Saturday, July 05, 2014

Water advocacy

The rainy season was supposed to start here in mid-May. There have been a few torrential rainstorms, but the campesinos who work the land are saying that it’s still the dry season. If we don’t have good rains soon, we may have a serious drought.

But another real issue for many rural communities is water for drinking and for household chores. Many communities here have water but the quality is questionable.

Caritas of the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán has a project, Strengthening Citizenship, that began to work in the Dulce Nombre parish this year. When a Caritas worker visited a parish zone meeting in El Zapote de Santa Rosa, several brought up the issue of the village’s water source.

Caritas arranged to do a test of the water and I accompanied the village’s Water Board and two Caritas workers to the source.

Water source

A laboratory in Santa Rosa found significant contamination with bacteria and fecal mater. A later test, after a few rainstorms, revealed more bacterial contamination and more than double the contamination with fecal matter. They also tested tap water from El Zapote.

The water source supplies not only El Zapote but also two other villages. So today a Caritas worker, Eliezer, met with representatives of the Water Boards of the three villages.

He began the meeting asking the El Zapote Board if they chlorinated their water at the town’s water tank. They checked it about every week. The cost for the chloride is about $17 a month.

Their efforts have resulted in no contamination of the water.

Eliezer also asked the other two boards about chlorination. One hasn’t chlorinated since February, because they had no chlorine and couldn’t find it in Santa Rosa or in La Entrada. The other village hasn’t chlorinated for about a year.

With the help of the El Zapote Water Board president, the two villages will take samples in a few weeks to be tested. I’m also sure they will find serious contamination.

Eliezer called someone from another municipality where Caritas works. They have a “bank” of chlorine that can provide one barrel to the two villages here.

The three Water Boards are going to meet and put together a statement to give to the mayors of the three municipalities involved as well as to the local association of municipalities. They also decided other matters.

What really impressed me, though, was how the El Zapote Water Board was so thorough and prepared. It was a little discouraging to listen to the lack of initiative in the other villages.

But efforts are being made that will, hopefully, bear fruit.

Eliezer asked me to say a few words before the meeting ended. I congratulated El Zapote for their work and mentioned that Caritas was ready to accompany the three villages in their work. But I emphasized, as did Eliezer, that they had to take the initiative, they had to be the protagonists. Caritas wouldn’t do it for them.

That is part of what outside organizations can do – accompany, encourage, motivate, help them make connections, and – when necessary – provide a bit of money. But the people must be the protagonists.


paul said...

I agree completely on the need for the people to take the lead on such projects. I would be interested in more research on the factors that create successful communities. It was striking in our time in Honduras that neighbouring communities, apparently similar in history, demographics, education, income and other factors, vary so widely in their ability to address problems. Some build and maintain shared water systems or improve schools, while their neighbours struggle to get organized enough to buy chlorine.
From an aid perspective, the more we understand the differences the better we can respond appropriately and effectively.

John (Juancito) Donaghy said...

I too am somewhat baffled by the difference between the communities. I know a part of it is that there is better organization in El Zapote and there are several committed leaders.

El Zapote is probably not much better off than one of the communities. But that community may be very much affected by the political bi-party system. El Zapote is also larger.

The other village is significantly poorer - and is just beginning to organize itself in matters of the church.