Andean indigenous people are settling in highland and low temperate valleys in which they are farmers using very ancient technology to optimize the land and water resources. About two million Aymara live in Bolivia, five hundred thousand in Peru, and one hundred thousand in Chile They built an agriculture systems with terracing, canals and irrigation works, with a sustainable production of organic foods. This landscape was completely modified by the modern society, introducing monoculture and chemicals, transforming agriculture without any consideration to environmental and social impact. Today, most of the people living in these valleys has a very low income and land and water present a high pollution, with severe degradation of the environment. Causes are anthropogenic and natural origin. Specifically, arsenic and boron water concentration are great than 0.05 and 30 ppm, producing toxicity and low yields of crops, like corn, onions and garlics.
In this project, our approach was oriented to generate a low water treatment plant based on biotechnology process in which we use natural micro algae that can adsorbs most of the metalloids presented in water. After few hours retention time, the process could reduce the concentration in 95%. The first step included laboratory test to define the best conditions of a new water biotreatment and to cultivate the algae in controlled environment. Because of these tests, the design includes boron removal by ionic exchange resin before the algae process. After the laboratory test, a pilot plant was built in an agricultural site located in Camina valley, in which most of the people are Aymara. The water treatment pilot plant is part of a demonstration agriculture station, in which a new irrigation systems and three terraces are using as a testing system. In that manner, the project integrates old and new technology as a fusion that we called retro innovation. The owner of the site is an old Aymara leader, his family belongs to one of the most prestigious people of the valley.
To transfer the technology to Aymara families, a training program was planning, that use their own native language, with active learning. The algae reactor was designed to operate with minimum human interactions, reducing any trouble and with a high algae removal time. Finally, the next step includes training people from the North of Chile and expanding this technology to other Andean valleys.