Access to water and sanitation services is a human right on which people’s health and quality of life, diverse ecosystems, the economy and sustainable development depend. Currently there are approximately 70 million Latin Americans who can quench their thirst and live their daily lives with dignity thanks to more than 80,000 community water management initiatives spread out all over Latin America that ensure this basic right.

 

Photo: Shahriar Erfanian

In July of 2010, the United Nations recognized access to water and
sanitation services as an essential human right.

Access to Water: the Promise of Community Management

Avina has discovered vast amounts of social mobilization among citizen initiatives that have the potential to help close the gap in access to water and sanitation services that still affects more than 40 million people in Latin America. These valuable community efforts not only provide access to water, but also strengthen participatory democracy, yet they receive scant attention from governments and aid organizations and are often invisible to society at large. 

 

What Avina does for Access to Water

Avina and a growing number of allies work to bring together, strengthen and showcase community providers of clean water. Social organizations, businesses and governments have joined the effort, as have hundreds of local allies and thousands of community organizations across the region, including the recently created Confederacion Latinoamericana de Organizaciones Comunitarias de Servicios de Agua y Saneamiento (Latin American Confederation of Community Organizations for Water and Sanitation Services), or CLOCSAS.


For these community providers to reach their full potential, more actors must become aware of the issue and get involved. That is where public policy comes in.  Avina also works to sensitize decision makers about the relevant role that community water management plays in a country’s development. With more awareness, concrete actions become more viable.


These are some of the results obtained in the Access to Water Opportunity for Impact in 2012:

 

Alliances for More Water in Argentina, Chile and Peru

Photo: Shahriar Erfanian

The + AGUA initiative seeks to bring access to clean water to desired
levels, protect water sources and mitigate the effects of climate change.

Avina has helped find common ground among different key players: companies looking to compensate for the water footprint of their production activities, community organizations that democratically manage water services and organizations that fight to secure access to water for vulnerable populations.


In 2012, Avina and the Coca-Cola Company’s South Latin unit, with the support of The Coca-Cola Foundation, joined forces to work together in Argentina, Chile and Peru in the “+ AGUA” (More Water) initiative, which has two aims: to increase access to clean water through community organizations, and protect and conserve threatened ecosystems that provide sources of water.  Through the excellent on-the-ground efforts by allied organizations, the “+ AGUA” initiative helped 11,252 people in marginalized communities in all three countries improve the quality of the water they receive. Furthermore, nearly two million people benefitted from improved water sources, thanks to the development of conservation strategies that directly expanded water recharge and the replenishment of native ecosystems.


For the Argentine city of Cordoba, the conservation of scarce water sources is critical. That’s why Avina, along with local allies, worked to conserve 14,500 hectares of land in the Estancia La Calera reserve, where a more efficient and coordinated fire prevention system was set up with military authorities and firefighters. Cordoba also benefitted from 26 hectares of replanted native forest to be managed with agroforestry practices, while the vegetation and water quality in important wetlands were also enhanced.

 

The combination of results in these two fronts of the initiative also contributes to the objective of adaptation to climate change.

 

Photo: SEROJO Producción Audiovisual

Third Latin American Community Water Management Convention in
Cuenca, Ecuador.

Empowering Community Organizations in Colombia

In Colombia, there are more than 11,800 Community Organizations of Water and Sanitation Services (OCSAS) that provide access to water for approximately 10 million people. In 2012, the Colombian government received a $60 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to increase the coverage of water and sanitation services in rural communities. Avina, in alliance with UNICEF, helped the Colombian government construct a vision for impact in this project that includes, as one of its fundamental cornerstones, development and capacity building for community water managers.


Moreover, Avina took part in regional workshops alongside community and institutional actors as part of the process to create a national public policy for water and sanitation services in rural areas. The process brings together communities and municipalities to create integrated actions that will encourage sustainability when developing infrastructure and providing water, sewage and garbage-collection services.


These achievements are in part a result of the growing voice of the community organizations that have united through the Latin American Community Water Management Conference, an event convened by Avina and its allies that is raising awareness among key actors. These annual meetings have changed the way community managers see themselves, increasing their self-esteem and the value they place on their unacknowledged and sometimes invisible labor.  By recognizing the regional dimension of their sector in terms of size, diversity, potential, and their shared challenges, the members of these community organizations return to their home countries empowered to create alliances as equals with the business community, governments and the academic sector.


As a result of this empowering process, during its third annual conference in Cuenca, Ecuador, in 2012 the newly named Latin American Confederation of Community Organizations for Water and Sanitation Services held its Initial Assembly and democratically elected its first governing body.


The cumulative result of all of Avina’s efforts to showcase, strengthen and unite these community initiatives to provide access to water and sanitation services in the region is that in 2012 the organization and its allies helped 392,574 people gain access to clean water or sanitation services in their homes, while another 275,756 gained improved quality of service.  Since 2009, Avina and its allies have helped 2,258,412 people increase or improve their access to water and/or sanitation services.

Countries where Avina’s Access to Water Opportunity for Impact operates

 

 

Our main allies and co-
investors for this Opportunity for Impact in 2012 were: 

  • CARE International: with which we worked on the preparation and dissemination of the 10 Modules that make up the Unified Program of Capacity Building for community organizations for water and sanitation services across the region.
  • Xylem Inc.: a multinational company that co-invests with Avina to help a local ally in the Brazilian northwest region, Articulação do Semi-Árido (Networking for the Semi-Arid Region), provide clean water for schools with more than 2,500 young students.
  • Confederación Latinoamericana de Organizaciones Comunitarias para Servicios de Agua y Saneamiento (Latin American Confederation of Community Organizations for Water and Sanitation Services): with which we seek to promote the collaboration of the community providers of water and sanitation services, the capacity building of community managers, the improvement of their financial tools, and the recognition of the sector’s contribution to the development of their countries.
  • Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI): with which Avina developed efforts to strengthen the impact, organization and capacity building of Latin American community water managers.

 

The study Mecanismos Financieros del Agua en América Latina (Financial Mechanisms of Water in Latin America), published with the support of Avina in 2012 by the Foundation for the Development of a National System of Protected Areas. Download it here (in Spanish).

 

Programa Unificado de Fortalecimiento de Capacidades (Unified Program of Capacity Building), created through an alliance between Fundación Avina and CARE, is geared toward community organizations of water and sanitation services. Download it here (in Spanish).