For the first time, Green Empowerment is producing a documentary that follows our work in real-time as we test our approach to water access in a region new to Green Empowerment, Uganda, with local partner The Water Trust, as our guide. Made possible by a generous gift from the Vatheuer Family Foundation, we are joining forces with filmmaker Nathan Johnson of Nathan.works. It is a true documentary where the journey unfolds unpredictably, recording challenges and triumphs as they evolve.
From the Lush Jungles of Ecuador to the Tropical Savanna of Uganda
The story follows two communities, 7,000 miles apart, as they mobilize to build their own piped water systems.
This June, the film crew met with Latin America Program Director, Sebastián Salgado Troya, and traveled on a seven-hour northwest road trip from Quito, Ecuador towards the coast, followed by a 2.5-hour boat journey up the Rio Cayapas. Ultimately reaching a cluster of vibrant communities with no road access, who depend on the vast Cayapas River for transportation, livelihood, and water. Due in large part to gold mining and logging up river, this water is no longer potable.
The film zooms in on Pichiyacu, an Indigenous Chachi community building their own water system with the support of Green Empowerment and local partner ALTROPICO.
We see the work in Pichiyacu through the eyes of Lorena Pichota Añapa, a local resident elected by her neighbors to be the treasurer of the water committee. Lorena shares her experience both as a mother who has had to haul water for her entire life and as a community organizer dealing with the daily challenges of responding to concerns, learning a new technology, and motivating neighbors to do the work and get the system built.
The micro-utility they are building will deliver potable water directly to people’s homes, schools, and businesses and represents a pivotal part of Green Empowerment’s model – household water access, managed and maintained by the community itself. We follow Lorena and her neighbors as they advocate for what they want, disagree, and ultimately have to come to consensus for the project to move forward.
“We are not only bringing water and sanitation [to communities], but we are also engaging these community members in how they work together… I am so proud of what we are doing there.”– Sebastián Salgado Troya, Green Empowerment Latin America Program Director
Following the equatorial line across the Atlantic Ocean, the film documents Green Empowerment’s journey to test this approach to water access in a region which is new to our organization. Led by Africa Program Director, Osbert Atwijukye, we are partnering with The Water Trust, an experienced organization, with years of success working with communities to dig boreholes and a robust community management system that aligns with our values. We combine our expertise to develop a piped water system from a borehole in Nyakabale, Masindi District, in the Western Region.
“In Uganda, people mostly use boreholes. You see many long lines, many jerrycans, children walking a very long distance – I did that myself when I was young. ”– Olivia Nanfuka, Green Empowerment Energy Analyst
We are thrilled to be working with The Water Trust on this venture that aligns with the Ugandan government’s recent call for a shift from boreholes to piped water systems – a crucial step in improving the standard of water access for people across the nation. At the same time, working in a socio-political and geographic context new to Green Empowerment has presented real challenges.
As the story unfolds we confront some big questions:
- How does more active and involved government (a potential boon to high quality systems) both help and hinder our progress?
- Can we get past a major roadblock of cost estimates coming in over-budget?
- How can the community negotiate with a reluctant land owner, to allow drilling a well on his property?
Sneak Peak: A Glimpse of Transformation
When we started filming, the end was truly unwritten. We did not know what challenges would arise or if we would be telling a story of success or lessons learned. Come with us on this journey – the full documentary will premiere in Spring 2024, but you can see a sneak peak today: