About this project

The challenges faced by the small fishing village of El Astillero in Nicaragua with regards to water are immense. During the rainy season large amounts of deforestation and soil degradation around the outskirts of the village has led to dangerous floods which inundate the local school as well as many houses. During the dry season, no rain falls for six months and often the municipal water network, which is not safe drinking water, does not work for days at a time due to electrical black outs and high winds. As a consequence villagers resort to drinking water from their groundwater wells, using this water for cooking and washing, as well as irrigation.

Casa Congo Conservation Society is a non-profit organization founded in 2017, with a mission to empower communities with skills and tools for sustainable development (https://www.casacongo.org/single-post/2020/01/25/Annual-Report-20182019). We provide scientific research, conservation education and ecotourism services and support various community initiatives which focus on conservation efforts in el Refugio Natural de Chacocente y el Rio Escalante and El Astillero’s natural areas and the ecosystem services they provide.

The Brigada Ecologica, a Casa Congo managed environmental stewardship youth group with members between the age of 18-25, conducted research to measure the quality of water of these wells, as well as the river and various other outputs from households (https://www.casacongo.org/single-post/2020/04/14/Water-Quality-Research-El-Astillero). Their findings show that groundwater wells are contaminated with Nitrates 66ppm, above the recommended level of safe consumption, as these nitrates have adverse health effects when consumed. Greywater spills were also quite prolific and pulleted with coliform bacteria, which is a significant health hazard due to bacterial infections which are transferred to humans via the animals which consume this polluted water.

This information was shared with community leaders, and the Brigada Ecologica is looking for funds as well as technical assistance to mitigate these health risks in the community, to provide safe drinking,  and filter the  greywater from washing which runs into people's gardens, the street, river and the ocean. Building upon Casa Congo’s existing water related work, the Brigada Ecologica hopes to subsidize the costs of ceramic filters in order to provide clean water for cooking and drinking water, the amount of subsidy would depend on the families financial state. The Brigada Ecologica would also prioritize building grey water filters at the houses and businesses of the biggest polluters in town.

The eldest leaders of the Bridaga Ecologica will be the main project managers, contacting the sellers of the ceramic filters, organising the finances and timeline of the proposed project. They will have the support of the local doctor as well as key Casa Congo team members, both on the ground and internationally, providing technical assistance, transport and any other resources necessary. All of those involved in the project implementation as well as support are in between the age of 18 and 35.

Goals and Objectives

The overall goal of this project targets some of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) UN goals. In fact, our overall goal  is to contribute to the health of both the community of El Astillero as well as the ecosystems from which it is surrounded: land and ocean. Our aim is to provide safe and drinking water to some of the families of El Astillero which is in line with SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), as well as reducing the negative impact of grey water on the soil and ocean ecosystems which is in line with SDGS 14 and 15 (Life Below Water and Life on Land).

To reach this goal we have created two specific objectives:

1.To provide 50 families in El Astillero with safe drinking and cooking water
2.To provide 50 families in El Astillero with natural filters for grey water

Objective I., in line with SDG 6, will consist of purchasing 50 ceramic water filters (See Image Solution 1) to purify ground or harvested water. According to the World Health Organization  ceramic filters are the most promising solution to improve water quality in disadvantaged communities for which advanced technologies to purify water are unavailable (https://www.who.int/household_water/research/technologies_intro/en/). The filters will be purchased at FILTRON, which is a local enterprise started by the international NGO Potters for Peace to provide a cheap technology to overcome the challenge of contaminated water. FILTRON has been offering ceramic filters for the past seven years and their products are approved according to the national government and World Health Organization standards

Objective II. is in line with SDG 14 and 15 to protect both soil and ocean contamination from chemicals resulting from groundwater. Accordingly to the result of our latest report this is one of the most difficult challenges that the Town of El Astillero is facing (https://www.casacongo.org/single-post/2020/04/14/Water-Quality-Research-El-Astillero). Filtration systems in this town do not exist and grey water is disposed directly on the ground and subject to surface runoff. Being El Astillero, a coastal fishing town, this means that contaminated water quickly reaches the ocean. Polluted water can then create  anoxic conditions resulting in a threat for marine fauna including fishes which the community relies on through fishing. At Casa Congo we have experimented with banana and papaya circles, a natural filter for grey water that prevents runoff or spillage by collecting the contamination in a pit which is filled with organic matter and surrounded by banana or papayas which use the nitrates and phosphates to grow (See Image Solion 2). These Banana circles are a permaculture technique and although we are unsure about whether or not all contamination is avoided, it does prevent animals from drinking the greywater and prevents the water from running off into the ocean.

Expected result

We expect to provide 50 families with filters to purify cooking and drinking water and 50 families with natural grey water filters to reduce nutrients runoff thus soil and ocean pollution. Upon completion of the project, we will write a report with detailed information on the specific results of the project. More specifically the report would be updated by our team every six months to monitor the following KPIs:

a) Estimate of amount of clean purified water used
b) Estimate of grey water filtered in our systems
c) Status of FILTRONs
d) Status of natural filters

The monitoring process along with the report will serve us to keep track of our effort and to ensure that the project will be continuing and eventual technical issues fixed. The detailed time for the execution of the project and the project budget are shown in the attached Execution Plan. We expect sites of the highest greywater pollution which showed high levels of coliforms will be reduced. We expect water related infections to be reduced, reducing the strain on the health service which is already stretched.

The water research that was conducted by Casa Congo and the Brigada Ecologica has started a conversation about water quality in El Astillero. We expect being able to follow up that research with tangible change and impacts will be inspiring for our local team members who will be responsible for an important project that has tangible positive effects for the community.

Although the filters do not address the root causes of the pollution problem, it is a fundamental first step to reducing health risk, and a stepping stone to continuing constructive conversations in the community.

Sustainable Development Goals
06. Clean water and sanitation 14. Life below water 15. Life on land
About me / organisation
Manuel Salvador Cortez Chavez 25, Yumar Adalis Ovando Berroteran 28, Daniela Maricela Aragon López 20, Joseth Marcelo Canales 18, Jeffrey Manuel Sandoval Palacio 25, Olinyer Enrique Palacio 32, Luca Marsaglia 26, Lucas Sebastian Worsdell 25

Manuel Cortez (25) is the president of Casa Congo, he has years of experience as a community leader and has been managing Casa Congo and all their related projects for the past three years. Daniela Lopez (20) and Yumar Ovando (28) are Casa Congo team members, and research assistants who helped collect data for Casa Congo’s initial research project on water quality and will be the principal leaders of this proposed project. Marcelo Canales (18) and Jeffrey Sandoval (25) are leading members of the student group, la Brigada Ecologica and have spent years working on community conservation programs of sea turtles and birds in the area. Both supported the research on water quality and both will support Daniela and Yumar as project coordinators. Olinyer Palacio (32) works tirelessly to help keep the community of El Astillero healthy, he is the local doctor, president of the local surf club and part of El Astillero political committee. and the technical advisor regarding health in this project. Luca Marsaglia (26) is a marine biologist, co-founder of Casa Congo and director of the Ecology and Ocean Advocacy program. Lucas Worsdell (25) is a Chilean Agroecologists who directs the agroecology program and provides technical support to the Casa Congo team based in El Astillero.

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