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Lazos de Agua Raises a New Wave of Change in Latin America

"I am like a drop of water on a rock. After drip, drip, dripping in the same place, I begin to leave a mark, and I leave my mark in many people’s hearts."

-Rigoberta Menchu, K'iche' Guatemalan human rights activist, feminist, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate

Water is life. It seeps into the ground beneath our feet and rises to the skies above, cycling through and sustaining us. But now, its sustainability depends on us.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, 1 in 6 children already faces high or very high water scarcity, with climate change threatening to make this worse.1 Enjoying access to safe water is everyone’s individual right, but the critical nature of sustainable water management transcends homes, communities, and borders.

This is where the Lazos de Agua Program plays a crucial role. As a partnership between public, private, and philanthropic organizations, Lazos de Agua mobilizes a vast network of change-makers under one common goal: empowering Latin American communities with safe water. Through collective action, we have surpassed our objectives and transformed the lives of more than 235,000 people—so far.

As we ramp up efforts in the Program’s second phase, we turn our attention to the learnings, strategies, and collaborations that will allow us to reach our new goal for 2030:

Improve the living conditions of at least 1 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean by providing access to sustainable water, sanitation, and hygiene services.

Calixto García, President of the Community Development Committee of the Llano Grande Community in San Andrés Sajcabajá, and participant of the Lazos de Agua Program in Quiché, Guatemala. Photo credit: Water for People Guatemala

Phase 1: Laying the Foundation for Change

Implemented since 2016, Lazos de Agua’s first phase brought safe water to over 400 communities in Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia, and Paraguay. Constructing and rehabilitating water infrastructure has proven essential, but the Program’s reach extends far beyond building wells and pipes.

To ensure the sustainability of its projects, Lazos de Agua must strengthen the system that underlies the provision of water, sanitation, and hygiene goods and services. This means collaborating with communities and partners in 3 key areas:

  1. Enabling ACCESS to water, sanitation, and hygiene through improved infrastructure and governance
  2. Driving BEHAVIOUR CHANGE around water, sanitation, and hygiene practices through social art
  3. Generating CAPITAL by supporting local entrepreneurs and strengthening the value chain for water, sanitation and hygiene goods and services.

These components are at the core of One Drop’s A·B·C for Sustainability™ model. Through it, we create the ideal conditions in which lasting change can flourish, empowering community members to reach their full potential. And while access to infrastructure has a predominant role in the overall success of our interventions, we’ve witnessed firsthand how our Social Art for Behaviour Change™ approach greatly enhances the sustainability of our projects.

By harnessing the transformative power of social art, community members can work alongside artists to inspire, activate, and sustain long-lasting behaviour change. So far, it’s been a success:

Handwashing with soap and water shot up 33%
(from 29% of participants showcasing the behaviour at the Program’s start to 62% by the end of phase 1)
More people in the communities we serve are paying their water bills on time
(a rise from 47% to 83% of the population)

Despite including a more diverse and developed behaviour change component than comparable programs, Lazos de Agua comes with competitive intervention and implementation costs (36% lower than the benchmark)2. Drawing from these insights and our expertise, we’re now better able to optimize our interventions as part of phase 2.

Phase 2: New Allies, New Horizons

In 2023, Lazos de Agua welcomed Fundación Avina as Program Manager of phase 2, building upon their track record of 20+ years of sustainable development in the Latin American region. Together with the Program’s co-founding partners (Inter-American Development Bank, FEMSA Foundation and Coca-Cola Foundation), and in tandem with new and experienced partners, we are exploring opportunities to spark systemic changes in the Latin American water sector. By December 2024, Lazos de Agua will roll out new projects in Paraguay, Ecuador, Mexico, and Colombia, with more to follow in 2025.

Lazos de Agua’s growth and success are a testament to the shared commitment of our partners and supporters. By working together, we're creating lasting impact. We’re laying the groundwork for healthier, more prosperous communities—for generations to come.

Stay tuned for more updates from Lazos de Agua and our other projects.

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1UNICEF. The Climate Changed Child, 2023.
2Summative Evaluation of Lazos de Agua 1, March 2023. Conducted externally by Baastel.

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