Ñoneno and Yawapade Villages are remote villages in the Orellana Province of East Ecuador. Ñoneno Village, with 162 inhabitants, is only accessible by boat on the Shiripuno River. Yawapade Village, with 144 inhabitants, is located near Ñoneno, can be accessed by a compacted gravel earth road and the nearest town, Coca, is 4 hours’ drive away.
Originally there were believed to be six villages in Ecuadorian Amazonas, but through fragmentation these have grown into 44 settlements with populations of varied sizes up to around 160. Ñoneno and Yawapade are two of these settlements. Deeper in the interior is another group of Waorani, the “savages” or “untouchables”, who have chosen to live traditionally and completely apart. They threaten to kill anyone entering their territory. This is respected by the Ecuadorian Government and no one knows how many there are but it has been estimated there are four groups.
The Waorani roam naked in the jungle, hunting monkeys and birds with wooden blowguns and curare-tipped darts; for pigs they use spears. Roads cut into the Waorani’s hunting grounds have been populated by colonistas and people of other tribes eagerly seeking land. The Waorani say, “The Government want our land, the oil companies want our oil and the missionaries seek our souls”. They are very much aware that they are at the top of a slippery slope that will lead to the loss of their culture and the destruction of the abundant sources of food and natural medicines on which they depend.
By and large their contact with the Quechua or any other outsiders have not been notably peaceable, especially from the intrusion of international oil companies into their land. In many areas water systems have been polluted by crude oil and chemicals thanks to irresponsible oil drilling.
The communities at both Ñoneno and Yawapade live off a diet of yucca – usually boiled and mashed or roasted, plantains, a little fruit, fish soup, guinea pig, monkey stew and occasionally rice and potatoes. The people of Ñoneno make a little income from selling handicrafts to the Shiripuno Lodge and occasionally some of the villagers work at the Lodge which is three hours down river by canoe. For any shopping the people have to go upriver for two hours to the Shiripuno Centre.
The only local source of clean water is a shallow creek, which is 800 metres from the village through jungle and undulating ground. The village has no electricity.
After a thorough inspection of the village by a local contractor and in consultation with the village it was decided that it would be necessary to excavate a sump in the creek and pump water through distribution pipes back to the village where it could be stored in a large water tank and then distributed to individual houses.
Local people assisted the contractor in excavating a deep sump in the creek at the extraction point. Plastic tarpaulin was used to line the creek. This allowed the creek to fill up with enough water to enable the pump to work efficiently and effectively. A 6.7 HP diesel pump was installed which requires minimal maintenance and is fuel efficient.
A timber platform was constructed by the creek and the pump and a marble sand filter were placed on it. From the creek the water was pumped back to the village via a 50 mm flexible main pipe. Once in the village the water was pumped through two disc filters and two chlorinators in order to purify it. The water was then pumped through 63 mm pipes up to a 1,500 litre storage tank which was elevated onto a timber tower and then distributed to houses on both sides of the road via 25 mm pipes.
The village women cut trenches to take the distribution pipes to their homes and when the water started flowing from the taps the women and children danced with joy saying that they believed the long treks for water along a snake infested trail were now over. Many had been bitten and they were clearly delighted by the new system.
It is calculated that the source will produce 216 litres per minute. This is a sufficient yield to more than adequately service the village.
Despite living on the edge of the Shiripuno River, the local community is unable to drink this water as it has been polluted by oil and chemicals. A water system was installed in 2006, but this is no longer in working order. Instead, people are forced to draw their water from inland creeks which are often some distance from the village. The creeks are also very shallow and so it is difficult to extract water from them without also collecting mud and forest debris.
After a thorough inspection of the village by a local contractor – and in consultation with the village – it was decided that the best solution would be to repair the existing system. Work began with all equipment being transported to the village by canoe!
The clean water will improve and enhance the quality of life of the people of Ñoneno and Yawapade. Water-borne diseases were a significant problem and common complaints included gastrointestinal infections, diarrhoea, parasitism, respiratory infections, kidney disorders, skin disease and anaemia. Malaria and conjunctivitis were also present. It is hoped that the incidence of these health problems will now be reduced due to access to clean water. Previously time taken to collect water from the creeks and carry it back up to the village was around an hour and so having water direct to their houses will have a significant impact, especially for the women.
The communities are also hoping to attract eco-tourism as a way of protecting their traditional lifestyle whilst recognising the benefits of collaboration with the modern world. Clean water, from an efficient system, should facilitate this aim and may encourage more of the young people to remain in the villages.
Our sincere thanks to all of the Bournemouth Ladies whose fundraising efforts – over the course of a year – made this project possible.
Project Date: Oct/Nov 2012
Beneficiaries: Yawapade: 144; Noneno: 162