Water For People uses FLOW in eleven countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia, one of which is Bolivia. Water For People began working in Bolivia in 1997, developing a strategic programme to address water and sanitation needs in four rural municipalities: Cuchumuela, Villa Rivero, Tiraque in the department of Cochabamba, and San Pedro in the department of Santa Cruz (more info on Water For People website).

Water For People works with local government, communities, schools, and local private and civil society organisations to reach high levels of water and sanitation coverage. Akvo FLOW is being rolled out to all Water For People country programmes for rigorous and consistent monitoring, and Water For People–Bolivia will be the first country programme to adapt Akvo FLOW for use in a range of local data collection needs.

Following is a personal account by Keri Kugler, Water For People’s Senior Manager of Programmatic Data, of the introduction of FLOW in one particular village (also published in National Geographic).

A typical community in Tiraque.

Women digging a trench for a community water system. Photos: Water For People.

FLOW use in Tiraque

“Tiraque is a remote region in the mountains of central Bolivia about two hours drive from the nearest major city, Cochabamba. Villages in Tiraque are small communities — a few dozen homes nestled in the high desert where families are supported largely by subsistence farming, with little access to safe water or latrines.

In May of 2011, I was visiting Kayarani, a small village in Tiraque where Water For People is building a water system and latrines in collaboration with the community and the local government. Kayarani had just recently broken ground on a gravity-fed water system that would serve all 50 families in the community.

At the time the village was getting its water from two unprotected springs, including one that was often unavailable because it was on land that belongs to a neighboring community. The water from the springs made its way to the community over several kilometres through patched sections of a plastic hose and the springs are open to the elements and not protected from contamination.

I was in Tiraque to show our partners FLOW, a mobile phone-based system designed by Water For People that collects data, photos and GPS coordinates and then transforms that information into visual data that makes it easier to digest. FLOW supports our efforts to monitor water and sanitation projects for ten years to ensure that everyone in the areas where we work have water and adequate sanitation forever.

FLOW allows us to collect data using any Android cell phone, and the results can be accessed in near real time by people everywhere. This facilitates better collaboration between many partners and allows stakeholders to quickly react to data and make programmatic changes. It also supports long term project monitoring, which Water For People values above all else.

Mariel Lazcano using FLOW to interview a community member. Photo: Water For People

In Kayarani, I met Mariel Lazcano, who works for the Tirarque Department of Sanitation and plays a critical role in providing latrines and hygiene education. Part of her role involves meeting regularly with every household in the community and collecting data throughout the different phases of the water and sanitation project.

When I showed Mariel a phone with the FLOW program she was ecstatic. She explained to me that she currently has to drive to Cochabamba three times a week, two hours in each direction, to submit the data she collects on an ongoing basis. “I am supposed to be in the field everyday but I have to travel to Cochabamba three days a week to fill out paperwork. With a FLOW phone I can be in the field every day,” she told me. FLOW was designed to be easy to use, and within minutes Mariel was using it to interview a family in the community.

She thinks this will encourage more accountability in the government and within NGOs, providing “proof that could not be ignored” about the state of water and sanitation projects. She immediately started to think about different kinds of data she could collect.

Our partners, like Mariel, use FLOW to support construction of water and sanitation systems and in hygiene education.”