Eliseo Collazos Fog Water Farm-Park and Gardens
Landscape Performance Benefits
- Collects 90,000 liters (23,789 gallons) of water per month during the foggy season, fulfilling 100% of home garden irrigation needs while improving satisfaction with access to water among 74% of 23 surveyed household representatives. This saves the community as a whole from 2,424 soles ($680 USD) to 13,200 soles ($3,700 USD) per month depending on the season.
- Contributes to species diversity in an ecologically degraded region. Simpson diversity index values increased over the life of the project from a value of .86 at the first planting to .95 at 3.5 years after planting, even with the occurrence of a water crisis and significant dieback. The pre-project value is estimated to be near 0.
- Increases time spent outdoors for 81% of 21 surveyed household representatives. 79% of 19 surveyed household representatives reported that their children spend more time outdoors because of the project.
- Fosters personal agency and stewardship, with 28 of the 29 households that participated in the first phase of household gardens adding new plants to their gardens of their own volition. These plants added by residents made up 45% of the 495 plants in the household gardens six months after construction.
- Improves interpersonal relationships, with 86% of 21 surveyed community members reporting that relationships and collaboration with their neighbors were improved by the project, while 65% of 23 reported that they spent more time with neighbors than before the project. This is supported by statistically significant positive change in social capital measured in a health assessment of participants.
- Promotes physical activity, with 67% of 21 surveyed household representatives reporting spending more time exercising or playing sports than before the project.
- Contributes to improved mental health and well-being for community members, with a statistically significant increase in psychological health based on a health assessment of 29 community members. Additionally, 95% of 20 surveyed household representatives reported that their home gardens improved their mental health, well-being, and happiness.
- Improves quality of life according to 100% of 19 surveyed household representatives. A health assessment of 29 community members showed a statistically significant increase in all quality of life domains including physical health (14.2% improvement), psychological health (7.7%), social relationships (11.9%), and environment (9.2%) in the course of one year.
- Improves community perceptions of the environment, with 6% of surveyed household representatives being happy with the environment in their community pre-project improving to 69% post-project. Additionally, 90% of 20 surveyed household representatives believed that their home gardens made the environment in their community better.
- Helps to combat declining perceptions of security in the community, with 96% of 21 surveyed household representatives reporting that security in the community either did not change or improved, despite an overall increase in crime in the region. The project also catalyzed significant increases in feelings of trust and safety and decreases in life-threatening experiences associated with home garden construction as indicated in a health assessment.
- Contributes to improved food security with 75% of 20 surveyed household representatives reporting that their home gardens improved their access to food. This provides the community with up to $250 worth of fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs per month.
- Improves community beauty, with 100% of 20 surveyed household representatives reporting that their home gardens contribute to improved aesthetic quality.
- Enhances community satisfaction with access to green spaces, with 29% of surveyed household representatives being happy with their access to green spaces pre-project improving to 91% post-project. Additionally, 78% of 23 surveyed household representatives agreed that the fog collection system and community farm-park improved their access to green spaces.
- Increased green space per capita in the community of Eliseo Collazos from 0 to approximately 1.776 sq meters (19.12 sf), bringing the marginalized community about halfway to Lima’s average of 3.9 sq meter per capita and nearly one sixth of the way toward achieving the WHO-recommended 9 to 12 sq meters (41.98 sf) per capita.
- Supports increased financial stability, with 45% of 44 surveyed household representatives reporting improvement in their financial situation due to the project.
