Families chosen for the project have many challenges to take on. What is the most crucial one at this time?
The targeted families are among the poorest of El Salvador and the lack of water is the main cause of poverty in the project's intervention zone. A family of five has an average household income of US$296 per month. This revenue, which comes essentially from agriculture, is spent on food, education and health. A life expectancy that is much shorter than in other parts of the country, a high rate of malnutrition among children, a very high illiteracy rate (32.9%) and a very low education rate (less than four years) are the consequences of this level of poverty.
What major changes have you noted since the project got under way?
The changes I've seen are remarkable, significant and lasting. The project's targeted families now have water for consumption and for agricultural production. We notice an important decrease in gastrointestinal diseases in families (in children, in particular) who use water filters and latrines. Collected and stored rainwater enables families to grow an abundance of quality vegetables (radishes, tomatoes, cabbage, and so on) all year round, which they also sell. So in addition to providing them with essential vitamins and nutrients, these vegetables enable families to triple their income which, for instance, is then used to buy clothes for the children, medication and school supplies.
What can you tell us about ONE DROP's "tripod" approach?
Developed by ONE DROP, the tripod approach is a one-of-a-kind and innovative approach, as it attacks the causes of poverty head on. With it, concrete and long-lasting measures related to water management, microfinancing, and social arts and popular education can be implemented. The targeted families, especially young people, are mobilized on environment-related issues and challenges in their region and, in particular, on those related to universal access to water. Families gradually adopt healthy habits and behaviours that respect the environment and the water resource. In addition, Oxfam-Québec's on-site cooperation and the work accomplished with local partners ensure the community's access, an understanding of their needs and, in the long term, the sustainability of measures taken.
What helps to make the impact of our projects sustainable?
Projects make use of a simple technology adapted to the conditions of the intervention zone. For the most part, irrigation systems, water filters, latrines and energy-efficient stoves are built using local materials and are installed by local producers themselves, who are specifically trained for this purpose. In this way, maintenance is easily and accessible to all. Microfinancing offers families the possibility of starting large-scale agricultural activities (i.e., production of laying hens, pork production, tilapia farming and so on), which enables them to double or triple their annual income. In addition to greatly improving their quality of life, the money earned enables them to maintain the water infrastructure. Finally, making changes in behaviour and mobilizing families around water issues have remarkable and lasting effects.
What living conditions would you like to see in the intervention zones in 10 or 20 years from now?
All our efforts are aimed at ensuring that, in 10 to 20 years from now, the following goals have been reached:
- The entire population in the project's intervention zones has access to safe water in quantities that are sufficient for family consumption and agriculture.
- All families have access to quality food in quantities that can adequately feed each of their members.
- All families can carry out profitable economic activities allowing them to have enough money to send their children to school, to dress them, and to offer them health care when necessary.
- Members of a community work together to ensure that the intervention zone is planted with trees, that it has an abundant quantity of safe water and that all vulnerable zones are protected.
- Producers no longer resort to the slash-and-burn agriculture before sowing, no longer cultivate on soil that is sensitive to erosion and no longer use herbicides or chemical fertilizers.
We aim for changes that are significant and lasting.