RECLA Rotary E Club of Lake Atitlan


Intensive Tul Proposal

Rotary Member John Edward Van Lente is proposing an agressive Tul Reforestation Program, entitled “Natural Interventions to Revitalize the Biodiversity of Lake Atitlan Guatemala.”

The proposal states that remediation will start on November 15, 2017 and be completed by September 15, 2018.  In that time period, approximately 7,242 square meters of tul reeds (over 144,000 plants) will be replanted after being harvested from other sites.  Some of these new sites will be strategically located to intercept current contaminated entry sites to the lake such as Rio San Francisco in Panajachel.

For more definitive information or for specific ways to help fund this project through the Rotary E Club of Lake Atitlan, please contact John Van Lente ([email protected]) who will be responsible for Grant Application and Accountability to the District and Rotary International using all required forms for reports as outlined in the RI District Grant rules.  Rotary is looking for more volunteers to assist with the project, as well as for more tul planing locations, and the work will begin as soon as donations are received.

Tul is a local plant which is especially important for the health of the lake.  The cyanobacteria blooms of recent years are mainly caused by excess input of nutrients, and the presence of  tul (Tule, Schoenoplectus or Scirpus) provides rapid uptake of nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorus, while creating the surface area that attracts microorganisms in the water that create a cleaning biofilm.

The amount of tul, formerly abundant around the shore of Lake Atitlan, has been severely diminished due to the sudden rising of water level over the past few years, as well as from the lack of education among the population around the lake on its importance and responsible harvesting.  The immediate need for remediation and replanting of tul around the lake is critical to the health of Lake Atitlan.

The benefits of tul:

* It is a natural filter for pollutants running from the shore.

* It controls the cyanobacteriael bloom, since it is a natural competitor for the consumption of phosphorus and nitrogen.

* It is the habitat for animal species (fish, crustaceans and mollusks, migratory birds) and of economic importance to human populations and the ecosystem of the lake.  It is a source of raw materials for various crafts of the area.

Aggressive restoration of the natural tul base lost during a recent rapid water elevation period will reduce the demand for more costly solutions and therefore should be a first step. This proposal in no way offsets the other centralized waste management systems already planned that are essential to reduce the input of damaging wastes.

Local Rotarians and an existing small army of volunteers have previously worked with the Guatemalan National Environmental Protection Agency and the Local Atitlan Basin Environmental group.  RECLA has 20 active members. 5 are dedicated to clean lake projects in organizational and activist capacity and others as support persons.

Importantly, AMSCLAE, the local Atitlan Basin Group, possesses the staff, boats, knowledge, and government approval sufficient to utilize an influx of capital required for this project. The demand is also met by the parent governmental group CONAP who provide staff, expertise, and boats.

Other partners include several area schools, Interact, Rotaract Clubs, and associates from Rotary Clubs internationally who have supported our local missions.  This coalition has demonstrated effective cooperation in four pilot sites. The pilot projects provided the data for the cost analysis.

The projected cost projections include boat rental, gas for boats, hiring Tuleros (local workers in the area), ground/boat transportation for volunteers, rocks, binding twine, hydration/refreshments for workers, and legal/permit expenses is $27,592.00.

The AMSCLAE tul director will meet with lake and village fishermen to enlist their support for monitoring the tul plots. The director will also meet with tuleros who will continue to harvest and thin the plants. They will sell the plants to the artisans around the lake who produce locally-used as well as easily-exported products. This additional economic impact provides the income to sustain harvesting and thinning of congested plots.

Rotary Targeted Areas of Emphasis:

  1. Environmental impact and clean water.
  2. Public Health.
  3. Economic Impact
  4. Area student educational impact

One of the largest areas of the lake Atitlan, Guatemala drainage basin is Santa Lucia Utátlan. The town of Santa Lucia is in serious need of clean water (for residents and the elementary school present there) and a series of spring recapture and a new water storage tank to deliver water to the affected community is planned. Potential grant costs – $200,000 for multiple spring containment.

The reforestation project aims to conserve the Lake Atitlan basin with a focus on the recovery of water recharge areas. It is planned to reforest in 2017 120,000 pine, alder and cypress trees. The areas are already identified and by the end of June the trees are arriving to be taken in the different collection centers. The reforestation will be in the first two weeks of July with community, municipalities, private and a small part with students of 15 municipalities.

This project focuses on the design, manufacture, marketing, and distribution of an advanced dry toilet technology which has the potential to:

(1) decrease the introduction of pathogens and nutrients into Lake Atitlán,
(2) reduce the demand for fresh water,
(3) reduce the load on existing wastewater treatment plants, and
(4) create high-quality pathogen-free fertilizer.