At a Glance
Traction (formerly the Informal Urban Communities Initiative, IUCI)
Former Land Use
Eliseo Collazos, Lomas de Zapallal
Lima, 15122, Peru
Approximately 555 sq meters (6,000 sf) of public space and 60 small household gardens
Located in the Lomas de Zapallal neighborhood of the Puente Piedra district of Lima, Peru, this series of participatory design-build interventions addresses complex challenges faced by Eliseo Collazos, an informal urban community (sometimes termed slum) on the outskirts of Lima. Like approximately one third of people living in the Lima metropolitan area, community members in Eliseo Collazos lack access to green space, safe and reliable water infrastructure, land tenure, nutritious food, and other public health infrastructure due to rapid informal urbanization and limited public investment. Working with the 90-household informal community, a series of phased landscape interventions were developed and implemented from 2013 to 2017. Trust building and community empowerment were central to participatory planning, design, and implementation processes, which resulted in the design and construction of six fog collectors with a sedimentation tank, seven storage cisterns, a gravity-fed irrigation system, sports court, terraced community garden, pocket playground, and 60 household gardens. Community members identified the needs and priorities that defined the project, including water and food security, green space, safe footpaths, and play space. The project features are beloved by the community and have fostered a sense of agency and autonomy while providing tangible savings and offering economic opportunities. These small-scale interventions also represent ways to begin to address the considerable challenges facing the region, including ecosystem degradation, socioeconomic inequity, and climate change, which is causing increasingly extreme seasonal drought and rapid melting of the glaciers that provide water for the Lima metropolitan area.
- Improve access to food, water, recreation, and green space for informal community residents
- Improve mental health and social well-being
- Increase plant and animal life in a degraded ecosystem
- Improve economic opportunity by providing public and private spaces to grow food
- Support self-empowerment and community cohesion, amplify community voices, and increase touch points between the community and municipality
- Provide distributed water infrastructure to reduce the reliance on municipal and private water sources, provide a sustainable water source in a coastal desert, and increase resilience to climate change impacts like increased severity of drought, rapidly melting glaciers, and accelerated loss of the native lomas ecosystem.
- Provide beautification.
- Promote education and skills-building for community members as well as project team members
- 60 household gardens include at least 78 different species of edible, medicinal, and ornamental plants at community homes. They have painted wood fences, stone or concrete planters, and/or fishing net to provide protection against animals and children. Additional personalized garden features included concrete and wood benches, stone or concrete pathways, sculpture, and art. The gardens were developed through participatory design workshops where households used small-scale models to select and lay out the elements, plants, and stylized features that they desired for their gardens.
- 6 fog collectors with a total of 132 sq meters (1,421 sf) of fog wicking fabric use a mesh textile with a gutter to harvest water droplets that amount to an average of 3,000 liters (793 gallons) of water per day, or 90,000 liters (23,789 gallons) per month during the six- to nine-month foggy season. The fog harvesters were developed through hands-on participatory design workshops using small-scale fog collection models to gain feedback on design and maintenance strategies while training the community on how to build them.
- 7 water storage cisterns store up to 35,000 liters of water at a time. During the dry (non-foggy) season, water collected in the 7 water tanks can provide Eliseo Collazos’ green spaces with more than the 6,000 liters (1,585 gallons) of water needed per month for irrigation in a landscape that receives less than 10 mm of rain per year, as well as an emergency drinking water supply during unexpected hardship.
- A gravity-fed irrigation system leads water from fog harvesters to a sedimentation tank to storage cisterns to a drip irrigation system that runs through the public farm-park as well as to taps within the community that provide households with water for 60 household gardens, many of which have low-water-use wicking beds. Residents confirmed that watering the gardens was not an additional cost or time burden on their families.
- A concrete 10-by-18.5-meter sports court provides the community with space for recreation. It is commonly used for soccer and volleyball.
- A community-tended terraced farm-park grows native trees, herbs, and medicinal plants such as molle, oregano, aloe, and lemon verbena. The farm-park is built into a hillside and is accessed by a wide staircase with railings. 1,384 individual plants were initially planted in the farm-park.
- A pocket playground for small children includes a fenced play space with seating, planters, slides, and a musical wall.
- Materials for the project were locally sourced whenever possible, reducing material and environmental costs of materials and transportation. For example, a local carpenter constructed wood fences; a neighboring community manufactured the concrete sewer pipes that were repurposed as planters, stairs, benches, and retaining walls; and the project team harvested roughly 25 sq meters of stone (valued at about $50 or 175 Peruvian soles) for home gardens from the site and surrounding area.
- Maintenance manuals provide a comprehensive resource for community members to maintain project infrastructure long-term. The manuals include information about each of the features of the project as well as the location and cost of the materials comprising each design element so that the community can easily and affordably make repairs and expansions as needed.
