• Written by Mark Charmer
    3 November 2009

Thomas Thömmes has interviewed and photographed each of the course participants at the latest month-long EMAS training course, and shared the material so we can feature it here.

Outside La Paz in Bolivia, German engineer Wolfgang Eloy Buchner has created a unique Technology Demonstration Centre called EMAS, a Spanish acronym for Mobile School for Water and Sanitation. More on that here. The participants on this October’s course form a really diverse group, including well drillers, a music teacher, a cattle farmer, and an agricultural extension worker. They share one thing: they all want to use the technologies they learn on the EMAS course to improve their own lives and those of the community they live in. It’s “Mission Rope Pump” for South America, except at EMAS they don’t use rope pumps – they prefer these technologies.

I think the people and their stories are most easily viewed in Flickr, so I’ve created a set which features a photograph and biography on each person here.

Or you can read on and see all their profiles.

Alvaro Morales is 39 and lives in Tarija, South Bolivia. He works as a well driller for the local government. “I want to see how to build underground water cisterns and harvest the rainwater. My company sent me on this course so I can distribute the knowledge to my colleagues.”

Octavio Choque is 32 and lives in Cochabamba, in the central highlands of Boliva. He works in economic development for the charity World Vision. “I’m working in poor neighbourhoods – with the ‘club de madres’ (Mothers group) for example – and I’m going to use lots of the things I learn here to advise such groups, especially about rainwater harvesting.”

Guillermo Ribera is 32 and lives in San Ignacio de Velasco, a town in the eastern lowlands of Bolivia. Teaching music for a living, he realised that “the fields surrounding our school urgently need water for the plants to grow. I want to install a rainwater harvesting system there and I want to pass this knowledge to my pupils.”

Juan Chambilla is 32 and lives in Communidad Achata Granda, a distributed village in the western highlands of Bolivia. He owns 10 cows and lives on selling the milk. “I’m impressed that it’s possible to drill a well using manpower, so quickly. I’ll use this technique first to get water for my family and cattle – it will definitely improve the quality of our lives. Maybe I can also get another income by drilling wells for other members of our community?”

Edwin Ortiz is 25 and lives in Carmen de Ruiz, in the eastern lowlands of Bolivia. He’s the caretaker of 60 cows which belong to a farmer. “My boss sent me to this course so that I can learn something about how to work with water. I like the idea of the latrines very much but in the end it is my boss who decides what to build.”

Luis Manuel Jara Huanca is 23 and lives in Communidad Inquilpata, a distributed village near Cuzco, Peru. He is a promotor of an agricultural company for his village. “I really like the method of rainwater harvesting. Since fresh water is always rare in the region I live in, I’ll first try a lot of the things I learn here and then promote them in my village”

Felipe Mancari Lino is 21 and lives in Concepción, a small town in the eastern lowlands of Bolivia, he’s in his final year as a mechanics student. “At first, I’m going to use these techniques for myself, either to drill a well for the family or to earn additional money as a ‘perforista’. But I’ll also distribute the ideas I learned here, especially about hygiene and latrines.”

Ronald Huanaco is 25 and lives in Communidad de Haparquilla, a distributed village near Cuzco, Peru. He works with children in the ‘Instituto Fundación Ayuda en Acción”. “In my region, toilets are almost unknown, so at first I’m going to build a toilet for my family. But I will also use all the other techniques to improve the living conditions for my family and the people in my community.”

Américo Patti is 26 and lives in Communidad Achata Grande, a distributed village in the western highlands of Bolivia. He has worked as a carpenter in a furniture company, but also as a helper of a ‘perforista’. “I already have all the tools to do that job, passed on from a previous course participant. Now I’m getting the necessary knowledge and when I get home I’ll start my own micro-company.”

Agostin Parra is 59 and lives in Communidad Achaca, a distributed village in the western highlands of Bolivia. He is a mason. “Back home, I’ll build all the things I learned here for the Universidad Catholico, Academia Campesinos, which sent me to this course. There are very few toilets and no showers or warm water systems. I’ll also try to build one of these windmills to make the water pumping more easy.”

Benito Antiare Pezoa is 40 and lives in Conceptión, a small town in the eastern lowlands of Bolivia. He is a welding teacher. “If you are creative, you can do lots of useful things with very cheap material. This is what I want to transfer from this course to my students. I have the idea of doing similar courses with my students as we do here, so that they can bring these technologies into their communities.”

Linder Jumo Moj is 36 and lives in Trinidad, a town in the central lowlands of Bolivia. He is a well driller in a small company of four people. “My boss did this course maybe 20 years ago and I’ve already worked with this drilling method for four years. But still, I’m learning a lot – the solar water heater is new for me and I’m going to build at least one for myself. I also like the improved kitchen.”

Leonardo Quispe is 53 and lives in Communidad Caluyo, a distributed village in the western highlands of Bolivia. He owns 12 cows and lives on selling the milk. “There is very little water in the area I live in, and to improve the life of my family I will drill a well and install toilets and a shower. These are very useful and still mostly unknown things in my community.”

Thomas Thömmes is 31 and lives in Karlsruhe, Germany. He is a Chemical Engineering PhD student. “I am thinking about moving to the development sector, and I came to this course to learn about water and sanitation technologies. What I find really interesting is that you can improve people’s lives with such simple methods.”

Mark Tiele Westra is 38 and lives in Den Haag, The Netherlands. He is the editor of Akvopedia. “I had heard about the EMAS technologies, and I wanted to learn how to make them myself. I am helping Wolfgang Buchner (who leads EMAS) to improve movies on the technologies that he has made, and to publish the knowledge on the internet, on Akvopedia, on blip.tv and on YouTube.”