Lasting change in the way that water and sanitation solutions perform over time can’t be accomplished by taking the easy road. If succeeding at this challenge were easy, it would have been solved by now. This challenge is big and difficult and Water For People is going to solve it.
What gets our staff up each day to tackle this challenge isn’t the thought of a ribbon cutting ceremony at a water point, but rather the idea that initiatives can have a long-lasting impact across different country programs or across regions. Whether the topic is hand pumps, latrines or hand washing our staff are building new ways of doing, supporting, maintaining and succeeding at the various challenges out there that have kept this crisis from being solved for decades.
Our initiatives cross a wide variety of arenas and are at the heart of our innovative thinking and innovations. We think about what will last, what is locally supported and we act on those ideas. You can see below a variety of initiatives that demonstrate a new way of creating success and a new way of monitoring our successes over time. Rather than focus on singular technological solutions we look at the entire system. And that’s what will create change for the people on the ground.
The Rulindo Challenge
In Fall 2010, Water For People and the government of Rwanda joined efforts to launch the Rulindo Challenge, an initiative to provide 100% water supply coverage for this 219 square-mile district by the end of 2014. The joint initiative will demonstrate a methodology to help districts reach full water coverage within a four-year period through strategic programming, co-financing and the utilization of the local private sector as key agents of developmental support. Learn more about the Rulindo Challenge.
Field Level Operations Watch
FLOW is a dynamic new Water For People baseline and monitoring tool that allows us to get a clear view of what’s working, what’s on the verge of disrepair, and what’s broken. Not only will Water For People use the data to make better programming decisions, but governments, partners, donors and the public can also easily monitor projects and take action when necessary. Plus, the data is easy to gather, share and understand allowing us to build better solutions for a lasting impact. Read more or check out the tool.
Sanitation as a Business—A success story in Malawi
Water For People–Malawi is creating successful business opportunities in both rural and peri-urban areas that enhance sanitation for the entire community. A family buys a composting latrine, financed with a microloan, and establishes a relationship with an entrepreneur who returns regularly to purchase and remove the compost. The family earns enough to pay off the cost of the latrine and retains additional money. The entrepreneur sells the compost to local farmers for a profit and now has an incentive to get others to use the eco-sanitation toilet.
In summer 2010, Water For People received a $5.6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation representing a significant investment over four years in our Sanitation as a Business work, testing possible sustainable sanitation services in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This groundbreaking program seeks to revolutionize the sanitation sector.
Water For People supports programs that create a better school environment. School beautification in Malawi, for example, is a competition among elementary schools to clean up, grow plants, and better care for their grounds. Latrines are part of that beautification. The latrines in this case, when full, serve as the perfect location for trees. Students decide where they want trees, install the toilets, use the toilets until they are full, and then, plant a tree and rebuild their toilets in another part of the school ground. This style of eco-sanitation latrine is called an Arborloo. Hand-washing stations for the students are built and included. The wastewater typically waters small plants that also contribute to the beautification. The initiative isn’t about the latrines, it’s about improving the school environment and improving sanitation.
Sanitation and Hygiene Education in Guatemala
In Guatemala and Honduras, we engage local parent associations, school administrators, governments, and development organizations to build hand-washing stations and toilet facilities in target schools. What makes the SWASH (School Water, Sanitation and Hygiene + community involvement) program strong is the addition of both a hygiene education program and water and sanitation solutions for the community as a whole. The program ensures that good hygiene practices learned in schools can be reinforced at home because parents will have received hygiene education as part of the community intervention and families will have access to clean water, hand-washing facilities, and improved toilets in their home.
Promoting Gender Specific Solutions in India
In 2008, monitoring and feedback by Water For People–India revealed that girls felt strong discomfort when they had to use toilets that were close to the boys’ facilities or located in front of the school, where they could be seen going in and out of the facilities. Now, Water For People–India promotes toilet and hand-washing facilities for girls separate from the boys’ facilities. Girl-friendly features include wider stalls with mirrors (so that girls can check for stains and rewrap their saris). Incinerators, simple structures where used menstrual cloth/pads are disposed and periodically burnt, are attached to the toilet blocks for girls. The girls in the school were engaged in the design process for these projects, providing them not only with the sanitation facilities that they needed but an extra dose of confidence and empowerment.
A key to sustainable water systems is leaving behind more than just a pump. When Water For People leaves an area, it leaves behind ongoing support and the tools a community needs to keep their well and pump operating. Water For People is developing a program that trains local mechanics to travel a regular route and provide regular maintenance and timely repair of water systems for a fee paid by the water committees in each village. The program provides new economic opportunities for mechanics while giving local communities alternatives for system maintenance. In India, this program is under way with 30 trained mechanics working in South 24 Parganas communities and an additional 20 mechanics completing their training in 2010. These mobile mechanics are known locally as Jalabhandus (friends of water).