Paraguay Lower Chaco
$44,249 needed of $50,000
Church World Service (CWS)
The Gran Chaco region is an immense and little-heard-of region in the heart of South America. It is the biggest forest reserve on the continent after the Amazon and one of the largest dry forests in the world. A major ecosystem, it is also a region with great cultural diversity, home to 25 different indigenous ethnic groups including communities of Guarani, Wichi, Qom and Enxet Sur, who for centuries lived as semi-nomadic hunter gatherers before losing most of their land.
The purpose of this three‐year program is to partner with 588 families (approximately 2,200 people) in six indigenous communities (16 villages) of the Paraguayan Chaco region of South America to create durable improvements in the areas of access to water, food security, community development and organization. The program provides culturally‐sensitive technical assistance in family and community farming and livestock, community capacity‐building and support indigenous‐led advocacy.
Wells Dug During Pandemic-Year Drought
As if COVID-19 wasn’t a big enough challenge all on its own, it came right in the midst of a severe drought in the Chaco region. The only two municipal water tankers in the area were unable to meet the demands of all the far-flung indigenous and Latino communities served by the program. Local Partner Pastoral Social was unable to visit until after May 2020, when pandemic restrictions were eased, but kept in regular communication to monitor the condition of potable water reserves.
Women began advocating for wells to be dug, and Pastoral Social responded by digging five shallow ones at the height of the drought in September. Following suggestions from the communities, who know the terrain, they dug one where the women used to wash clothes, and sited the rest at places where certain vegetation grew that indicates “there’s water here.”
The excavations found good quantities of drinking water that the communities access with manual pumps. Two of the wells had a slight salinity, but the water could still be used for livestock. Villagers experienced a very positive change in their lives as they celebrated the availability of fresh groundwater during this most challenging of years.
It is the women whose lives were eased the most by the new wells, since they are the ones who do all the work of searching for water and carrying it home. They had been walking up to two miles at a time to fetch contaminated water from reservoirs in nearby ranches or muddy water from nearly-depleted natural lagoons. Many of their children were afflicted with diarrhea due to the poor water quality.
Rains in November brought much-needed relief to communities, animals and farm fields. They replenished community cisterns and reservoirs and helped to the start the agricultural planting season. People have scrupulously followed pandemic protocols during training modules, and no COVID-19 outbreaks have been reported.
Paraguay Lower Chaco Program
Led by Church World Service and Local Partner Pastoral Social Benjamin Aceval