Around 12 million Guatemalans, equal to 75% of the country´s population, have access to drinking water thanks to the local water committees. One of these local committees is the Asociación de Desarrollo Comunitario Rural (ADECOR) that brings together nine water and sanitation utilities in the Municipality of San Martin Jiloteqeque on a non-profit basis.
Since its foundation, ADECOR aims to improve water and sanitation infrastructure for the indigenous people of the area - natives of the Mayan ethnic group Kaqchikel which is one of the poorest rural areas of Guatemala, affected by war and natural disasters. This branch of the descendants of a Mayan tribe faces many difficulties related to drinking and sanitation services.
ADECOR, which serves an estimated amount of 6,000-10,000 inhabitants of the Department of Chimaltenango, is trying to change this situation. As a member of GWOPA, they established close contact with Federación Nacional de Cooperativas de Servicios Sanitarios de Chile (FESAN) - a non-profit cooperative federation, which helps water operators in Chile and other Latin American countries to strengthen their capacities. The Chilean experience in managing drinking water services in rural areas has become a successful management model on the basis of a Water Operator Partnership (WOP) between ADECOR and FESAN.
This WOP was developed under the umbrella of WOP-LAC, regional platform of GWOPA in Latin America and the Caribbean, and financed by the Inter-American Development Bank. The contribution to the compliance of SDG6 laid the foundation for its main goals. More concretely, this partnership aimed to expand inclusive and sustainable access to safe drinking water for people living in rural areas in Guatemala, to support women in conditions of extreme poverty, and to increase female participation in the sphere of water.
To achieve this, both water professionals and local leaders were invited to participate in the WOP. During the first stage they identified common concerns, such as limited access to water, bad functionality of water supply and sanitation systems, as well as water related environmental problems (felling of trees, erosion and fires), and agreed that regional water systems should be improved.
In the framework of the second WOP stage, ADECOR representatives together with community leaders participated in a training where specialists from FESAN shared their rich experience about technical and administrative capacity building, tariff calculation, and other core issues serving to strengthen community water management with peers from Guatemala. As a result, the delegation of the Municipality of San Martin Jiloteqeque decided to establish independent self-sustainable quality drinking water service, relevant to the culture and identity of the Kaqchikel ethnic group. This WOP would enable indigenous populations to get access both to water and sanitation services, improving its health and well-being.
The final phase of the WOP in San Martin Jilotepeque focused on enabling local professionals and on leadership promotion which led to female empowerment. Overall, 50 women and men from Mayas indigenous communities learned the ways of building a sustainable management model for rural drinking water systems, which allowed them to expand career opportunities.
As a result of this WOP, a local community implemented its structure as a social enterprise with Statutes and Regulations, and all rural water operators of the district of San Martín Jilotepeque got acquainted with a sustainable water management model. In the near future about 5,000 people more of Kaqchikel ethnic group will receive this service as well.
This WOP model proved itself effective and helped the indigenous population of Guatemala to improve the quality of life and increase the level of social integration with a very cost-effective investment of only approximately $10 per person.