Lima’s informal communities are home to an estimated 3 million people, or one-third of the city’s population. The people living in them face layered challenges including lack of public support for infrastructure, lack of land tenure, institutionalized poverty, and living environments that do not support human or ecological health. Addressing these complex challenges requires transdisciplinary collaboration across health, design, environment, engineering, and other fields, as well as strong community partnerships. The interdisciplinary team came together with a common idea that the built environment is a social determinant of health (SDH), and therefore landscape improvements can positively impact public health and well-being. They held the project accountable to this idea through project evaluation and health research.
This project differs from traditional client-initiated, capital-driven landscape architecture projects. Of critical importance was that the design team began with the idea to address SDH in informal communities and found a community client that fit this need, and then community members defined the project that they wanted and were central to decisions and design processes. Years of participatory processes with long-term committed partners (a nonprofit and a university) created space for community members to identify and build community strengths; voice their built environment hopes, needs, and priorities; share expertise of their environment; shape design proposals; and ultimately implement and maintain interventions. Participatory processes partnered paid professionals from Architects Without Borders-Seattle (AWB), Traction (formerly known as the Informal Urban Communities Initiative, IUCI), and Movimiento Peruanas Sin Agua (MPSA) with students and trainees from the University of Washington (UW) including 5 LAF Olmsted Scholars, the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos (UNMSM), and the National Institute of Health Fogarty Global Health Fellowship Program. This trained emerging professionals in applied participatory design and research methods in marginalized urban environments while strengthening connections between AWB, Traction, UW, UNMSM and Eliseo Collazos. The project aimed to support self-empowerment, amplify community voices, and increase touch points between the community and the municipality – a relationship that too often does not exist for informal communities. Over the 5 years of the project phases, the municipality was consulted and informed of project activities, and community leaders in Eliseo Collazos met regularly with municipal workers. While Eliseo Collazos is still not formalized as of 2020, these government touchpoints along with the built environment improvements are critical to forward progress toward formalization and receiving public services.
- Prototyping, lab testing, and on-site materials testing were vital to the success of the project. Because the project relied upon maximizing the innovative place-based technology of fog water collection, the team tested different fabrics at the site over the course of a season – none of which were specifically designed to capture fog. The fabric that the team ultimately used in the fog collector system is an erosion control fabric. On-site testing revealed that it was the most efficient available fabric for fog collection, up to 10 times more effective than conventional shade fabric.
- Flexibility was paramount to project success due to the nature of participatory processes and the involvement of the informal community. Participatory processes can be long, demanding to coordinate and facilitate, and unpredictable. Residents who live in informal communities in Lima are often extremely busy and hard to reach as they work many jobs, most of which are in the city, a 2-hour bus ride away. Frequent unexpected hardships required further flexibility. For example, when a house collapsed or the death of a child occurred in the community, the project team would stop all work and allow time for the community to come together and help their neighbors through these events. These realities posed challenges to scheduling and conducting community meetings and participatory workshops, including the need to plan and advertise meetings no more than a few days in advance. When possible, the design team scheduled their activities to coincide with Eliseo Collazos’ pre-established system of Sunday fainas, or community work parties, to ease the time burden on residents and maximize participation.
- Ensuring the project’s long-term sustainability relied on community participatory processes to identify needs and priorities, paired with Participatory Impact Assessments (PIAs) to evaluate the project based on how the community defines success. The project team held several rounds of community workshops to a) identify the needs, desires, and priorities that define the project, b) choose design features and preferences within the project, c) teach residents how to construct and maintain the project, and d) gain feedback on project performance. Participatory tools included community mapping, small-scale models of design features, and hands-on workshops with local experts. The team used PIAs to evaluate the project based on what the community identified as success (rather than what the research team would deem successful) and created research instruments from feedback received, such as a before and after survey, focus groups, and illustrated Garden Diaries. This community participatory approach to design and research is time-intensive compared to a traditional project. It includes continual feedback, adaptation, and iteration loops that require materials, management, organization, excellent communication, and a relatively large team. However, the efforts are rewarded with impactful and sustained outcomes and long-term trust building. Community participatory processes are what make the project sustainable by focusing on real community priorities and fostering stewardship long after project “completion.”
