Permanent Solutions Require Innovative Initiatives
Integrated Community and School Programming
Water For People–Guatemala is rethinking the way conventional school programming is implemented. Traditionally, schools have been the weakest link in programs: teachers are often underpaid and overworked; those who have received hygiene education training often leave for better schools; and school administrations have limited or nonexistent funding. School-focused programs often become graveyards for broken water systems and dirty, unused latrines. To address this, Water For People–Guatemala treats schools as part of the wider community along with local parent associations, governments, and development organizations. Each school intervention is combined with water and sanitation solutions and hygiene education in the associated community, ensuring that hygiene practices taught in schools are reinforced at home. Responsibility for financing and maintenance of the school water and sanitation system is placed on the community and local government, thus taking the burden off the often overwhelmed and underfunded schools.
Water For People–Guatemala’s SWASH+ work has rightfully gained national and international attention. Water For People–Guatemala’s work has been recognized by the Pan-American Health Organization and World Health Organization for its excellence. Water For People–Guatemala’s hygiene education methodology of creating classroom hygiene corners has been adopted in Honduras and Nicaragua.
In the municipalities of the Salinas Watershed, communities are experiencing water shortages, due in part to the effects of climate change. Some springs in the area no longer produce the same quantities of water as in the past. Increasing demand for potable water from communities, combined with the decreasing amount of available water, presents a difficult future. Because of the lack of surface water sources, some communities have begun to drill wells, which involve higher costs and the need for groundwater management plans.
Water For People–Guatemala is collaborating with the municipal government, the National Institute of Forests, and the Quiché Water and Sanitation Network (RASKICHE) to align local efforts to protect the watershed. Current watershed-focused activities include experimentation with payments for environmental services (whereby a portion of the water fees collected are used for watershed activities), promotion of community and municipal tree nurseries, Local Water Resources Management (LWRM) training with municipal authorities, and promotion of household metering and tariff structures based on use to promote water conservation and equitable payment.
In 2016 Water For People-Guatemala will continue to collaborate with municipal governments, community members, and other local partners to increase water and sanitation coverage in its four target municipalities. Programming will include extending water systems to make sure 95% or more of communities have access; increasing the number of systems that meet water quality standards though promoting water quality monitoring and control; and constructing or rehabilitating community water systems and school water and sanitation infrastructure.
Programs will emphasize sustainability through working with community water and sanitation committees to encourage implementation of tariffs sufficient to cover operation and maintenance costs plus a percentage of projected major repairs and replacement costs. This will take place through water committee fairs and exchange visits and use of the At What Cost tool.
Market-based programming will include working with local micro-finance institutions and cooperatives to promote loans for community water projects and household sanitation construction. Water For People-Guatemala will begin to operationalize a new Sustainable Sanitation Strategy created in 2016, which includes strategies to replicate and scale current approaches as well as to generate greater demand for sanitation through providing sanitation promotion spots on radio and TV with coverage beyond our four Everyone Forever districts, and working with sanitation businesses and micro-finance organizations who work regionally and nationally.
Water For People-Guatemala will continue to implement the “El Quiché program,” a joint initiative with ONE DROP launched in 2015, which will run through 2019. This program incorporates a component of social arts into programming, employing the creativity of local artistic groups to catalyze behavior change on water, sanitation, and hygiene themes including sanitation demand creation, handwashing, and payment for water services to ensure long-term sustainability.