By Jorge Oyamada*
More than 10,000 households in rural areas of Paraguay enjoy a safe drinking water system thanks to funding from the IDB and FECASALC.
Paraguay’s Virgen del Rosario Community houses 111 families and until a little over a year ago it had no potable water, forcing villagers to walk long distances to fetch water every day.
“I used to carry water with my family for 800 meters,” recalls Eleucadio Benítez. “We would fill up bottles and other containers and carry them on a wheelbarrow, or on a bicycle.” Eleucadio and many other members of this small rural community located 200 km northeast of Asunción carried water on a daily basis for 16 years.
Through the Potable Water and Sanitation for Rural and Native Communities Program, funded by an Inter-American Development Bank loan and a generous grant from the Spanish Cooperation Fund for Water and Sanitation in Latin America and the Caribbean (FECASALC, after its Spanish initials), Paraguay’s National Service for Environmental Sanitation (SENASA) has built a drinking water system and promoted the creation of the Virgen del Rosario Sanitation Board, which manages the community’s drinking water service.
Paraguay’s drinking water service has been expanding over the past decade, particularly in rural areas, but it still has a long way to go; more than one million people in such areas still lack access.
The solution to this is stemming from programs like this one, in almost three years since it launched, it has helped build 99 systems like the one at Virgen del Rosario Community, thus providing drinking water to 10,888 households.
The program not only tackles the water-access issue. It has also improved family sanitation facilities, building 9,700 basic sanitation units (shower, sink, and toilet) and has trained nearly 75,000 people on health, hygiene, gender equality, and rational water use and water source protection issues.
Thanks to such systems, women like Selmira Velázquez find more time to spend with their families. “We now spend more time together on Sundays,” she says. “In the past, we all had to take turns to go fetch water. Not anymore. Now we stay happily at home.”
Life has also changed for the better for Doña Lilian Ojeda and her friends at the Nacen Community. Not long ago, they had to walk two kilometers from their homes to the nearest creek to do laundry; and for the sixty-something Benito Milto, of the RI 4 Sur Community, potable water means more time to rest. “Before, I had to go fetch water upon returning from toiling the fields. Even if I was tired, I still had to do it.”
Mariano Martínez, a school teacher and chairman of the Virgen del Rosario Board of Sanitation, sees other virtues as well. “It’s a major achievement for the community, particularly for the children, who in the past had giardiasis symptoms,” he said. “The marks caused by parasites on their faces have now disappeared.”
Sustained access to potable water continues to be a challenge for many of Paraguay’s rural areas. In order to circumvent this, it is paramount to engage the communities beginning right at project development and have them participate in system operation and maintenance tasks.
The sanitation board system set up under the program has succeeded in providing water access to remote rural and native communities. This system fosters community participation, with all families contributing in some small measure. This can either be through small payments or by providing labor. “We dug the ditches for the [water] distribution network. That was our way of participating,” Martínez said.
Josefina Paredes of the Tape Guazú Community emphasizes that the lack of clean water, “mainly affected our health, because some kids were getting diarrhea, and others were getting infections of the skin; when you have no water we have to go wash in the creek, which is polluted”.
Access to potable water has improved the lives of the people in the benefited communities and as the program advances many more are gaining quality of life.
This post is part of a blog series on development effectiveness featuring stories on learning and experiences from IDB projects and evaluations. To learn more about design, monitoring and evaluation of IDB projects visit deo.iadb.org.
*Jorge Rubén Oyamada Kroug is Water and Sanitation Specialist at the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) since 2010. He is currently working in the Country Office of Paraguay, where he is responsible for maintaining the sectoral dialogue with the authorities of the country, and for the preparation, implementation and monitoring of the programs, projects and performing studies in the drinking water and sanitation area.