World Bank: Understanding the “new rurality” in Latin America and what it means to the water and sanitation sector

by Malva Baskovich and Berenice Flores Arias Uijtewaal, re-blogged from the World Bank

Despite the urbanization trends seen in Latin American and Caribbean (LAC), it seems that the rural population in LAC is decreasing in relative terms. In 2001, official figures indicated that 125 million people in LAC resided in rural areas representing 24% of the total LAC population. In 2013, this value decreased to 21% (130 million out of a total population of 609 million inhabitants), and it is estimated that by 2030, the rural population will decrease to represent 16.5% of the total (CEPAL, 2014).

“There is a ‘new rurality’ in Latin America, and it is  critical to be aware of its distinctive features  in view of designing and implementing sustainable WSS institutional reforms and investment projects in rural areas.” — this is an important preliminary finding of the World Bank’s Water Global Practice’s Rural Water Security and Sanitation (WSS) Advisory Services and Analytics (RWSS ASA) Program, currently ongoing in the LAC region. The Program aims to contribute towards the design and implementation of rural WSS projects in the region by gathering, systematizing, and disseminating learning on innovations and solutions to RWSS challenges in the region.

The ‘new rurality’ message is that we, development practitioners, may need to revise—or update—our conventional understanding of the rural LAC context. This is particularly true in view of the SDG Agenda, which calls for the design and implementation of sustainable institutional reforms that consider the changes in the social, economic, and political spheres, as well as confronts the threats of climate change. Ultimately, as the report states, ”achieving sustainable outcomes of reform in the WSS sector hinges on a deeper understanding of the total institutional logic of the sector and this includes understanding the societal rules that are defined by the local country context and political economy realities”. And, as we continue to bridge the gap in water, sanitation, and hygiene in LAC, and as we near the deadline for the achievement of SDG6, the focus will indispensably increasingly fall on rural areas. Better understanding the new rurality is also fundamental to ensure adequate funding and resource allocation to rural communities to achieve universal access.

According to JMP (2016), rural LAC has seen large increases in improved drinking water coverage since 1990, driven by an expansion of piped water on premises. While coverage of piped water on premises is high in South America (89%), it is considerably lower in rural Central America and Mexico (27%) and rural Caribbean (38%). Rural improved sanitation coverage in LAC increased from 36% to 64% between 1990 and 2015. Comparatively few households share sanitation facilities in South America but sharing of an improved facility is more widespread in the Caribbean and Central America and Mexico, where it is practiced by at least 10% of the population.

To learn more about the ‘new rurality’, the Program is addressing two important questions: what has not changed in rural LAC’s WSS sector? And, what has changed?   

What has not changed in the WSS sector in rural LAC? Unfortunately, a lot. While urban WSS performance rates are on the increase, the same trend is not witnessed outside of the urban circle, and inequalities persist. According to the JMP (2015) 14.1% of the rural LAC population lack access to a basic drinking water service (compared to 1.9% of the urban population) and 8.5 million people relied on surface water for drinking. In the same year, only 68.4% of the rural population used a basic sanitation service (compared to 90% of the urban population) and 18 million people in rural LAC still practiced open defecation.

SIASAR data (July 2019) indicates that of the 10,370 registered water communities in this database, 71% have a water service sustainability index (ISSA) category D, indicating reduced sustainability of water services. Underling factors include the lack of governance, uneven public resources distribution to support WSS community organizations, deterioration of infrastructure, poor water quality, weak community management models, poor operation and maintenance practices, weaknesses of service providers and local governments to afford external support to community organizations, among other governance and political economy challenges.

Rural LAC’s weak sector governance and management leads to persistent ineffective strategies to achieve adoption of hygiene practices and behavioral change, especially in fostering healthy hygiene attitudes and practices such as hand washing with soap and the adequate disposal of excreta, among others. Insistent social conflicts over the ownership and shared use of water, tend to be more acute as there is a growing scarcity in water. The lack of disinfection of drinking water systems also remains a chronic weakness at the regional level; it is estimated that less than 50% of rural LAC communities perform this practice, primarily due to the lack of infrastructure and elements needed for water chlorination. For example, in Colombia, only 12% of the rural population had access to some form of treated water, in Peru less than 1% of rural households access chlorinated water. In short, it is safe to say that universal access to quality and sustainable WSS services remains a challenge in rural areas.

However, there is also a long list of factors that have changed the WSS sector’s rural panorama—among others due to urbanization, increased knowledge on climate change impact, and various social changes—and these must be understood and considered when designing and developing adequate sector reform. Stay tuned for the upcoming blog (part 2) to learn more.

More on the World Bank Water Blog

The World Bank is a member of the RWSN Executive Steering Committee and co-leads the RWSN Themes on Sustainable Services and Mapping & Monitoring.

Introducing our new RWSN member organisation: Red de Jóvenes por el Agua Centroamérica

This is a guest blog by Kenneth Alfaro Alvarado about our new RWSN member organisation Red de Jóvenes por el Agua Centroamérica (Youth Water Network for Water Central America) and its activities at LatinoSan in April 2019, which were supported by RWSN. For more information on RWSN’s support for Young Water Professionals, please see here.

From April 1-5 2019, the Red de Jóvenes por el Agua Centroamérica (Youth Network for Water in Central America, also known as RJxA CA) held a Water and Sanitation Week in Costa Rica, which included our participation on the 5th Latinosan Conference and our 3rd Regional Meeting.

RJxA CA is a regional platform with representation in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panamá, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Belice. Our network promotes the involvement of young people in Integrated Water Resources Management, by strengthening the capacities of young people, political advocacy, environmental education and volunteering. We are also committed to the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG6. In the network, each country has its own working areas; in Costa Rica, the focus is on Rural Water Supply and Management.

Activities at the 5th LatinoSan conference

During the first day of Latinosan, we had the opportunity to meet and exchange experiences with a group of representatives from the Rural Water Supply and Management sector. We encourage the involvement of young people in the rural water supply and sanitation sector; some of our members are leaders in this sector.

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Youth members of the RJxA CA  network and Rural Water Supply Managers. Photo credit: Kenneth Alfaro

During the second day , we organised a session dedicated to “Young Professionals of Sanitation” that I had the opportunity to moderate, thanks to the support of the Costa Rican Institute of Aqueducts and Sewerage (AyA) and COSUDE. We listened to the experiences of 4 young people from Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Perú, all of them working and implementing projects in the rural sanitation sector.

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Panelists at the Young Professionals of Sanitation session. Photo credit: Douglas Montano

We also supported the session “Community management of water and sanitation as a model for accelerating the closing of the urban-rural divide” organized by the Avina Foundation and the Latin American Confederation of Community Organizations for Water and Sanitation Services (CLOCSAS) ; we facilitated a workshop using the “World Café” methodology in order to extract ideas from the participants. Some of the main ideas that emerged from the session included the need to improve communications with all institutions, that funds for projects be better administrated, and to take into account spatial aspects in order to better plan for the future use of water.

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Discussions during the session “Community management of water and sanitation as a model for accelerating the closing of the urban-rural divide” . Photo credit: Kenneth Alfaro

 

Activities during the 3rd Regional Meeting and 2nd National Costa Rica Encounter of the Youth Network for Water Central America

The 3rd Regional Meeting was held at the National University of Costa Rica, located in the province of Heredia, with the participation of more than 130 young people from over Central America and other Latin American countries on April 4th, 2019.

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Group photo of the 3rd Regional Meeting and 2nd National Encounter of Costa Rica of the Youth Network for Water Central America. Photography: Kenneth Alfaro

This event begun with a panel called “Youth and Community Water Management“, moderated by Geisel Sánchez, national coordinator of Costa Rica. The panel included the participation of Karen Guzmán (administrator of the Sierpe Rural Aqueduct in the Osa region, Puntarenas), Ricardo González Chávez (administrator of the Rural Aqueduct of El Mora de Turrialba, Cartago), Gabriel Villalobos and Mónica Romero (members of the Board of Directors of the Milano Rural Aqueduct in Siquirres, Limón), and Dariana Dávila, of Honduras. All are leaders in their communities and with their experiences, they sent a message of motivation to those present, about the need for young people to get involved in community processes and to contribute from their experience, enthusiasm and ideas to the gaps in the management of drinking water in the country and in the Central American region.

