About one in nine people, or 750 million people globally, do not have access to safe water. Around the world, women and children are spending 140 million hours a day collecting water.
Water.org, cofounded and supported by actor Matt Damon, has been screening and certifying quality indigenous partner organizations for over 20 years who best understand the needs of their local culture. They can navigate the social, political, and economic issues which may impact projects, are better able to leverage local financial resources for cost-sharing, and know the local expertise which exists for project implementation. It is also more cost effective than hiring expatriate staff. The motto is “Safe water and the dignity of a toilet for all.”
Communities and individuals become invested owners by contributing to the project cost. Communities can contribute at least 10 percent of the total project cost through grants, either by financial contributions, securing local materials, or doing physical labor or “sweat equity.” The WaterCredit branch allows people to get loans through its network of local partner organizations such as join-lending groups, women’s self-help groups, and community-based organizations. Typical loans range in size from $50 – $200 USD.
One of the first steps is the community election of a local water committee which plays a critical role in the project’s success. Since women disproportionately bear the water collection burden, the committee must include female members. They serve as a liaison between the community and partner organization, facilitate the hygiene education program, and determine the project construction community work schedule. Committee members are also trained on operation and maintenance of the water and sanitation systems, and management of the finances.
Whether a project is grant funded or involves small water and sanitation loans, community ownership is integral to its success. Water.org insists on community involvement at every step from project planning, financing, and building through ongoing project maintenance.
The WaterCredit Initiative helps with the small water and sanitation loans to communities and individuals who have no access to traditional credit markets, empowering them to solve their own water issues more quickly. As loan payments are paid in, the money is assigned to other people with water needs. For details on WaterCredit, view the website.