After handling the need for clean, uncontaminated drinking water, the next big issue is livelihood. The RainCatcher Peru project combines both.
There are 130,000 family coffee farms scattered throughout the Peruvian Andes. KC O’Keefe of Jungle-Tech is helping some of these independent growers to raise the quality of their coffee beans and increase the value of the finished product to be sold on the world market. You can read the whole story on jungle-tech.com. KC and I are designing a RainCatcher system to create a supply of clean water for both coffee production and drinking water. We plan to use his solar dryer structures to catch rain and channel the water into storage bags developed by International Development Enterprises. Go to ideorg.org to read about this ‘breakthrough’ in rainwater harvesting. Once at there, click “Tech Gallery”, then “Rainwater Harvesting” to read about and see the water storage bag in use in Bangladesh. With this product we can do several demonstration projects throught the provinces of Peru. Local growers will help build a RainCatcher/Solar Dryer coffee production system and then be able to take the neccessary materials back home to set up their own. These systems are low cost, low tech, non-mechanical, non-electric solutions for rural farming communities. Our aim is to have these operating on a thousand farms by the end of 2006.
The subtitle for Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point reads: “How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference”. Our project falls into this category. Getting a thousand growers set up and producing better coffee will lead to information and materials spreading to the rest of the 130,000 farms. If growers are able to improve the quality of their finished beans, the return on their efforts will double, eventually affecting one million people who work on the small, independent coffee farms of Peru.
After catching and storing the rainwater, the next chore is cleaning it for absolute safe drinking. Another key person in this story is a man by the name of Humphrey Blackburn. He and his company, Blue Future Filters, have developed the “Slow Sand Filter”, a filter with no moving parts that requires no maintenance or electricity and provides clean water for decades. It removes all the diseases that spread in undeveloped regions through contaminated water sources. Humphrey just received contracts to ship a thousand filters to the tsunami areas and seven hundred to Iraq. The good news is rainwater can be caught and stored and run through these filters and, if rainwater supplies dry up between rains, any old river or stream water can be passed through the slow sand filter. Now we always have a back-up during long dry spells.