Creating custom-made water and sanitation solutions in Colombia with Millenium Water Alliance (MWA)
One of the eight Millennium Development Goals was to halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. To help reach this goal, a group of United States based non-governmental organizations working in water and sanitations formed the Millenium Water Alliance (MWA) to offer sustainable solutions through advocacy, shared knowledge, and collaboration programming. MWA’s Lazos de Agua initiative was a three year program to improve access to water and sanitation for people in some of the poorest communities in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Colombia. The local partner in Colombia, Aguayuda, worked with communities in La Guajira to provide a range of solutions, depending on what each community needed. These included family household filters, community filters, water distribution systems, windmills and solar pumps.
Above: (left to right) Benicia Uriana and Karen Cuadrado, both social workers on the Aguayuda team, pose in traditional Wayúu mantas as children from the local community look on. La Guajira, Colombia, 1 February 2014. Photo by Harold Lozada.
La Guajira is one of the most impoverished parts of Colombia. In the region, 84% of people in rural communities do not have access to clean water and 96% of people do not have access to sanitation facilities. It is also home to the country’s largest indigenous population, primarily Wayúu. This program had four key objectives: to increase access to water, promote sanitation, improve water quality, and improve hygiene habits. In order to collect high quality data with a small team and monitor the results in a way that would promote sustainability and learning, Aguayuda needed both tools and training.
From left: Franklin Ojeda and Jose Aquilar, both technical coordinators for Aguayuda, pose next to a SkyBox™ Water Filtration Unit. La Guajira, Colombia, February 2014.
MWA and Akvo trained Aguayuda staff in using Akvo Flow and designing surveys to ensure high quality data collection. Members of the Aguayuda team then conducted these surveys in every household of 20 communities in the region, resulting in an understanding of the water situation in each community so that they could develop custom made solutions.
The team conducted a baseline survey of households and water points across 20 communities in La Guajira, plus a control group. By using Flow, Aguayuda was able to conduct 172 surveys within two months with a very small team. Aguayuda then used Akvo RSR as a monitoring and reporting platform to give donors a realistic snapshot of successes, as well as communicate challenges, key lessons, and potential solutions.
The Aguayuda team collected important information from every household in 20 communities in the region, including information relating to their access to water sources, the size of the families, whether or not they had a toilet or a latrine, and whether they had finished school. Using RSR, Aguayuda shared comprehensive and informative project updates, detailing what is happening on the ground and who the funders are. The RSR updates function allowed narrative elements of the projects to complement the data.