Environmental Women Corporation

Ethno-Program of Climate Water Management for the Indigenous Narakajmanta, in Colombia

Credit: Environmental Women Corporation

USD 25.000 grant
to guarantee climate water management 
in the Narakajmanta Indigenous community
in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

On this page, we aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of the importance of this grant. Here you can learn about the community this project serves and the particular challenges they face. We also offer information about Environmental Women Corporation, the Indigenous organization we proudly support, and a detailed description of the project they are carrying out. We invite you to dig deeper, consider becoming an ally, and discover ways to offer direct support to Environmental Women Corporation, all detailed on this page.

The Community

The Narakajmanta Indigenous community is located in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, specifically in the department of Magdalena-Colombia, in a remote area with difficult access. The total population of the community is estimated at 37,200 inhabitants, with an average of 3000 families. The community is characterized by its deep cultural and spiritual roots in the jungle, forests and rivers of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, with an ancient tradition of respect and care for its natural environment.

Credit: Environmental Women Org

However, despite its cultural richness and its valuable contribution to the conservation of the Amazon ecosystem, the Narakajmanta community faces significant challenges in terms of gender equality, the fight against climate change and environmental justice.

Gender Equity: In terms of gender equity, the community faces significant challenges. Women and girls represent 52% of the total population, and often must travel distances of up to 500 meters to access water sources. This situation exposes them to risks of sexual harassment and abuse during these daily walks. The lack of access to basic services, such as drinking water and energy, reflects a gender gap that directly affects women's daily lives.

Fighting Climate Change: The Narakajmanta community is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, with extreme weather events affecting their food security and access to water. Lack of access to clean energy sources has also contributed to local deforestation, exacerbating climate change.

Environmental Justice: One of the most significant challenges is the abandonment of the Colombian government in the implementation of environmental projects in the region. Despite the importance of the Amazon rainforest for climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation, the Narakajmanta community has received little attention and support from government authorities.

Credit: Environmental Women Org

The Problem

This program addresses the serious water insecurity suffered by the Narakajmanta Indigenous community in Colombia.

1. Water Security

In the Narakajmanta Indigenous community the water supply is less than 5 liters per person per week and the nearest source is 500 meters away. This figure is significantly less than the world average recommended by the WHO, which amounts to 50 liters per person per day. The lack of quality drinking water has serious implications for public health. The prevalence of waterborne diseases, such as diarrhea, typhoid fever, and hepatitis, is substantially higher in the Narakajmanta community than in other parts of Colombia, with rates exceeding the national average by 75%. The water infrastructure lacks drainage systems, pumping, distribution networks and methods of water treatment. The collection is done through long walks along 500 meters.

Credit: Environmental Women Org

2. Differential Gender Diagnosis of the Effects of Water Insecurity in the Narakajmanta Indigenous Community in Colombia

Water insecurity due to climate change represents an exacerbated threat to the Narakajmanta Indigenous community in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (UNESCO biosphere reserve), having a differentiated impact according to the gender, age and socioeconomic status of individuals. Climate change is affecting nearly 30 rivers in approximately 9,800 hectares of the Narakajmanta territory, compromising the quality and availability of water for human consumption, agricultural production, and biodiversity in the region.

(i) Narakajmanta women, who make up 2,600 of the 5,000 direct beneficiaries of this program, face disproportionate impacts due to their traditional roles as water collectors and farmers. They are responsible for 90% of the water collected and 40% of food production locally. During extreme weather events such as droughts and floods, the time they spend collecting water can increase by 30%, limiting their participation in other educational, economic, and social activities. In addition, exposure to toxic chemical substances such as mercury and lead has increased by 25% in the last 3 years due to the increase in illegal gold mining with mercury, in the nearest water sources, which generates epidemics of chronic neurological diseases. In addition, during the long walks to collect water through 500 meters, at least 60% of women claim to have been victims of sexual harassment or abuse.

