Short description of the Kaqchikel community

The municipality of San José Poaquil was founded on November 1, 1891. It is located in the department of Chimaltenango with a territorial extension of approximately 100 km² and has almost 30 000 inhabitants. It is one of the 16 municipalities that make up the department of Chimaltenango. It is located in the west of the Republic of Guatemala at a distance of 101 kilometers from the Capital City and distance 47 kilometers from the Departmental Capital. Its territorial limits are: to the north of the municipality of Joyabaj, department of EI Quiche; to the east of the municipality of San Martin Jilotepeque, to the south of the municipality of San Juan Comalapa, to the west with the municipalities of Tecpán Guatemala and Santa Apolonia all of the department of Chimaltenango.

Languages spoken by the community


Location of community

14.8174° N, 90.9128° W

Can you explain how your community relates to the environment?

In my community there is still respect for the environment,  it is considered sacred. But the population must be educated about the importance of and connection with Mother Nature, especially the youth.

Can you explain how your community relates to water?

San José Poaquil continues to be a privileged town because have access to water. However, a large part of the population still do not understand the importance of taking care of water, that is, sustainable use and management. In the urban area you can already see and feel the scarcity of water unlike the hamlets, villages and other places within the municipality that have the opportunity to source their drinking water from springs.

Tell us about yourself and your relation to water.

I am a woman who fights to position indigenous women in important spaces and make the women of my community understand the important role we have for the development of the country. At the end of 2020, in times of the pandemic, the Drones Data en la agricultura sostenible (DDASO) Project was born. It is an innovative project led by Kaqchikel indigenous youth from San José Poaquil, Chimaltenango, with the need to implement the use of technology for sustainable agriculture in indigenous communities. We are currently developing a study on the service of water and basic sanitation in some places of the community of San José Poaquil. We are conducting this study because 40% of the almost 30 000 inhabitants in San José Poaquil do not have access to safe drinking water, particularly those living in urban areas.

Tell us about your role within your community and if it is related to water, how so?

The DDASO project gives me the opportunity to know the needs of my people in relation to water. Through the study we are carrying out, we see the situation of pollution and the unsustainable use of the vital liquid. It makes me more excited to know the important role that the women of San José Poaquil have with water, because for them water is sacred and it is also a connection to Mother Nature.

Is there an important water body on your land? If so, can you name and describe it? 

Yes, on one of the family lands my late father discovered a spring and created a rustic and manual well. To collect water from it, you have to use a rope and a bucket.

In your or your communities view, what is the most important aspect humanity should act upon with regards to water?

Water is sacred, Guatemala is still one of the countries rich in this matter, but there is also negligence and lack of education within the general population on sustainable use and management of water which makes the vital liquid scarce in several parts of the country. Guatemala has a dry corridor that is located in the east of the country, these places suffer from water scarcity, while the places that are privileged do not know how to sustainably use and manage water.

How do you ensure access to safe drinking water in the community, today?

It is complicated, if we talk about the urban area of the municipality we do not have access to safe drinking water. In fact, the water that is used for consumption and domestic use comes directly from rivers as there is no purification system.  We currently have a municipal shipyard near the mountain where some water sources have been discovered, but it is not so easy to transfer drinking water to the municipal tank because it becomes a bureaucratic procedure on the part of our officials. It is also complicated because some sources are discovered on private land and that implies paying a large amount of money so that the people can access the service.

Do you have canalisation, and sanitary facilities in area inhabited by your community? Are community members using them and how satisfied are you with those?

We do have a municipal tank, but it does not have adequate sanitary facilities. In my family we take advantage of the rain by collecting water through channels that we have created, we call that water harvesting. In this way, we consume pure water. The other way to drink healthy water is to boil it. Also following the ways of our grandparents, we filter water using clay pots.

Can you explain how your community relates to space?

As indigenous people, we have learned from the knowledge passed on by our grandparents. For example, they can tell when the rainy season begins through the shape of the clouds. Also, another ancestral practice is to observe the phases of the moon for planting and harvesting in agriculture.

Can you explain how your community relates to technology?

Technology is currently universal, anyone can have access to a cell phone. The majority of the San José Poaquil population has access to technology, but they do not give it the proper use, that is, they do not take advantage of it. At DDASO project, we are the first in the community to use technology beyond what is known, unfortunately we do not have the necessary equipment to continue moving forward, but we are working with the resources we currently have.

How does your community pass on knowledge related to the environment (e.g., via narratives, songs, paintings and murals, cloth prints, sculptures, other forms of art, etc.)?

Since I can remember, the narration is done by grandparents and parents. Personally they have taught me that mother nature is part of us and that we must take care of her. The connection with the environment is important because we depend on her as human beings. Currently, the knowledge and stories about our relationship with mother nature is transmitted through narration, paintings and murals.

Which changes in the environment have you or elders in your community observed?

The environment in which the community lives in is a wooded area currently managed by the Mayor's Office or indigenous brotherhood of San José Poaquil. It has been observed that the respect for the environment has declined due to lack of effective nature conservation and restoration programs and as a result there is pollution everywhere. it is important to make the population aware of the importance of caring for the environment, we are part of Mother Earth and she needs us to know how to value the resources that it offers us.

What are the water-related changes you have observed on the land your community lives on? If you have observed changes detrimental to the environment, what is the community currently doing to counteract these changes?

Increased pollution of the rivers, the population does not yet have proper education on the importance of recycling. Droughts are affecting important rivers within the municipality. We had a small lake, but due to excessive pollution  and droughts, that lake has disappeared.

We face issues with: 

  • Water scarcity
  • Water quality in rivers
  • Access to drinking water
  • Lack of sanitation
  • Flooding
  • Water-borne or water-related disease
  • Reduction of biodiversity in water bodies

Have you encountered cases where space technology applications were used for water/environmental monitoring, management etc? (Please provide examples if any: in general, or within your community, in order to understand need for educational workshop, awareness etc)

Not at the moment, but as a DDASO Project we have an educational awareness workshop as part of our activities.

If there is something you would like to know about space technology and Earth observation, what would it be?

I would love to travel to space and see our planet from above, it would be a dream come true.

What is your favourite aggregate state of water and why is that so?

I love the liquid state of water. Water is life and without it we are nothing.

What features would you like to see implemented on the Space4Water Portal?

I would like for the portal to be more interactive.