This technology differs from past composting toilet approaches in that the toilet will be an attractive modern appliance that fits in with a modern bathroom, and that will be desirable, independent of its ecological benefits. The ultimate goal of the project is to replace flush toilets in the Lake Atitlán watershed with waterless toilets, and to put in place an indigenous Guatemalan worker-owned and run business for the continued provision of this technology to users in the region

Santa Cruz la Laguna is a small village on the shore of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, with a population of 2000. It has had a wastewater treatment plant since 2004, but due to a lack of financial resources for a proper maintenance, the plant is working today at only 20% of its capacity for removing impurities which cause the bloom of cyanobacteria, effecting the health of humans and animals. The Santa Cruz project seeks to recover the investment and infrastructure of the wastewater treatment plant, thus improving the operation and efficiency in order to achieve the legal requirements and drastically reduce the raw sewage flowing into the lake.

Chacaya, a town on Santiago Atitlan Bay, drinks contaminated water directly from Lake Atitlan. A new spring has been identified above the town and Engineers without Borders(EWB) has engineered a spring containment program and new piping into the town of 2500. We are participating with EWB and want to put $7000 into the project budget to cooperate with this necessary update of clean water source and all of the health benefits this will bring to this lakeside town. RECLA strongly supports this clean water collaborative effort.

Nuevo Progreso is a small community, a suburb of Santa Lucia Utitlan, located on the pan American highway. There are 45 houses and a school which are all in need of water. There are two wells located in the area, but both have become dry. Water now must be carried to the homes and school. The engineering plan is to repair the wells and pump water to a 4000-gallon storage tank located on a hill top and supply the community by gravity feed from this tank. We have excellent community support with the Municipality of Santa Lucia pledging Q50,000 to the project and the community has pledged all the unskilled labor. Mil Milagros, a NGO, runs the school there and will aid us in hygiene and health care issues. We will also be working with the community to improve sanitation.

The Problem we are addressing:

Among the major contributors to the chemical pollution of Lake Atitlan is chemical fertilizer, pesticide and fungicide run-off into the Lake.  A major source of this problem is chemical coffee farming. The huge amount of fertilizer running off into the lake is a main contributor to recurring cyanobacteria algal blooms. Some types of cyanobacteria produce toxins that attack the liver of humans and cause fish kills.  This Toxin CAN NOT be filtered or boiled out of water and lake water is the primary source of drinking water for over 200,000 people living around Lake Atitlan.  Reducing chemical fertilizer inflow into Lake Atitlan is ABSOLUTELY  critical for the water supply of over 200,000 people.

Part of the Solution:

Already around the lake there is a growing collective movement to transition to organic farming, both because they get more money for their produce and because many farmers are seeing that their soil is being destroyed by the chemical fertilizers.  Currently in Guatemala there is not a large consensus to eat organic vegetables so there is not a large market for them however the trend world wide for organic coffee has created a large market for higher value (organic, farm to cup, fair trade) coffee beans and the native population is aware of this opportunity to increase their standard of living by producing a higher value crop.  Currently organic coffee sells for about 35% more then conventional coffee and Organic, farm to cup, fair trade coffee sells for about 50% more then conventional coffee.

We are working with an already established organic coffee farming cooperative of 175 organic coffee growers, Cafe Maya Chacaya Atitlan (APROCAMCA).  This cooperative is struggling to survive though because they don’t have the processing equipment to survive sustainably and grow to promote more farmers to change to organic practices.  The past few years they have been paying to use the equipment of another local cooperative however this year, that cooperative has sold their equipment which will force APROCAMCA to transport all their coffee over 20 miles (that’s a long ways for poor farmers in Guatemala to carry 100lb bags on their back) to have it processed thus drastically increasing their costs and labor. We have also identified 2 other cooperatives (1 has 125 conventional, chemical fertilizer coffee growers and the other has 92 members) that have approached APROCAMCA wanting to join them.  APROCAMCA has not been able to facilitate adding this many members though because of their equipment needs.

