Visit to UNAGUAS, a Grecia community-owned and managed freshwater supplier, overseeing local sustainability, environmental, and reforestation projects, e.g., tree planting with local primary children.
Sheena, Maria Angela, and I were invited by UNAGUAS, theUnion of Grecia Associations for the Environment and Health, to attend and help with a tree replanting morning involving a local primary school class. The purpose of UNAGUAS is to strengthen communal water management in the canton and guarantee to supply fresh and safe drinking water to over 5,500 homes in Grecia and to businesses in the area such as CoopeVictoria for washing coffee beans and processing sugar cane.
Caption: Sheena (far right) and I planted our own native sapling in this new forest gowth. The children loved getting their hands dirty and engaging with nature.
The local community-run project has been operational for 20 years, beginning in September 2002. It is just 1 of 9 community freshwater management systems in the canton of Alejuela. Lydia, the President of the Community Association stated that it was important that “people work together to protect and ensure future water resources”. Their mantra is “Together is Better”
Tree planting, reafforestation, and engagement with children
We joined a local primary school class to plant some indigenous, native species of trees in an area once cleared for logging. The idea was to increase tree cover which holds the soil together, helps retain water, and encourages wildlife like bats and birds to feed on the tree fruits. The trees would provide shade for certain coffee plant varieties in the future. The children also planted saplings which take around 12 years to become established. The benefits are that young children become engaged, get their hands dirty, and learn at the same time, and realize the importance of their natural environment. A professional agronomist ensures that tree saplings are planted correctly.
Caption:School children planting their splings supervised by ecologists and teachers.
Caption: Primary school child finishing planting a sampling.
Caption: Row of recently planted saplings by primary school class.
Future Challenges and Opportunities.
Climate change is starting to have a huge impact in terms of earlier rainy seasons, heavier rainfall, and being near the Eastern Caribbean – frequent hurricanes. Community managed water supply systems are novel, and UNAGUAS are considering running tours for tourists of the water sources, volcanic springs, pumping stations, and storage tanks. International interest is also being shown in their operations from Chile and Mexico who are coming to Grecia to see how these local community run water projects work and share ideas. As this is a voluntary body, people have other jobs outside UNAGUAS. They do however employ full time plumbers, pipe layers, and inspectors.
Caption: Poas volcano provides the run-off water to this stream, the volcanic rock providing a natural filter.
Conservation of Natural Resources and Sustainability
The protection of water resources is vital for communities for which they pay a bit more money to ensure the supply of pure, fresh, naturally filtered water, which is utilized in the commercial sector too, for future generations. Therefore, people are more conscious of water use. Strangely, there are no plugs in wash basins!!! Wherever possible, appropriate and sustainable technologies are utilized.
UNAGUAS link with Grecia Municipality and CoopeVictoria.
UNAGUAS ensures that any new projects are in keeping with nature and the natural environment, keeping heavy industry out of the mountains and the rain catchment areas, while bringing clean water to the people. Water emanates from two local aquafers near to two volcanoes. The volcanic rock is a natural purifier and filter of water. UNAGUAS works closely with both the Grecia Municipality, including the Fairtrade Group and CoopeVictoria. The UNAGUAS logo sits proudly on banners and signs promoting Grecia, CoopeVictoria, and Fairtrade. UNAGUAS shares the Fairtrade development goals, especially the one pertaining to sustainability. Water conservation and protection are issues shared by all three organizations. Marco, the President of UNAGUAS said that he was pleased to be part of the Grecia Fairtrade Town and would continue to work to protect pure water resources, plant more trees to absorb carbon dioxide, so attracting and encouraging wildlife and birds and to increase the biodiversity.
Caption: UNAGUAS water storage tanks at the purification plant in the forest.
Hazel Ordenana Tenacio, the Executive Director of UNAGUAS then gave a speech welcoming Mike and Sheena King to Grecia and thanked them for for visiting UNAGUAS, delivered an interesting powerpoint presentation which Maria translated, and then gave out some welcome gifts to us. A delicious meal then rounded off our visit serenaded by a singer.
Caption: Maria Angela and Sheena King outside the UNAGUAS water filtration plant where small quantities of chlorine are added to kill off any bacteria.