Credit: Environmental Women Org

(ii) Narakajmanta men, who represent 2,300 of the total beneficiaries, also face significant impacts, although they generally have more access to resources. Fishing, which constitutes around 40% of the community's income, has decreased by 20% in the last five years due to the alteration of aquatic ecosystems by climate change. Despite this, men's access to resources and opportunities to diversify their activities makes them relatively more resilient.

(iii) Narakajmanta girls, who are part of the 1,350 beneficiaries under the age of 18, face additional risks. Not only do they have the responsibility of collecting water, but they are also more vulnerable to violence and sexual exploitation during collection, with incident reports increasing by 15% during extreme weather events. In addition, their schooling rate has been reduced by 66% due to the additional burden of collecting water.

(iv) Narakajmanta boys are also at a disadvantage, especially in terms of food security. With declining fisheries and agriculture due to water insecurity, malnutrition rates among children have risen 42% in the last three years, worsened by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

(v) The 100 LGBTI people, other program target group, and older women within the Narakajmanta community face specific forms of discrimination that, exacerbated by water insecurity, result in even more limited access to vital resources. LGBTI people face a stigma that increases their vulnerability to such an extent that they are the last recipients of water distribution, and older women, despite having traditional knowledge for water management, have no voice or vote in the community.

Credit: Environmental Women Org

(vi) Socioeconomic status also plays a critical role. Indigenous families with incomes below the poverty line, who represent 90% of the community, are 50% more likely to suffer the negative consequences of climate change, including floods, landslides, water insecurity and gastrointestinal diseases. The Narakajmanta Indigenous Tribal Council has expressed strong interest in this program. The territorial governors have been part of the consultation process since the initial planning phases and have given their informed consent to proceed. They recognize that the program addresses a critical need in their community, given the lack of access to safe drinking water. This program also has a gender approach that was highly valued by the council, since it improves the safety and well-being of women and girls who are the main people in charge of collecting water.

The Grantee

Environmental Women Corporation

Founded in 2009, Environmental Women Corporation (EWC) is an organization dedicated to addressing some of the most pressing challenges facing our planet: climate change, biodiversity conservation and environmental justice. With a decade of experience at the forefront of the fight for a sustainable future, EWC has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to protecting the environment and promoting gender equality in all its activities.

(i) History and Mission:
EWC's history dates back to a group of passionate and committed women who came together with the vision of creating a more sustainable and equitable world for future generations. Since its inception, the organization has worked tirelessly to address the threats of climate change and biodiversity loss, while promoting gender equality in the environmental sphere.

Credit: Environmental Women Org

(ii) Main Activities:

- Fight against Climate Change: EWC leads initiatives that seek to mitigate and adapt to climate change. This includes renewable energy projects, energy efficiency and raising public awareness about the urgency of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

- Biodiversity Conservation: The organization is dedicated to the protection of biodiversity and terrestrial ecosystems. It works to preserve critical habitats, promote sustainable agricultural practices, and restore degraded ecosystems.

- Environmental Justice: EWC addresses environmental justice issues, working to ensure that all communities, regardless of location or socioeconomic status, have access to a healthy and safe environment. This means advocating for policies and practices that reduce environmental disparities.

Credit: Environmental Women Org

(iii) Relationship with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

EWC closely aligns with several of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations:

- Gender Equality (SDG 5): Gender equality is a fundamental pillar of EWC's mission. The organization empowers women and girls, promoting their active participation in environmental decision-making and ensuring equal opportunities in all aspects of their work.

- Clean Energy (SDG 7): EWC is committed to promoting clean and sustainable energy sources. Its solar and wind energy projects have contributed significantly to the reduction of carbon emissions.

- Terrestrial Ecosystems (SDG 15): Biodiversity conservation and restoration of terrestrial ecosystems are core areas of focus for EWC. The organization works closely with local communities and governments to protect natural habitats and restore degraded ecosystems.

