Even though Panama has been one of the fastest growing economies worldwide over the past decade (7.2 percent average annual growth) and poverty reduction is in progress, poverty still dominates in rural areas. Particularly in the indigenous territories, the comarcas, poverty and extreme poverty numbers are alarmingly high, above 70 percent and 40 percent respectively Most of the indigenous territories are inhabited by members of the Emberá tribe. According to the United Nations Development Program, 37.3% of the population in Panama lives below the poverty line.
Lack of services in the comarcas are an ongoing concern, particularly access to water and sanitation. Drinking water supplies are vulnerable and a lack of safe drinking water can inhibit the development of the area.
The main focus of this project to gain insight on feasible sustainable water supply strategies in rural areas inhabited by indigenous tribes. This is done by conducting an intervention study in a small village called El Progreso in the province of Colon, on Panama’s Caribbean coast. The project aims to provide safe drinking water for 80 members from the Emberá tribe, living in El Progreso. The Emberá tribe is one of the biggest indigenous groups in Panama. We want to help develop the area in a way that locals can rely on safe drinking water on a daily basis. Water will be supplied by rooftop rainwater harvesting.
Rainwater will be harvested when running off roofs of houses and school buildings. The construction of the storage tanks (ferrocement) will stimulate local entrepreneurship and create employment opportunities. In this way, we will set our first step towards a sustainable local business and lasting employment opportunities. This can eventually result in a long term development in the area around El Progreso.
The project will consist of 3 study topics: The optimizing of the building phase and maintenance of the Calabash water storage tanks, the quality and quantity of available water sources in the area (rain, ground and surface water) and wishes and requirements of the inhabitants of the area.
The project will be set out in the village of El Progreso, near Cuango. After eight weeks of research and construction, the water tanks will be ready to use by the individual families, one at each house.