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At the end of the day, we read and approved our youth declaration, which was built based on the results of a Virtual Consultation we conducted in march 2019. The Declaration on “Youth Acting for Sanitation to Not Leave Anyone Behind” was adhered to by 190 young people.

We call upon governments to act upon the following three most important requests:

  • To implement spaces of participation for all civil society sectors, including youth, as actors in decision-making.
  • To implement accountability mechanisms that must be accessible, inclusive and transparent to allow us to measure the fulfillment of the SDG6. These mechanisms should be consulted and validated to ensure their relevance and efficiency.
  • To strengthen Community Organisations of water and sanitation services in every country because they play an important role in ensuring drinking water and basic sanitation, especially in rural areas.

 

Tour to the San José de la Montaña Communal Aqueduct

As part of the 3rd Regional Meeting, we wanted a group of young people to learn about the experience of community water management in Costa Rica, where the Communal Aqueducts supply more than one million people and account for almost 30 % of the administration and management of water supply throughout the country. On April 5th, a visit was organized to the Rural Aqueduct San José de la Montaña, Heredia where young people learned about its operation, water sources and infrastructure, the actions they carry out to protect the water resource and the plans they have for the community with their environmental education programme.

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Tour to San José de la Montaña Rural Aqueduct. Photo credit: Jason Salgado.

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Tour to San José de la Montaña Rural Aqueduct. Photo credit: Jason Salgado.

After this week, our commitment to work and support the empowerment of young people in the rural water sector is even bigger.

About the author

Kenneth Alfaro Alvarado is an Environmental Engineer, and Coordinator of the Youth Network for Water Central America in Costa Rica. The Youth Water Network for Water Central America is a RWSN member organisation. Find out more about the network here.

Contacts:

An Empowering Drop in the Bucket – A women’s journey on International Women’s Day

Author: Sara Ahrari, Programme Manager at Simavi. 

March marks two significant internationally celebrated days for those of us working in the sector. On 8th March we celebrate International Women’s Day #IWD and on 21st March we cherish the World Water Day #WWD. So, it would be good to reflect once again on how exactly WASH is critical to the health and empowerment of women and girls throughout their life.

Let us imagine that you are a girl born to a economically challenged family in a village in the so called developing world where you and your family do not have access to safe water and sanitation.

If you are lucky enough to survive the first 5 years of your life and not die from diarrhoea or other water-borne diseases, the chances are very high that you are already walking a few hours per day to fetch water for your family and you are taking care of your younger siblings.

Then when the time comes for you to go to school, if your family does not have to prioritise your brothers’ education to yours, and if there is a school to attend, you may actually enrol at one. The chances are still very high that you have to walk a good half an hour to fetch water before going to school and answer the call of nature in the open since your school does not have any (functional) toilet. You probably get harassed and experience gender based violence during these visits.Slide6.JPG

Then sometimes when you are between 9 to 12 years old, one day you feel a lot of pain in your lower tummy and suddenly feel that you have wet yourselves. Embarrassed to death, when you finally can find a private corner, you notice the blood in your underwear and think you are going to die. Terrified you tell your older sister or friend and if you can overcome the shame, maybe you tell even your mother, only to learn that although you will not die, you will be going through this pain and embarrassment every month for what seems to be the rest of your life. You will be given a cloth or two, to manage your period. Of course, finding water to wash them and a private place to properly dry them would still be a challenge. You miss school either because you have a lot of pain, which you don’t know how to manage, or you or your family don’t want to risk getting embarrassed because of the blood on your clothes, or simply because there is no toilet or water at school where you can change your cloth or pads! Even in some countries, you might also end up staying in a shed during your period since you will be considered unclean!

Getting your period, is also considered start of your womanhood, and your family might start thinking that it is about time to marry you off, either to reduce the costs or to avoid that you start misbehaving or simply because that’s how it works. Of course you would not get any education about your reproductive system, nor for instance how to avoid unwanted pregnancies. If you are not married off, you will be told to avoid the boys!

