March 22 is the United Nations World Water Day, the theme of which is “International Year of Water Cooperation.” Water cooperation is water management that considers a number of factors (such as food production, environment, and domestic use) in an effort to encourage peace and sustainable development.
In an effort to practice water cooperation ELCA World Hunger has worked for several years with the Luzhou City Parish in Sichuan Province, China, to identify communities in need of better access to water.
Y. Franklin Ishida, ELCA Global Mission Area Program Director for Asia and the Pacific writes of a project among the Miao ethnic minority people in Luxian:
This is an example of ELCA and government collaboration, where ELCA contributed to a major water works project for a hilltop village in this area. Local farmers relied on the weather for their crops. This past year  was an example where drought caused major problems. An antiquated pump system no longer functioned. With ELCA funding, a new pump system was installed to raise water from the nearby river for then distribution throughout the land to fill paddies. The area covered is huge, and the impact obvious when you see paddies filled with water this year. While the local government officials were eager to show the new pumping station, the holding ponds, and the water outlets at various places; one woman’s smile, as she paused from planting rice, said it all. She compared things to the previous year, when there was no water: Even drinking water had to be trucked in.
Water cooperation is shown here through collaboration between government, faith-based and local actors. Ishida highlights another example:
In the Maxi area of Gulin, I was invited to dedicate the new water system put in that benefits 83 people in 18 households. According to Yan Yi-you, the village head, “we can drink fresh water, provide for the goats and cows, and plant our crops without worry of droughts,” something that had occurred in 2011. “Before it was a very hard life: now we can easily do things,” he said.
The system is a simple one. A pond was dug at a spring. A pump was installed to pump the water uphill to some holding tanks. From there, gravity takes the water to each home. Easy to install, easy to maintain.
About all this Yan says: “We did the work because you gave for us: you care for us. Though there was water [at the source down the mountain] from the time of our forefathers, this new water system will now help us for generations to come.” And with this, he gave me a huge hug.
Through these projects and ones like them, ELCA World Hunger is able to support water cooperation around the world. By working together with the communities like those in Luxian and in the Maxi area of Gulin (both in the Sichuan Province) –we are able to support projects that make a difference. As the UN makes water cooperation work a priority throughout this year, may we – as ELCA World Hunger – continue to realize and support the incredible work that is possible through collaboration between government, faith-based, and local actors.
Henry Martinez serves as an educational associate for ELCA World Hunger.