Rain. Coming back from a summer in Mexico, everyone expects me to be tanner. Like other assumptions about a country as big and diverse as Mexico, not necessary so… San Cristobal de las Casas was gorgeous. San Cristobal was interesting. San Cristobal had great coffee, chocolate, people, languages, music and fun. San Cristobal was not that sunny… in fact, it rained about an inch per week during the five weeks of Appropriate Technology classes. There is a dry season, we just weren’t there for it. The rain is enjoyable, but the waterborne and foodborne illnesses that affect many (including me and the students) are not. It was in that context that we were so excited to have one of the five projects for the Humboldt State University – Chiapas 2010, full immersion in Spanish and Appropriate Technology, summer abroad program be rainwater catchment systems.
Rainwater Catchment At A Glance
Description: Catching rainwater (often before it hits the ground), filtering and storing it for future use.
Outputs: Usable, potable if filtered, water
Improvements: reduced run-off and erosion, increased access to clean water, reduced time spent collecting and transporting water, reduced mosquito breeding areas near home
A team of four students collaborated with local designers and community members to build three systems: one with the appropriate technology demonstration home of Juan Hidalgo in San Cristobal and two with a community near Acteal. The student designers went through a few iterations at the demo house, testing and finding leaks, until they got it right. They then used that information to design and build the systems with the more rural community. They also worked with Otros Mundos to start the construction of two 20,000 liter ferrocement tanks for storage. Here is their rainwater system documentation in English and Spanish. Here is some of the needed math for design.
- Using a first flush in Chiapas (I haven’t seen it other places here)
- Using a PVC cap with one hole drilled high (for drainage and a cord for removing it) as the drain of the first flush. Having this hole high on the end-cap of a 90 degree elbow will keep it from plugging soon and keep the spray away from the house and into a bucket for reuse.
- Using used vegetable oil to protect the wood supports.
- Using costales (earth bags) for the base of one system.
- Using tamped sand, instead of concrete, for the supports of one system.
- Using wire to keep bent roofing metal in a channel shape.
- Finish the ferrocement tanks in the community.
- Revisit the systems in one year to see what went wrong.
- Build a database of local rainwater systems (see image) and feedbacks.
- Workshops and community meetings on rainwater collection and water in general.
*This image is not our rainwater system, but it is the coolest way I have seen PVC used as a gutter (which is usually a big pain and doesn’t work all that well). We are going to try out this system at Otros Mundos. In this image, Tania and Claudia are assessing its construction. Now take that system and get a first flush on it and you’d probably have one great system!
After the Zapatista armed uprising in Chiapas during the 1990’s, you may find it surprising that the Humboldt State University, Spanish and Appropriate Technology, summer abroad program had to move from Coahuila in Northern Mexico to Chiapas in Southern Mexico for safety reasons. Yet, that is where we found ourselves this year… with the drug war ravaging much of Northern Mexico we were unable to return to our friends, colleagues and projects in the beautiful oasis town of Parras de la Fuente, Coahuila, Mexico.
For those same safety reasons, after four consecutive years, we had cancelled the 2009 program completely. This year we moved it to the ethereal San Cristobal de las Casas and surrounding villages in Chiapas, Mexico. This summer’s projects were very exciting. Thanks, in large part, to the great organizations we worked with, especially our incredible project and community liaison – Otros Mundos
Over the next two weeks, I will share the inputs, outputs, improvements, innovations and learnings from each of the following HSU Chiapas 2010 projects:
- Improved cookstoves
- Microhydro feasibility study
- A biodigester
- Rainwater catchment systems
Innovative uses of the internet in education, in Mexico and India:
Universidad de la Tierra – Mexico
Located in the southern Mexican city of Oaxaca de Juarez, the Universidad de la Tierra is an alternative learning initiative through which students learn from the world by doing. This process happens largely in communication with others, in the form of study/reading circles (“communities of practice”) and intercultural exchange. The NewWorkSpaces online community tool (Unitierra’s space here) enables learners to access “collaborative technology that will help [them]…convene conversations, co-create and publish documents, invite others into…learning experiences, and exchange…knowledge and resources.” Other means of sharing learning experiences include libraries, documentation centres, community radio, media campaigns, and publishing. These modes also provide dialogue opportunities around Unitierra activities such as those with indigenous communities engaged in cultural regeneration, technological and socio-political innovation, and social struggle (e.g. through workshops, videos, the creation of ecological dry toilets and solar arrays, organic agriculture, and alternative media). More.
Samvidha – India
This project is a response to the need to make relevant internet-based information accessible to all of India’s teachers and students at a low cost. Carried out by the non-profit Media Lab Asia in collaboration with Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur, the Samvidha project is an effort to bridge the digital divide by providing off-line access to curriculum-related internet content using a query-based system. Individual variations among the different students can be captured by their user profile, which includes each student’s individual interests and capabilities. This idea of offering personalised content access and presentation is also reflected in the fact that navigation interfaces are offered in Bengali, Hindi, and English. Content which is appropriate for the user’s needs is then emailed to the user in the school; information located on the internet is provided to the user in English or, where available, in a given Indian language. More. See also the Samvidha page on Media Lab Asia’s website.
Thanks to The Communication Initiative Network for this news – “Where communication and media are central to social and economic development”.
Relevant Appropedia wiki pages: