An initiative to give Amazonian families access to safe drinking water

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) presented the results of the first phase of the project “Water Governance for Sparse Communities (GOA) on Wednesday 13 April. It was implemented by CARE Peru, facilitated by SDC’s Global Water Programme and supported by National Natural Protected Areas Service (SERNANP), ECA Amarakaeri, the Catholic University Sedes Sapientiae and the IDB LAB Digital Conservation Compensation (CDC) Peru project.

The objective of this pilot project was to produce innovative self-financing models for water storage and potabilisation solutions, based on payment for ecosystem services and productive activities. It enabled both producers and indigenous households to have access to cost-effective water purification systems.

In her welcoming remarks at the ceremony, Care Peru’s National Director, Marilú Martens, said that “this initiative today represents an opportunity that we all have in our hands, and we must find ways to scale it up so that more Peruvians in all regions have access to safe drinking water”. The Director of the Swiss International Cooperation, Anton Hilber, stressed that “the tools and mechanisms identified are in the hands of our local and institutional partners to continue raising awareness about the problem of access to quality services for sparse communities.”

In its first nine months, the pilot has helped highlight the large gaps in access to basic water and sanitation services that persist in Peru. “GOA has a comprehensive vision, managing ecosystems that provide water and cost-effective sanitation systems and generating financial alternatives for rural communities,” Hilber added.

The Manager of the Climate Change, Amazon and Water Resources Programme of CARE Peru, María Mercedes Medina, presented the results of the first phase. The most important data presented by the technical team indicate that 34 per cent of the families in sparse communities live in poverty and 8 per cent in extreme poverty. Similarly, 16 per cent of the under-fives have suffered from acute diarrhoeal disease and 23 per cent from Acute Respiratory Infections (ARI). These families do not belong to a sanitation service administration board (JASS), wherefore they do not receive technical assistance or evaluation of the quality of their water.

SDC shared the achievements in the region of Nueva Cajamarca in the alliance with the Catholic University Sedes Sapientiae and the CDC Peru project, which have promoted the creation of the PUKUNI Amazonía community enterprise. This is being led by students of Forestry Engineering and Agricultural Engineering, who were trained in financial management, marketing and water governance.

In the Madre de Dios region, the project coordinated with ECA Amarakaeri and SERNANP to conduct a brief diagnostic of the communities, and defined that the pilot project would be implemented in the Boca de Isiriwe community.

© GOA Project, Care Perú, SDC

SDC and the ECA Amarakeri team both designed and implemented the biofilters with the community itself, in order to carry out training in the Harakbut language and help the community learn to install and maintain the systems.

The specialist in water and water resources management, Herberth Pacheco, presented a catalogue of water technologies for sparse communities and their validation, identifying the most viable options to implement according to the type of community, resources and geographic location. The validated models include the ram pump and suction pump. The water quality analysis demonstrated progress in improved water quality, ensuring that the systems implemented work.

In addition, SDC held a meeting to discuss the lessons learned from the pilot. The CARE Peru team shared several conclusions, including the finding that there is a direct relationship between women and water: many problems related to gender-based violence are directly associated with water access, wherefore it will be key to incorporate the gender dimension throughout the project.

“To understand the problem of multidimensional poverty, we have to start with the maintenance of the ecosystem that provides water, for the families to be able to access it, for the water to be made drinkable, and for families to have access to water for irrigation and livelihoods that guarantee food security. This would also allow us to improve the health theme through nutrition and through reducing morbidity from diarrhoeal diseases, especially in children,” concluded María Mercedes Medina.

In the future, the GOA project, the agencies and strategic partners will coordinate continued evaluation of individual technologies for access to water, and promote local water funds and the recognition of the indigenous water committees, composed chiefly of women. These results will be appropriated by the local authorities and will be scaled up to new national and regional forums.

Through the Global Water Programme, SDC will contribute to sustainable water and sanitation management for all and promote solutions that ensure rapid response in terms of more sustainable financing, innovative technologies and service delivery and water management models.

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La Agencia Suiza para el Desarrollo y la Cooperación (COSUDE) es la entidad encargada de la cooperación internacional dentro del Departamento Federal de Asuntos Exteriores (DFAE). Con otras oficinas de la Confederación, la COSUDE es responsable de la coordinación general de la cooperación para el desarrollo y de la cooperación con los Países del Este, así como de los programas de ayuda humanitaria suizos.