afterward filled with a series of layers. Each layer is composed of three specific bodies: 1) +- 10 cm of thin dry sticks and leaves (thin because of their easy decomposition), 2) +- 3 cm of manure found in the goat’s stable, and 3) +- 2 cm charcoal gathered from the surrounding house fires and broken into pieces “as fine as corn”. The carbon will react as a sponge when water is poured on to it, a key reactant in the compost making process. These three bodies make up a layer that is repeated until the trash can is filled. At the top end, covering it with a transparent plastic could speed up the compost making process, or if left uncovered, chickens could feed themselves by eating the larva that would grow there, and at the same time, the chickens could be added to the compost making process with their hen droppings. The layers should be stirred every 2 weeks. After 3 or 4 months, the compost should be ready to use for the crops.
That night, feeling the urge of extending the communities concept of the world and wanting to motivate their desire and participation in the projects, an improvised theater was set up to show the documentary film, Baraka. This film narrates, with images and music, the evolution of earth and the relationship of humans with their natural surroundings.
Step 4 is executed after watching Stevens moves for 4 days by your humble narrator. With the mission to follow Stevens steps and to record them as proof of the actions that should be done by the community in collaboration with the foundation, I start right away following Stevens example and repeating step 2.
One month before this visit, Organizmo was there making its first visit to the community with the company of Lina María Castro. Lina was there that time showing the community how the garbage spilled around the Rancherías could be reused. One day Lina wonders into the desert with a group of children. After a couple of hours, they come back carrying all kinds of plastic bags and empty plastic bottles that they picked up from the grounds around the Ranchería. The bottles would be then filled up with the plastic bags using a piece of a broken branch. By doing this they were creating solid objects that could be used as an element of construction like a brick. With the construction elements, Lina and the children made, they would use them around plants and trees as a kind of outdoor vase.
That time they were able to build one of those outdoor vases around a beautiful tree called Dibidibi, but they didn’t have the chance to fill it up. It was my chance now and the perfect place to put my observations in action. I would use the components used for a layer of compost to fill in the outdoor vase (thin dry leaves and sticks, goat manure, and charcoal). The outdoor vase was big enough to plant at one side of it some Chia seeds that somebody had brought with them. The seeds were brought by a vegetarian guy called Francisco. He came along in this visit representing another organization. He ate the seeds as a healthy and strong supplementary source of protein other than meat. Over the planted Chia seeds in the outdoor vase, I would repeat Stevens step 2, hanging a dripping bottle upside down and burying others at different depths. In addition, 3 big white rocks from a construction site nearby were put there because of their qualities for keeping the humidity of the dripping bottle (Drawing 3 – Dibidibi).
I was proud when I finished copying Stevens example, so I showed him what I had done so he could give me his opinion. At the same time, a turkey came along and started drinking water from the dripping bottle. Steven said: “Life brings life”.