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Rainforest Flow began working in the Shawi village of Louis Terry in 2022 in the vicinity of the small town of Shucushyacu on the Huallaga river, our first project in northern Peru. With a population of over 26,000 people, the Shawi (or Chayahuita) are the fourth largest indigenous group in the Peruvian Amazon.
The Shawi are extremely proud of their language, culture and regional reputation as feared warriors. Yet at the same time, most are Evangelical Christians who extoll the virtues of peace, love and community harmony.
Louis Terry is a small community of about 100 people who moved to their current location from the overcrowded Shawi district of Balsapuerto over the past three decades in search of land, economic opportunities and better health conditions.
The only water source for the community was a small stream alongside the dirt road to Shucushyacu. Intestinal parasite infections in Louis Terry were much lower than what we have typically found in other project communities. This low incidence of intestinal parasites is certainly due to the rigorous hygienic practices in Shawi households. Nonetheless, their use of contaminated water contributed to chronic diarrhea which affected roughly 1/3 of the population and 87% of all households during our initial study, leaving 46% of children with anemia.
Building on our previous experience in Manu Biosphere Reserve, Rainforest Flow adapted our W.A.S.H. systems to this new cultural and geographical region. Since the topography does not permit a system driven only by gravity flow, we installed a slow sand filtration system and a 30,000 liter cistern tank with a solar-powered pump to elevate the water to a central 20,000 liter reservoir tank to distribute clean water throughout the entire village. For one family whose house was too high to receive water from the community reservoir, we installed a rainwater harvesting system.
Everyone in the village participated in all aspect of construction and everyone now has clean, safe drinking water and each home has a sturdy household sink with an underground greywater drains.
A well-ventilated school bathroom was built, including four toilet stalls, two showers and a washing station with separate sides for boys and girls. The bathroom has an eco-friendly biodigester waste management system.
Rainforest Flow health educators are collaberating with local Shawi health professionals to develop an integrated culturally appropriate hygiene education program, including conducting monthly home wellness visits.Village mothers and school children participate in ongoing health and hygiene classes that reinforce good daily hygiene practices, improved nutrition and caring and maintaining their home sinks and school bathrooms.
We will continue to monitor health advances in Louis Terry at the family and community level and provide ongoing technical training to Louis Terry’s elected water committee to teach villagers to repair and maintain the water and sanitation systems for generations to come.
We hope this experience in northern Peru will allow Rainforest Flow to expand its proven WASH model to new regions and inspire more indigenous people to transform the health of their communities.