As Green Empowerment approaches its 25th year of operation, we engaged in a program evaluation project that looked at the long-term operation of community-managed potable water and renewable energy systems in Latin America. The evaluation included 27 community-managed systems, installed between 2009 and 2019 across three countries and six different partner organizations. We were thrilled to share that 97% of projects are fully operating in the communities!
Since 1997, Green Empowerment has worked with in-country partner organizations around the world to implement clean water and energy projects. The last two years of global turmoil have demonstrated that Green Empowerment’s operating model of working with local partners is resilient and effective to the challenges of our times. Now supported by findings from our recent program evaluation project, data-driven evidence demonstrates that our projects continue to positively impact communities long-after the project is completed. “This is likely one of the most effective ways that you can have an impact globally as this data demonstrates the long-term impact of our investment” Says Andrea Johnson, Green Empowerment Executive Director.
Behind the Scenes
Overall, the program evaluation demonstrated a very high level of success for Green Empowerment’s community-scale projects. Beyond seeing a 97% success rate, we were interested to see how the community management of the systems have sustained over time. For example, 14 water systems were legally registered. “In many projects, having the support of a government institution for community management projects contributes to the sustainability of these projects,” Katya Díaz Salcedo, Green Empowerment Peru and Bolivia Program Coordinator explains.
Let’s take a look at San Miguel de la Pauca in Peru, one of the communities that advocated for support from the Municipal Government. Previously, 92% of families collected drinking water from open springs or untreated surface water. However, in 2014 they partnered with Green Empowerment to build gravity-fed community tap stands with chlorination treatment to benefit 26 households. Seven years later, the water system is still running strong and the community has not reported any system interruptions. System interruptions can come from regular maintenance, weather and seasons, or other challenges. However, we found that of the 26 communities surveyed 12 reported no interruptions, 13 reported infrequent interruptions, and only one stated that the interruptions were too frequent. Reliable systems benefit not just the community but their surrounding neighbors as well. The program evaluation also showed that 16 communities increased the number of connections point services, this means that ⅗ of the communities increased water and energy access for their neighbors. If you know Green Empowerment, then you know how strongly we believe that communities should own their development and seeing that they are expanding their systems independently is a gratifying indicator of a high level of ownership and autonomy.
This analysis of projects has broadened the understanding of our work and the following takeaways are important for us to consider as we continue to work with partners across the globe to deliver community-scale infrastructure projects in hard to reach, underserved and vulnerable areas. While these systems are functioning and communities are satisfied, we identified opportunities for improvements across three key categories: system operations, community management, and training. We are diving into these details, sharing the results with our partners and exploring a few ways to support communities in managing their water systems – from a mobile app to continuous education – we believe in putting the knowledge and resources in the hands of those most impacted and we will continue to invest in improvements to support a vision of a more equitable world where everyone has access to the resources they need to thrive.
We look forward to celebrating Green Empowerment’s 25th year of success in 2022 with you!