Clean water, basic toilets and good hygiene practices are essential for human survival and development. Unfortunately, across the globe, approximately 663 million people – 1 in 10 – lack access to safe water, and 2.4 billion people – 1 in 3 – lack access to adequate sanitation. Without basic infrastructure to fulfill these needs, communities confront higher mortality and morbidity rates from waterborne diseases (such as diarrhea, cholera, and giardia), as well as lower rates of productivity. In addition to causing health problems, a lack of easily accessible water is also a drain on time and energy, as families in rural communities in developing countries must often spend hours each day collecting water from distant sources. This burden usually falls to women and girls, further exacerbating gender inequality.
Green Empowerment addresses these issues through an integrated approach to WASH. WASH is the collective term for Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene. Due to their interdependent nature, these three core issues are grouped together to represent a growing sector. While each can be considered as a separate field of work, solutions for each are dependent on the presence of the others. For example, without toilets, water sources become contaminated; without clean water, basic hygiene practices are not possible. However, while GE takes a similar integrated approach in all of our WASH projects, there are a few differences depending on the particular situation, context, and funder.
In Nicaragua, for example, Green Empowerment deepens the impact of our work by partnering with communities in the same region over a period of years. By focusing our efforts on a limited geographical area (the Boaco region in Central Nicaragua) and partnering with a single community at a time for several years, we are able to build upon established trust and previous successes to further strengthen and empower these communities by integrating additional complementary projects over time. At the beginning of 2017, we kicked off a 1.5 year project that will extend our previous successful work in the village of El Bálsamo (supported by the Vibrant Village Foundation) to the neighboring community of El Jazmin. GE and our local partner AsoFenix have been working in this region for seven years. We previously installed solar water pumping projects and worked in El Jocote from 2009 to 2012 and El Bálsamo from 2012 to 2015. During the El Bálsamo project, families from El Jazmin participated in community-based trainings and the inauguration of the new water supply system. These community members clearly articulated their desire to replicate these activities in El Jazmin. With the support of Vibrant Village, Green Empowerment and AsoFenix will spend the next year and half working with residents of El Jazmin to install a new solar potable water system, provide community organizing and technical training to establish a functioning Water Committee to operate and maintain the system, and establish a small community-based honey harvesting business to increase incomes of local households. We are also pursuing funding to install household latrines and provide WASH education. Each of these project components supports the others, combining to strengthen the capacity and resilience of the community as a whole. For example, the additional income earned by households participating in the honey harvesting business will help to ensure that families can pay their fair share (as determined by the community) to use and maintain the water system. Access to latrines will help ensure that the water source doesn’t become contaminated by human waste. And having easy access to clean water will free up time for household members (particularly women) to focus on other pursuits, such as income generating activities.
In the Philippines, on the other hand, Green Empowerment is focusing on expanding our impact across a large number of communities. We are currently in the last year of a 5-year project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The Building Climate Resilience in Water Stressed Communities (CREST) program brings together communities, local governments, and NGOs to provide clean drinking water, sanitation infrastructure, and hygiene education to multiple water-stressed communities located in remote areas of Zambales, Leyte, and conflict-affected regions of Mindanao. The installation of low-cost, locally manufactured, renewable energy-based water pumping technologies, combined with water storage and piping systems, will deliver potable water to approximately 35,100 people by September 2017. Combined with latrine installation and WASH education, this project aims to improve health, livelihoods, and community resiliency to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
In Ecuador, GE and our local partner the ALTROPICO Foundation are bringing elements of these two approaches together to address urgent needs of indigenous rural communities in the aftermath of a humanitarian crisis. On April 16th, 2016, a deadly earthquake rippled across the northern coast of Ecuador, killing at least 650 people. In hard-hit Esmeraldas Province, the basic needs of isolated rural communities—many of which long predate the quake—were lost in the shuffle of humanitarian efforts, with little hope for response from overwhelmed and underperforming provincial actors. Green Empowerment, in partnership with the ALTROPICO Foundation and the communities themselves, is responding to the most pressing needs identified by quake-affected rural Chachi indigenous communities in southern Esmeraldas: potable water and basic sanitation. ALTROPICO has worked for several years with members of the Chachi community on environmental stewardship, capacity building, leadership, and income generating activities. ALTROPICO provides both extensive experience working with the Chachi community and expertise on community development and environmental topics, while GE contributes experience in potable water, sanitation, and local capacity building. Approximately 900 residents of four communities will benefit from this effort, which aims to provide long-term positive impacts on health, gender equity, environmental sustainability and community organizational capacity that together serve as the foundation for these communities’ resilience. We are grateful to funding partners World Wildlife Fund, AllPeopleBeHappy, and Christadelphian Meal-a-Day Fund of the Americas for their generous support of this project.