Mayeca Desmucilaginadora 7 Horsepower Q60,000 (This machine cleans the coffee beans)
Mayeca Desmucilaginadora 7 Horsepower Q60,000 (This machine cleans the coffee beans)

Also, APROCAMCA is currently using a very mediocre composting method utilizing only the coffee hulls left over from the previous years processing to compost and add back to the farmers soil as organic fertilizer.  We have setup a program with ARLA, a local organization of 400 volunteers working to promote Lake Health, that is harvesting the invasive water plant hydrilla out of Lake Atitlan to bring this hydrilla to the APROCAMCA composting facility to be mixed with their coffee hulls at no cost to APROCAMCA.  Hydrilla is very high in both nitrogen and phosphorus as well as other trace minerals and will result in a much higher nutrient level in their composts.  Due to the growth rate and reproductive mechanisms of hydrilla there is a perpetual supply of hydrilla to be used at all times for their compost.  Also, we will be utilizing EM (Effective Microorganisms) in their composting which is well documented in many studies to produce a high quality, organic compost in 2-3 months instead of the 1 year time frame that traditional composting takes.  As part of the equipment package we are looking to provide for them, we would also like to get them a reliable used Toyota 4 x 4.  This truck will be used to transport manure from a local horse farm that we have arranged to provide it to APROCAMCA for their compost, to transport their coffee in from the fields and to the storage facility after processing, transport workers to the fields and transport their organic compost to the fields (currently all this is done by manual labor!)  It will also be used as the “town ambulance” as this is a VERY poor town and has no medical service from nearby towns.

The enhancement of their composting methods by adding hydrilla, horse manure and EM will greatly increase the quality and quantity of their compost (organic fertilizer for their coffee) thus increasing the health and production of their coffee plants resulting in higher yields and higher value product thus increasing the standard of living of all involved.  This combined with providing them with the 2 pieces of equipment necessary to remove the hulls from the coffee and get their beans to the drying stage will enable APROCAMCA to be able to sustainable grow as an organization and continue to transition more and more coffee farmers from chemical fertilizers to organic farming methods in the Lake Atitlan watershed.  Immediately upon receiving the equipment APROCAMCA will accept the 2 waiting organizations of chemical coffee growers into APROCAMCA and has agreed to help them transition to organic coffee farming thus immediately transitioning 217 farmers from chemical to organic farming practices inside the Lake Atitlan watershed.

Organizations involved and their contributions:

APROCAMCA- 1. Has agreed to pay for all supplies and provide all labor for the installation of the water pump and coffee hulling equipment. 2. Provide all labor to produce the compost to facilitate the transition of the new members. 3. Has agreed to provide training for the new members on organic coffee growing techniques.

ARLA- Has agreed to use it’s 400 volunteers to harvest and transport the Hydrilla to the AGROCAMCA facility on a weekly basis.

Lake Atitlan Environmental Interests- 1. Will provide training to APROCAMCA on enhanced composting techniques. 2. Will provide training to APROCAMCA on use and application of EM.

The Goal of the Project:

The goal of this grant is to provide the equipment and materials necessary to increase the membership of APROCAMCA from 175 local coffee farmers to over 350 thus transitioning over 175 chemical coffee farmers to organic coffee farming in the watershed of Lake Atitlan.

Costs of the Project:

To facilitate the growth of this organic coffee growers cooperative and help more coffee farmers transition from chemical farming to Organic Farming practices inside the Lake Atitlan Watershed we would like to propose funding for the following items:

  1. $13,000 for a used Toyota 4×4 pickup to facilitate transporting beans to and from facilities and for obtaining organic inputs (manure, vegetation, etc) for compost and transporting compost to the farms. Titled in Associations name so can’t be resold by an individual.
  2. $12,500 to purchase the water pump and coffee hulling machine needed to process their coffee and make the cooperative sustainable and able to grow into the future (machine is pictured above).
  3. $4,500 to purchase EM, molasses and transport containers.
Mayeca submergible water pump 3 horsepower Q35,000  This water pump supplies water to the “bean cleaning” machine and pumps the waste away to the recycling pond.
Mayeca submergible water pump 3 horsepower Q35,000  This water pump supplies water to the “bean cleaning” machine and pumps the waste away to the recycling pond.

This project will increase the current number of coffee farmers in the region that utilize organic farming practices from 175 to over 350.  This project will also increase the standard of living of those 350 families by increasing the value of their crops by 35% to 50%.  Last year this cooperative produced 125,000 pounds of green coffee ready for export and sold it for $4.98/kilo (@ $2.26 lb.).  For a total sales of @ $282,500.  Taking the lower percentage gain from organic, farm to cup, fair trade marketing of 35% that amounts to a net gain of $98,875 (that’s just for the original 175 members). Factoring in the 175 membership increase and increased production due to more productive composting and growing methods this project will create over $250,000 of increased income for over 350 local families in just the first year at a cost of less then $30,000 and transition over 175 chemical coffee growers to organic in the Santiago bay area of Lake Atitlan.  The Rotarian investment of just under $30,000 will facilitate millions of dollars in increased income for these indigenous families over the coming years!  Combine that with the impact on the reduction of nutrient inflow into Lake Atitlan and we are VERY excited about this project!