- Climate Change (SDG 13): Combating climate change is one of EWC's priorities. Its renewable energy projects and awareness efforts are aligned with the goal of reducing the global carbon footprint.

Credit: Environmental Women Org

(iv) Measurable Impact

Throughout its history, EWC has made a significant impact:

- More than 100 renewable energy projects implemented, reducing more than 2 million tons of CO2.

- The conservation of more than 500,000 hectares of critical habitats.

- Empowering more than 5,000 women and girls to lead environmental initiatives.

EWC continues to be a beacon of hope in the fight for a sustainable future. With its focus on gender equity, clean energy, biodiversity conservation and environmental justice, the organization is uniquely positioned to continue leading the transformation toward a greener, more equitable world for all.

The Project

The program implementation plan is divided into a series of key stages, each designed to achieve specific objectives and maximize efficiency in execution. The total duration of the program is 12 months, and the available human resources, including 8 professionals and 50 volunteers, will be used to carry out simultaneous activities as necessary.

Stage 1: Preparation (Months 1-2)

In this stage, the necessary topographic and solar evaluations will be carried out to determine the optimal locations of the 10 450W solar panels. In addition, detailed assessments of the water source will be carried out and the piping system for water distribution will be designed. The technical water committee will be established, made up of 10 young people from the Narakajmanta community, and the training plan will be designed for them.

Stage 2: Implementation (Months 3-10)

During this phase, the main activities of the program will be carried out. The installation of the 10 solar panels will be carried out simultaneously in strategic locations in the Narakajmanta community. Engineers specialized in solar energy will be in charge of the installation, following ASTM standards, and on-site tests will be carried out to guarantee the generation of at least 4.5kW. The installation of the solar-powered hydraulic pump will be carried out in parallel. Mounting structures will be built and the pump and piping systems will be installed, ensuring compliance with ASME standards. Flow and pressure tests will be carried out to optimize system performance. Simultaneously, the configuration of the water distribution network will be carried out in 10 strategic points. GIS and AutoCAD software tools will be used for network design, following ANSI/AWWA and OSHA standards. Flow control valves and water quality sensors will be installed at each point.

Credit: Environmental Women Org

Stage 3: Training and Community Strengthening (Months 6-10)

During this stage, 300 indigenous youth will be trained in the operation and maintenance of the water supply and solar energy system. The training plan will be divided into theoretical and practical modules, with specific metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of the training, such as troubleshooting time and interpretation of sensor data. The technical water committee/secretariat will be trained in technical and managerial aspects, ensuring that they are prepared to take responsibility for the long-term operation of the system.

Stage 4: Monitoring and Evaluation (Months 10-12)

In this final stage, continuous monitoring of the operation of the water supply and solar energy system will be carried out. The performance of the solar panels and the hydraulic pump will be evaluated, and data on the quality of the distributed water will be collected. The technical water committee will play a key role in monitoring and managing any problems that arise. Surveys and interviews will be carried out to measure the impact of the program in the Narakajmanta community, in terms of water-energy security, empowerment of women and youth, and improvement of quality of life.

Credit: Environmental Women Org

Disbursement and Procurement Plans:

Disbursement of funds will be made in accordance with key program milestones, ensuring that resources are available when needed for each activity. Regarding the procurement plan, the solar panels, the hydraulic pump and the materials for the configuration of the water distribution network will be acquired. Agreements will be established with local suppliers to guarantee the quality and availability of equipment and materials. The program implementation plan is based on a logical sequence of stages and activities, taking advantage of available human resources and applying rigorous technical standards. Activities will be carried out simultaneously whenever possible to maximize efficiency. Monitoring and evaluation will guarantee the quality and sustainable impact of the program in the Narakajmanta indigenous community.

We spoke with Environmental Women Corporation's Nadia Rodriguez as the organization was starting off the project. Check out the interview for our Voices From the Ground segment below (English and Portuguese subtitles available). You can also find a transcript of the interview, in English and Portuguese, here.

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