Thanks to the construction of fog nets on Cerro Grande, the small village of Pea Blanca in Chile has been able to gather approximately 500,000 liters of water per year. The nets, erected in collaboration with the Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation, cover 252 square meters and capture nearly 1,500 liters of water per day. This has enabled the community to revitalize the region's vegetation and create new companies in order to improve their quality of life.
Other programs in the region, in addition to fog nets, try to make the most of the less frequent rains, store water for cattle, and prevent soil erosion and mudslides. However, the community claims that these initiatives are only pilot ventures, with no long-term funding or political support.
According to Chile's National Forest Corporation (CONAF), desertification threatens around 23% of the country's total territory, with the Coquimbo region being the most impacted. The southern limit of the Atacama Desert was originally designated along the Copiapó River, but as the desert has expanded south, this line has grown increasingly ambiguous.
Pea Blanca was formerly a thriving rural hamlet, with wheat growing taking up a considerable section of the territory. However, soil erosion, fewer rainfall, and the importation of cheaper wheat resulted in a drop in economic activity and the evacuation of the hamlet by the working-age population. Despite the paucity of water and feed, the majority of the residents are now elderly people who have turned to sheep husbandry.
The Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation began working with the town in 2005, when Pea Blanca was nearing the end of its economic life. They resolved to adapt and discover new ways to produce cash and acquire water together. To safeguard the Cerro Grande, the community fenced off the region and studied the fog, which led to the installation of fog nets.
The findings exceeded expectations, with each square meter of netting capable of collecting up to 2,000 liters of water, or around 49 gallons per square foot. Despite the desert's expansion, the water gathered has allowed at least 30 native plant species to grow in the Cerro Grande Ecological Reserve. The community seeks to acquire financing and governmental backing in order to continue their projects and adjust to the challenges of living in an increasingly parched area.
Individuals and organizations must work together to create a more just and equitable society for all in order to achieve a sustainable future and accomplish the SDGs. Only by working together toward a common goal can we hope to build a truly global community dedicated to making the world a better place for future generations.
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