Posted by: meaghaninwaslala | August 13, 2010

Learning from Other Organizations in the Region

At the end of April I headed out of Waslala for a weeklong trip to other parts of Nicaragua to check out other water projects, the organization of water boards, and community maintenance funds. The goals of the trip were to: (1) investigate ways that we might improve our project here in Waslala, and (2) start networking with other organizations in the region.

I spent the week in Estelí and Matagalpa – two Northern Nicaraguan cities that are also in the mountains.  I met with staff who are working on projects carried out through CRS, CARE and other smaller organizations.  I found the projects to be very similar to our projects here in physical structure.  I also discovered that communities all over Nicaragua confront the same difficulties – difficulties in building with the rainy season, community organizing, and maintaining a community fund.  What I learned made me feel proud of how far we have come with our systems in Waslala especially since Water for Waslala is such a small organization compared to CRS or CARE.

In addition, I learned about possible ways that we can improve our water projects and organization of our water boards.

Water meters: Water meters serve two purposes:

(1) To ensure that water is not wasted as we have found oftentimes happens with homes not accustomed to having water through a system – just running water of rivers or creeks that never turn off (well, in theory, though we are seeing the rivers dry up much more quickly now in the dry season); and

(2) To have a way to account for water usage. Instead of having every home that benefits from the system pay a set rate per month, they can charge based on usage.  Other projects have found that this allows for more accountability and has been much more successful in recuperating community funds.

  • We have decided that we will use meters in our next system to see if they are just as successful in our communities as in other parts of Nicaragua.

Organization of Water Boards: The basic organization is very similar to how our communities are organized in Waslala; however, some of the other organizations have additional trainings before the system is built to ensure that the community is well organized.  In some cases, communities set up a “water office” where community members come to pay their contribution to their community water fund each month. Also, in addition to the roles of president, vice president, treasurer, and maintenance leader, some communities assign individuals to roles focused on health and the environment to ensure that people remain aware of environmental health, body health, and hygiene issues.

  • We are currently working closely with all communities to ensure that there is sufficient training before water system construction and strong communication and understanding between Water for Waslala and the community.

Overall, I returned to Waslala energized about our work – impressed by how far we have come and how we have dealt with similar challenges – and at the same time with a lot of new ideas of how we can improve our work.  We´ll keep you updated from the ground about how these changes are going.

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