- The strategy of requiring residents to construct the project led to multiple, layered benefits. First, it established a partnership, rather than a charity, with an impoverished community who “paid” for the project with their time, human resources, local expertise, and contribution to publishable research data. Both parties contributed to and benefited from the project, balancing power and increasing mutual reliance and trust. Second, the team saw the multiple benefits that the act of construction can have on physical, mental, and social health, especially when neighbors and families work together and make memories through the construction of a project. The project partners suspect that the health benefits found in the research stem not only from the product but also from the process. Third, the team confirmed the underlying project concept that when residents construct their own projects, they become emotionally attached to and proud of their work, and they generate their own ideas for further improvements, contributing to project stewardship and long-term sustainability.
- Informal communities are by nature constantly evolving and, in the case of those surrounding Lima, expanding. Eliseo Collazos looks and operates very differently in 2020 than it did in 2012 when the project was initiated. The design team learned that with projects of this nature, the project may change as priorities shift and the community evolves. For example, residents originally wanted the fog water source specifically to irrigate desired greenspace, but when a regional water crisis occurred in March 2017 (collapsed rivers and dams leaving all 11 million Lima residents without water) and again in March-May 2020 (COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders kept the water trucks from coming to the informal areas), the project cisterns were repurposed to hold water for domestic use such as laundry, bathing, and cooking. In addition, over time mafias and new informal settlements moved into the area above Eliseo Collazos where the fog collectors are located, and violence and fear have kept Eliseo Collazos residents from maintaining the fog collectors until these conditions improve.
Mesh erosion control mat for fog collection: Enkamat
2,500-liter sedimentation tank: Eternit via GS&S Global Services & Suppliers
5,000-liter cisterns: Eternit via GS&S Global Services & Suppliers
Community of Eliseo Collazos
Traction (formerly known as the Informal Urban Communities Initiative, IUCI)
Architects Without Borders-Seattle
Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
University of Washington
Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos: Instituto de Medicina Tropical, Daniel Alcides Carrión
Movimiento Peruanos sin Agua
US Environmental Protection Agency P3 Competition
NIH Fogarty Global Health Fellows: Northern Pacific Global Health Research Fellows Training Consortium
Landscape Architecture Foundation Olmsted Scholars program
Design + Research Team
Community of Eliseo Collazos
Coco Alarcón (Architecture, Landscape Architecture)
Brooke Alford (Landscape Architecture)
Leann Andrews (Landscape Architecture, Global Health)
Susan Bolton (Civil Engineering, Forest Resources)
Shara Feld (Civil Engineering)
Jill Fortuna (Landscape Architecture, Architecture)
Brian Gerich (Architecture, Landscape Architecture)
Taj Hanson (Landscape Architecture)
Leah Isquith-Dicker (Anthropology, Global Health)
David Judge (Architecture)
Abi Korn (Global Health)
Gayna Nakayo (Landscape Architecture)
Patrick Pirtle (Landscape Architecture)
Rekha Ravindran (Global Health, Public Health)
Francisca Salazar (Nursing)
Jess Smith (Civil Engineering)
Ben Spencer (Landscape Architecture, Architecture)
Joachim Voss (Nursing)
Coffman Engineers (Structural Engineering)
Role of the Landscape Architect
The layered challenges facing Eliseo Collazos, the informal community central to this project, became design questions through the systems-level thinking led by a small team of landscape architects working collaboratively with other professionals including nurses, public health researchers, engineers, architects, and ecologists. After initiating the project through multi-scale analysis of the project site within larger frameworks of socioeconomic inequality in urbanization, landscape architects organized the project’s transdisciplinary design and research team by connecting the dots between experts from diverse fields. The role of the landscape architect then became to organize, facilitate, and develop graphics and tools for the project’s participatory processes, as well as to listen and lend design, construction, and maintenance expertise throughout iterative phases to help translate the priorities of the community of Eliseo Collazos into built environment interventions that targeted their needs and reflected their design sensibilities. Landscape architects also led the project evaluation, analyzed health and built environment data, and communicated results to the residents alongside the research team of nurses and public health researchers.