By Ecuador Program Manager, Sam Schlesinger
In the immediate aftermath of Ecuador’s deadly earthquake on April 16th, 2016, the majority of humanitarian aid focused on short-term livelihood and housing needs, with government, international, and NGO efforts focused on urban and peri-urban areas with dense populations. In hard-hit Esmeraldas Province, the basic needs of isolated rural communities, many of which long predate the quake, have been lost in the shuffle with little hope for response from overwhelmed and underperforming provincial actors. Green Empowerment, in partnership with the ALTROPICO Foundation and the communities themselves, is responding to the most pressing needs identified by quake-affected rural Chachi indigenous communities in southern Esmeraldas– potable water and basic sanitation. Approximately 900 residents of four communities (San Salvador, Balzar, Mono Manso, and San Jose) will benefit from this effort, focusing not only on civil works, but also on the critical education and capacity-building activities that are the foundation of sustainable systems and long-term success.
Isolated deep within the Mache-Chindul Ecological Reserve and accessible only via foot or canoe, the Chachi indigenous communities of Esmeraldas already faced serious hardships prior to Ecuador’s recent deadly earthquake. In addition to economic poverty and the lingering effects of long-standing racism, the region suffers from a near-total lack of access to basic services, with 98% of the municipalities’ population lacking access to one or more basic services. Green Empowerment’s local partner ALTROPICO Foundation has worked for several years with members of the Chachi community on environmental stewardship, capacity-building, leadership, and income generating activities. After the destruction wrought by the quake and its aftershocks, ALTROPICO worked with the communities to identify urgent needs, with all four Chachi villages agreeing on potable water and sanitation as critical necessities that were unlikely to be met by local efforts alone.
Our approach aims to provide long-term positive impacts on health, gender equity, environmental sustainability, and community organizational capacity that together serve as the foundation for these communities’ resilience. ALTROPICO provides both extensive experience working with the Chachi community and expertise on community development and environmental topics, while GE contributes experience in potable water, sanitation, and local capacity-building.
With initial funding secured, in late June we began to construct centralized potable-water systems in four communities, providing continued training and support for local expansion of household composting latrines, and expanding environmental stewardship and technical/administrative capacity-building activities that are critical to long-term sustainability and community empowerment.
Construction of the potable water systems has already advanced more than 60% with projects expected to be completed and functioning by late October. Additionally, with training and support from GE and ALTROPICO, each community has established a local governance structure to manage the sustainability of the system in the long term. Sanitation and hygiene trainings and latrine installation began in late September.
We are grateful to funding partners World Wildlife Fund, AllPeopleBeHappy, and Christadelphian Meal-a-Day Fund of the Americas, for providing their generous support to provide these Chachi indigenous communities with access to clean water and basic sanitation to improve their lives and strengthen their communities. Stay tuned for future updates!