By the time that you are 15 years old, the chances are very high that you are pregnant. If you are married and pregnant, you need the permission and money from your husband or his family to go for your check-ups. Mind you, you probably need to bring your own water in a bucket to the health centre, which you have to walk quite a distance to get to. And mind you, when you are pregnant, you need to use the washroom more often, but of course there is no toilet in public places or even health centres. By the way, your family might think that these visits don’t worth the trouble and you are better off with a traditional birth attendant, who usually does not have any hygienic place to do the check-ups nor have water to wash her hands with, even when you are delivering your baby!

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And, if you are not married and pregnant, you can forget about going to the health center since the staff will not even talk to you. You probably end up with a traditional birth attendant who wouldn’t mind performing illegal abortion, and again have not washed her hands, when she puts them inside you or uses other terrifying unclean objects to perform an abortion. As you can guess, the chances that you actually survive this one, is very low.

Anyway, throughout your reproductive age, you probably would be pregnant pretty much every year. Of course you would not be able to get the rest or support you need during this time and have to still do most of the unpaid work around the house, without anyone recognising or appreciating it.

You may at some point in life also start doing some paid work to support your family. However, whenever someone at household gets sick or you have your period, you probably have to miss going to work and thereby your income. Talking about income, you are the one who would prioritise investing it in sanitation, whereas for your husband it comes as his 8th or 9th priority, but unfortunately it is often not you who decides what happens with your income, so still no toilet for your family.

When you lose your husband or your father, you probably will not inherit anything from them and all the assets would go to male member of your family. Often if you don’t have sons, or even when you do have them, this means that you need to rely on their mercy for food and shelter.

All these situations can get worse if you are living with any type of disability, or HIV/AIDS, or in places where there is too much or too little water, or if you are from a minority or displaced group.

Yet, generation after generation you have been the source of inspiration and driver of change within your family, community and throughout the world and your resilience and agency has brought the mankind where we are today.

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And of course, while WASH programmes alone cannot tackle underlying causes of the barriers women and girls face through their life cycle, by fulfilling women and girls basic needs for access to water and sanitation, they can be the first step in the right direction. On the other hand, WASH programmes when designed and implemented in a gender responsive and transformative way can provide the opportunity to move beyond this and also address women and girls’ strategic needs, such as participation in decision-making processes within their family and communities and thereby contributing to their physical, political, socio-cultural and economic empowerment.

The article is inspired by a panel discussion with Sara Ahrari convened by WaterAid Canada, UNICEF and RESULTS Canada during International Development Week 2019 in Ottawa.

 

Call for submissions: IWA Water and Development Congress, Argentina – an opportunity to connect rural and urban

IWA is well known for its many events and publications, but generally with an urban utility focus.  However, the event below is an unusual opportunity to share experiences between urban, peri-urban, small-town and rural water service provides.  Thanks to the initiative of Eleanor Allen, CEO of Water for People, the IWA Water and Development Congress invites submissions on the following topics that are relevant to RWSN member experiences – an in particular those who presented at the RWSN Forum:

  • Raising gender profile in urban/rural (basin) interactions.
  • Developing leadership – diversity, inclusiveness and vision
  • Defining the role of regulation in meeting the SDGs
  • Strengthening the capacity of entrepreneurs to offer water and sanitation services in rural and peri-urban areas
  • Implementing pro-poor approaches
  • Defining tariffs, balancing affordability and cost recovery
  • Initiating and maintaining multi-stakeholder collaboration to achieve improved services
  • Fostering political & social engagement in water issues
  • Ensuring financial sustainability to achieve universal access and service goals.

This is a global event, not just for Latin America, and potentially there is a lot to learn on – and share – on tariff regulation for small rural providers, professionalization of community management, diversity of service delivery models in rural areas, including rural utilities,  and asset management for small rural providers.

So please do consider it if you are looking to reach out to a different audience from the normal rural WASH sector – see the message below for more details and links: http://www.waterdevelopmentcongress.org/

All the best

Sean
RWSN Secretariat

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