As you may know from our previous reports, the project to promote improved sanitation solutions through micro-credits in Cochabamba has been advancing, but the number of people who finally obtained these micro-credits were below our expectations. We analyzed the situation at several moments and continuously improved our model - and at two moments our local micro-finance partner as well - but the results kept being somewhat disappointing.
Our analysis of the experience as a whole led to the identification of the major obstacles:
- Many families living in peri-urban areas rent their house and thus are not entitled to change infrastructure, and the landlords often are not present or not interested in investing in improvements in sanitation.
- Sanitation seems to be a low priority of families in peri-urban areas - in spite of the fact that in urban areas of Bolivia, only 35% of the population has access to improved sanitation facilities. When offered a flexible micro-credit, many families decided to invest in building a wall for their lot in order to increase security.
- The market conditions for credits have been changing drastically in Bolivia over the past few years. As an example, one of the leading micro-credit institutions decided to raise the minimum amount for micro-credits to $ 2,000 - which by many standards no longer is considered a micro-credit.
All these factors led to few cases of micro-credits given to families, in spite of training and informing thousands of families. Therefore, the costs of promotion are very high in comparison to the number of credit approvals, and if we wanted to recover some of these costs through the micro-credits, the interest rates would have to be very high. As we have a clear mandate to improve water and sanitation conditions of low-income households, we consider that we need to be able to offer conditions which are significantly better than the commercial micro-credits, which is not possible at the moment. As a conclusion, we decided to suspend promotion activities for the moment.
However, we do not give up on the idea of improving sanitation conditions through micro-credits. The need for adequate water and sanitation solutions in Bolivia continues to be enormous, and the social and economic benefits of these solutions are very significant. We think that the model we have developed and tested is good, and so are our local and international partners. We now need to find a way to finance our promotional costs before we can launch a next phase of this project. Please stay tuned to this platform (or to the institutional website of the SODIS Foundation: www.fundacionsodis.org) and keep looking for the latest developments regarding this project.
In the meantime, you can also support our other projects, for example a project to improve water and sanitation conditions (without micro-credit) in 40 schools. Each donation made as a gift to someone will generate an additional $5 until May 15, so please consider making use of this opportunity (Mother's Day is approaching).
Best regards from the whole project team,
The last few weeks have been very busy for us: assembling filters, training staff of 15 day care centers on how to use them, and then making sure they are being used properly. The response from our partners at the day care centers was very positive and we continue to receive requests for additional filters and trainings.
Previous to our intervention, in some day care centers kitchen staff had been boiling large amounts of water every day, consuming a lot of time and energy, while at the same time being a complicated process with some risks involved (burning). Now, it is a matter of pouring the raw water into the filter and enjoying the safe drinking water which comes out at the bottom.
As you can see from the pictures, these filters - and the accompanying training and education activities - had a major impact at the day care centers. 50 filters have been distributed, improving the drinking water of more than 1,000 children. On average, this micro-project will avoid about 2,000 cases of diarrhea per year, and if we take into consideration the improved hygiene conditions achieved, the numbers are even more impressive.
At the SODIS Foundation, we are very satisfied about this project. With a very focused approach, we can reach out to the population group which is most at risk to contract diarrhea and other waterborne diseases (children under five), and we can do this in a very cost-effective way (the whole intervention costs less than 5 dollars per child). And the best about it: we are creating a healthy habit with children and their caretakers, which also impacts the community at large and leads to healthier lives, less expenses on medical treatments, and improved quality of live. What else can we hope for?
This is a short update from the field, keeping you informed about recent developments at the 40 schools in Tiquipaya, Bolivia. As all schools in Bolivia are closed for vacation in January, activities at schools started in February. After doing a lot of training and educational work in 2012, we are now going into the second year of the project, focusing more on behavior change and on involving the communities around the schools.
The evaluation at the end of 2012 showed that within the first year, the project achieved some significant changes in knowledge, attitude and practices related to water, sanitation and hygiene. For example, 92% of the kids had safe drinking water available within their classroom in November 2012 (up from 0% at the start of the project), and 89% of the children washed their hands before eating (up from 5% at the start of the project). These are simple interventions which do not require large investments in infrastructure, and research has shown that they are effective in reducing diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia, the two major killers of children in developing countries.
In December 2012, we decided to launch a micro-project within this project framework, which focused on improving drinking water quality at the day care centers of the same municipality (Tiquipaya). Working at day care centers enables us to reach out to pre-school children, which are the most vulnerable ones in respect to diarrhea and pneumonia. The project met with huge interest on behalf of donors, and for almost 2 weeks the project was ranked number one of all projects on the Global Giving platform (more than 10,000 projects). Within less than a month, more than 100 people donated to this micro-project, which already is completely funded by now. We are now working with 15 day care centers and identified additional 23, so within a short time we will launch another micro-project.
Apart from progress in the field, we also would like to inform you about a special donation opportunity: On March 13th, all donations will be matched by additional 30% by the Global Giving Foundation. That means that if you donate $100 that day, $130 will actually go to the project (any amount up to $1,000 will be matched). Matching will begin at 9:00 am EDT (this time in your city) and matching will last until funds run out or 11:59 pm EDT. If you consider making a donation to our project (or any other on www.globalgiving.org), please make use of this special opportunity - for no extra effort, you will get 30% more impact out of your donation.
Please let us know if this project report met your expectations. We are happy to provide additional information or answer specific questions – it is up to you to get involved. If you think this report was useful, please pass it on to your personal contacts – thank you.
Best regards from the whole project team