As some of you know, I am doing my internship with the Institute of Nature and Society of Oaxaca (http://insooaxaca.com/). It has been a little less than a month since commencing this adventure in Mexico, and so far things have been pretty exciting. Oaxaca is full of good food, friendly people, and more NGOs than you can count! All of which mix together to create quite a colorful and inspirational atmosphere. Between learning Spanish, conducting field work, and getting to know INSO, my time so far has been rather action packed, and promises to continue to be so for quite some time!
Seeing as how learning Spanish is somewhat self-explanatory, I’ll keep my description of it brief. Nolan and I have been taking classes at a language school down here and are starting to gain some competency when it comes to communicating. We both are lucky to have such great teachers, as well as to be living in a place with such patient people.
Regarding the field work, Mara, Michelle, Nolan, Nelly (a member of INSO), and I have spent the last three weeks planning and conducting water sampling expeditions into the watersheds surrounding Oaxaca. The Mexican pace of life has made things somewhat difficult, but with a little effort, we’re starting to get some real work done. Within all of these watersheds, agriculture and human activity is both polluting the existing streams as well as draining the subsurface aquifers. This subsequently creates serious quality and quantity issues for the city itself. A lack of potable tap water and an insecure water supply has created a complex water economy in which many people are forced to either purchase water at exorbitant rates, go without, or risk serious water born diseases.
Although INEGI (Mexico’s USGS) has conducted some aquifer and quality research, data on water quality in the surrounding watersheds is generally lacking. Therefore, we’ve been utilizing a mix of standardized parameters (those followed by Global Water Watch), low-tech bacteria and flow rate tests, and a field surveyor to increase the data available and hopefully shed some light on the areas, causes, and potential solutions to the water quality and quantity issues surrounding the city. With any luck, this initial research will both create data that can be shown to policy makers, as well as contribute to the implementation of local monitoring programs.
Throughout the course of all this fieldwork, INSO has been both our home base and our collaborator. We’ve worked mostly with two other employees here on finding an efficient method of sampling and nailing out a concrete plan for the remainder of our time. Specifically, Nolan and I have been working with a woman named Alejandra on creating and formatting an extensive map of watersheds, roads, and communities. With the help of said map and a little bit of Google earth, we will hopefully leave here with some great information.
With Mara’s eminent departure from Oaxaca, our focus is beginning to expand outside of water sampling and into some of the other projects that INSO has been working on. Juan Jose, the director at INSO, has a strong belief that people work best at what they’re interested in, and with that in mind, I plan to spend the next phase of my stay here exploring projects such as a sustainable agriculture demonstration site, and a community water forum used to educate and highlight current issues around Oaxaca.
Working in Oaxaca certainly has its ups and downs. At times, the number of NGOs all battling for attention and funding gets a bit overwhelming (which I am starting to learn may just be a fact of life), but it is also quite apparent that this vast range of NGOs has only come to exist because of the many worthy issues and opportunities that exist across Oaxaca as a state. My time here has so far been a cultural, professional, and personal rollercoaster ride, and it promises to continue as such for quite some time! I hope you all are enjoying your internships as much as I am enjoying mine, and I look forward to reading all the various posts that come in!
Until next time BCEPers,