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Past Work: Colombia

Background

La Guajira is one of the most impoverished regions in Colombia where half of the population lives in rural areas and 9 of 10 live in poverty. La Guajira is the Colombian region with the largest indigenous population, primarily Wayúu.

The majority of the population lacks almost all access to basic public services. The most pressing need is access to clean water and sanitation. In La Guajira only 16.3% of the rural population have access to water and the remaining 83.7% are forced to use contaminated distant water sources for human consumption, laundry and bathing, resulting in severe illnesses such as diarrhea, infections, and skin rashes. Additionally, according to national statistics provided by the Public Services of Colombia, only 4% of the population in La Guajira has access to improved sanitation.

Program Plan

Component 1 – Install water technologies (solar pump and household filters) to improve access and water quality:

Aguayuda has identified 11 Wayúu communities in La Guajira for water supply and quality improvement. For one group of four communities, Aguayuda is partnering with Hybrytec (a Colombian solar company) and Corpoguajira (a Colombian governmental entity) to implement a complete WASH project including a new well, a solar pump, a flexible water tank, LifeStraw Family household filters and composting latrines.

For a further seven communities and schools, Aguayuda will provide SkyBox household water filters at strategic locations such as a school, near a water storage tank or hand pump. Whether the water point is a retention pond, river, rain water or well, the SkyBox household filter can purify water to meet WHO standards.

Component 2 – Pilot and adapt composting latrines for effective use:

Aguayuda has identified 6 Wayúu communities in La Guajira that currently have no sanitation facilities. In the past, water-flush latrines have been installed in various communities in region, but insufficient water supply contributed to their failure. A culture-related problem with the typical latrine design in La Guajira is the housing for the latrines is very narrow and small. Many Wayúu are sensitive to confined spaces and therefore abandon the latrines after a short time.

Therefore, Aguayuda will pilot the use of “Loveable Loo” type composting latrines that save water, are affordable to build, and are sanitary and environmentally friendly when used properly.

The sanitation activities for this project also include:

  • Implementing the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) methodology
  • Designing composting latrines with the community using locally available materials.
  • Building composting latrines with the community members to transfer knowledge and to increase community participation and sense of ownership and pride.
  • Piloting the use of compost to grow trees in the communities.

Component 3 – Strengthen Aguayuda’s Mobile WASH Support Service Model to ensure sustainability of clean water

Aguayuda will adapt the Circuit Rider model to create the sustainable Mobile WASH Support Service. The model utilizes mobile technicians and teachers to monitor and maintain a network of Aguayuda’s projects, and educate rural communities on WASH related topics. With the support of Aguayuda, a legal association of the community water committees will be created. This association will empower local communities to effectively organize and work with their government to secure basic services such as water, sanitation, and education.

Component 4 – Provide WASH education to communities and schools
Aguayuda has identified 20 communities and 3 schools where it will train education committees and teachers to conduct WASH workshops using Aguayuda’s educational materials on the water cycle, clean water, water and disease, handwashing and hygiene, wastewater disposal, water conservation, and water storage.

Aguayuda has created two sets of educational materials: one for instructors and one for students. The instructor’s manual, to be used by teachers, consists of lessons plans with exercises and games. The complimentary student workbook consists of information and activities using mostly pictures with minimal text. Most of the targeted communities have high rates of illiteracy and in general approximately 80% of the Wayúu have not completed primary school. Therefore, Aguayuda created these colorful and easy-to-follow materials to teach the most integral WASH concepts in a way that is easy to comprehend.

Goals

Aguayuda provides clean water, sanitation and education to thousands of vulnerable people in developing countries through the implementation of cost-effective, sustainable water and sanitation solutions. Our work helps build healthy communities where children are able to spend more time in school, and adults have more time to work as well as participate as productive members of the community.

Sustainability

The key sustainability provision is the incubation of the Mobile WASH Support Service model, based on the Circuit Rider model. “Circuit riding” is the act of traveling to sites within a geographic region. Circuit riding models have experienced challenges in regards to sustainability such as insufficient funding, little government support, unmanagable workloads for technicians, minimal community involvement, high training costs, poor organizational structure, and lack of transparency.

Aguayuda will address these sustainability challenges and adapt the existing model to establish a scalable, sustainable and replicable model for maintaining water projects. The Mobile WASH Support Service model seeks to address these potential pitfalls while bridging the gap between technical hardware implementation, and the systematic culture of monitoring, support, and education, which is imperative for long term sustainability.

To address the shortcomings of the circuit riding models, Aguayuda will implement the following improvements:

  • Establish clear structure and responsibilities for each component of the model
  • Transparency at every level
  • Community engagement through WASH fees and representation in the Regional WASH association
  • Government engagement through financial support and representation in the Regional WASH association
  • Engagement of non-profit organizations through financial support and representation in the Regional WASH association
  • Trained Mobile WASH Support Service technicians and teachers
  • Continuous monitoring and evaluation of the WASH projects including establishing a baseline of communities’ water, sanitation and education situations
  • Internal controls and training for accounting and administration
  • Continuous and open communication and interaction between each component

Ultimately, the goal is that the Mobile WASH Support Service model implemented in La Guajira, Colombia will require little to no supervision or financing from Aguayuda. Such a model will empower communities and the local government to manage their own WASH projects, and allows Aguayuda to focus its efforts on new WASH projects. Beyond the prospect of a self-sustaining network of WASH projects, one of the most exciting aspects of Aguayuda’s Mobile WASH Support Service will be the consolidation of community committees established by Aguayuda and others. The consolidation of these committees into one cohesive legal association will empower the unified communities to effectively work with their government to secure basic services such as water, sanitation, and education.