Rainwater in forests and in the countryside is one of the cleanest available and is already reused by many people. But what if there was an efficient way to also put to other uses the grey water that runs down the drain after washing dishes, clothes or having a bath? This is the proposal of a project in Morro do Chapéu, Family Biowater. Promoted by the Enel Shares Infrastructure programme, the initiative brings reuse systems for the so-called “grey” water so that it, after treatment, can be used in irrigating vegetable gardens and plantations.
Mr Antonio dos Santos, who lives with his daughter in a small house completely surrounded by flowers, followed the arrival of this novelty in his community, Lagoinha. His main passion? Looking after his vegetable garden. “I take pleasure in planting. There are times when I pick leaf by leaf from my lemon plant just to tidy it up. To me, I’m working. I dig a little hole, bury a seed for something. That thing grows and soon you have a plant. Look at these small tomatoes! The drought took away everything I had. So I started planting these seedlings and now already have little tomatoes.”
And it was in the last six months that Mr Antonio saw his garden get a new look, more alive and plentiful, because of biowater. The system collects the water already used in the house (except for sewage) through a specific channel. This water is directed to a filter with physical barrier treatment (made up of layers of sawdust, earthworms, gravel and sand). After that, the water goes to a tank that incudes a second filter. Finally, a manual pump directs the water from the tank, through hoses, to the plantation. Every stage of the system’s construction is followed by the families that receive the project – 60 houses in total.
The biowater system is very hygienic and sustainable, as there is no human contact with the water and the irrigation is done by dripping – a technique that also prevents waste, as the water falls directly onto the soil and has no contact with the leaves. “With the hoses, it has become great. They drip from time to time and keep everything green,” describes Mr Antonio.
Always with a smile on his face and a story to tell, the plant lover is the fastidious type. Even with a garden full of vegetables, fruit and flowers, he categorically states that it is not yet good enough: “Today everything isn’t taken yet, but I will sort it out, do it all. I was glad to hear you saying it looks beautiful.” Another point that can be noticed after a few minutes of conversation with Mr Antonio is his generosity: “I take pleasure in donating. Some come here and say they want to buy a bit of coriander and I say no. What we have, we pick and give away. It’s what I consider the most important thing.”
A valuable change of mind
“After the project, I started planting more, began to love things more. Because of the incentive, I gathered my strength, built the courage to fight.” Mrs Izenaide Bispo hadn’t imagined that she would be saying these words when the Family Biowater Project knocked on her door, a few months ago. Back then, she already cultivated a few seedlings in her backyard, but was the first to say she didn’t want to host the project. However, as time went by and the relationship with the team involved changed, Mrs Izenaide changed her mind and today is proud of the novelties that came with it. “The people who didn’t want this project don’t know what they have missed. For me, it’s been excellent, really nice. I am learning many things. The project team teaches us really well, they are patient, and bring new things to us.”
In addition to the new irrigation system that reuses the water from her house, Mrs Izenaide also learned new things through workshops on planting and nutrition that are part of Enel Shares Infrastructure – Family Biowater. The workshops are important because a large part of the families hosting the project are in an extreme poverty situation and do not have enough income to buy healthy foods. The idea, then, is to expand the food repertoire of the beneficiaries so they can, as well as improving their nutrition, have more interest in planting new foodstuff varieties. “Chickpea was something I didn’t know and now I have in my backyard. They brought it, I ate some, liked it, and now I can introduce it to others. I already know how to harvest, how to eat. This is great,” celebrates Mrs Izenaide.
As well as these new varieties, the farmer also exudes creativity on her planting pots: bottles, old shoes, jute and even old jeans become vases to decorate her garden. In addition to gratitude to what the land has to offer, her work is now a source of income for her and her family: “I make these pots, do research, plant and sometimes I even sell. Sometimes I prepare three seedbeds of coriander. I’m not going to consume all of it. So I take them to the market, sell a little coriander, an onion, some beans, some pumpkin. It brings me some income. It isn’t much, that’s true, but we can use to by something we’re missing.”
Mrs Izenaide opens up a smile when she speaks of the biowater she received in her home, and does not forget to thank the present and think about the future: “In addition to doing all their work with the wind farms here in the region, Enel incentivises the people in the community and give them new opportunities. In the future, I want an even bigger vegetable garden.”