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Karol Hermoza

Since June 2018, when GVI started operations in Cusco, one of the main goals was to pursue projects that will contribute to environmental conservation. GVI works with The Nature Conservancy and the Centro Bartolomé de las Casas who have joined forces on the project ‘Adaptation to Water Management Resources to Climate Change’. On this case, it is key to preserve all water sources in the Piuray-Ccorimarca micro basin, where we find the Piuray lagoon that gives 42% of water to the city of Cusco.

On June 2019, GVI Cusco set a goal to clean up and fence the wetland knows as ‘Media Luna’ (Half Moon) in the community of Valle Chosica. This wetland is an important water source for Valle Chosica; community members use this water for their animals and to irrigate their fields throughout the year. Unfortunately, years of neglecting this place led to contamination, which meant the water is not suitable to use by community members. GVI set up the challenge to clean this area, so the water can come back to a more pristine state and be used for the current and future generations. As well, fencing this area will meant there will be a better management of the water use, on this case, animals will not come in all the time and the community members will need to have an agreement on how to use this water, as it will not available all the time. The president of the community committed two community members to help the volunteers and it was agreed the poles for the fence will be bought to the community, giving them an extra income. GVI brought the funding for the fence and all the tools needed for the project.

GVI Cusco had just received 16 students from the Duke Engage program who alongside some individual volunteers contributed to this goal. For almost 7 weeks all the volunteers clean the wetland, using racks and taking out algae, which was the main consequence from years of contamination. Taking out the algae gives the water source more oxygen, which is what the wetland needed it. Some volunteers created longer racks to get the algae from the center of the wetland, it was so much hard work but very worth it. Then volunteers started making the holes for the poles around the wetland, on this case, the community members helped with some ‘faena’ days. ‘Faena’ is community work, community members give a full day of work in benefit of their community, this is an ancient practice where individualism does not exist, the community works together to bring benefits for everybody.

Putting the poles on the holes was another challenge, they were 2 meters high and very heavy. We had to carry them between 3 or 4 volunteers and then place them on a way they will not move, putting mud on the base with water. A technique taught by the members of the community. Volunteers had to make sure the poles will not move before the mesh for the fence started to be placed. Finally, volunteers started to put the mesh with the help of the two community members who worked full time during the project. It was almost two weeks of just work on the mesh to finish up. The outcome was amazing, seeing a clean wetland, the whole fence come to live and the community members so happy to see the tangible outcome of so much hard work.

On January 2020, new volunteers made a monitoring visit to the ‘Media Luna’ wetland. It was beautiful to see no more algae on sight, there were 3 bird nests in the middle (2 more than in June 2019) and the community had used the space to receive a group of 30 French tourists. Most importantly, water is cleared and can be used as a source for the community members, clean water for a better life. Without the passionate work of our volunteers and the community of Valle Chosica this project could not have saved this water source and make it a site for life.

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