Please briefly describe your Water ChangeMaker journey
Access to safe water is essential for humanity’s survival and health, preventing both the disease, including water-borne diseases. Over the years, communities have been facing growing challenges linked to the scarcity and quality of water, which is spurring us to strengthen the sustainability of water services and ensure communities are prepared for any hardship. El Negrito is a municipality located in the department of Yoro with a population of approximately 52,000 inhabitants, subdivided into three districts: Oloman Valley, Montaña, and Guaymas. Guaymas, which is home to almost 50 percent of the municipality’s communities, is an African palm producing district, while the district of Montaña experiences more gold mining. These two activities make the municipality vulnerable, especially the production of African palm, due to its use of the main water sources, to the extent of drying them up, thus affecting the population who are the main water users. The Community Association for the Purchase and Protection of Micro-Basins (ACOMIC) was formed as a result of the communities’ need to continue conserving forests in order to achieve drinking water sustainability, knowing that it is more likely communities will become resilient through an association that is linked to a strong system such as the WASH system.
Please describe the change that your initiative created and how was it achieved
ACOMIC emerged as a local structure in May 2013, formed in an open town hall with the participation of the Water Committees and sworn in by the municipal authority. The main objective of this initiative is to safeguard the conservation and protection of the municipality’s water producing areas. To do this, it has been necessary to integrate the Administrative Drinking Water and Sanitation Committees, municipal institutional and technical WASH bodies, churches and the municipal government. Integrating communities and other entities has facilitated decision-making and processes supported by the entire municipality, such as deciding which micro-basin is viable to buy, declaring the need for micro-basins to undergo biophysical assessments, selecting areas to invest funding, and determining how to raise funds. Its success also lies in the inter-institutional relationships established with municipal authorities, the Forest Conservation Institute (ICF) and Water For People. The committee has declared 14 micro-basins in the municipality, with seven currently in the process of being declared. Three micro-basins have been purchased. Each user in the municipality contributes HNL 10 (USD 0.42) per month as payment for ecosystem services. Six action plans have been developed to protect micro-basins in communities. Palmas Aceiteras de Honduras (HONDUPALMA), an agro-industrial agrarian reform cooperative, established a certification for African palm producers which introduced a height limit.
How did your initiative help build resilience to climate change?
A WASH municipal office is absolutely key to a community's resilience in the face of any disaster or emergency, such as COVID-19. In the event of a future climate change-related disaster, this municipality has a strong WASH system that includes integrated water resources management as a cornerstone for resilience. Through an inter-institutional agreement, Water For People and the municipality of El Negrito have committed themselves to assuming responsibility for strengthening and financing the entities created as much as possible, in order to achieve complete and sustainable coverage of water and sanitation services.
Ongoing improvement of indicators such as water quantity and quality is important in ensuring provision of water services, so it is essential to have a body responsible for the protection of micro-basin water sources and another for distribution of water in the community.
What water-related decisions did your initiative influence or improve?
ACOMIC is a group with diverse representation that makes decisions through transparent and data-based processes. It is a clear improvement for the sustainability of water sources in the municipality of El Negrito. This organisation has had monthly meetings since its creation to cover the following: planning of monthly activities; visits to communities in the process of carrying out assessments, purchasing micro-basins and declaring micro-basins; discussions about procedures and revision of documents. The identification and prioritisation of micro-basins is based on a previous assessment that includes negotiation and training, as well as financial contributions from the communities and contributions managed by the municipality. Financial contributions from the communities are collected by the ACOMIC treasury represented by a parish priest of the Catholic Church and supervised by a minister of the Evangelical Church.
What were some of the challenges faced and how were they overcome?
One of the main challenges continues to be collaboration with the municipality’s private sector, farmers and livestock farmers. Many of the main conditions to facilitate processes regarding the use or purchase of a micro-basin are directly related to landowners who mostly belong to the previously mentioned groups. Collaboration with these sectors is a challenge that is becoming a priority after seeing how little they participate in integrated water resources management processes, from the creation of an enabling environment to the management of funding. Although it is a big challenge, ACOMIC relies on the technical support of WASH and ICF offices, as well as the support of the municipal authority and liaison with other local structures to carry out these negotiations that require a lot of awareness-raising and training.
In your view: Will the change that was created by your initiative continue?
ACOMIC has demonstrated that it is a sustainable committee over the last few years, basing its sustainability on: organisational sustainability, which strictly concerns maintaining continual growth and stability in the organisation, participating in ongoing training and updating frameworks; financial sustainability, which concerns the management of funds for the organisation’s sustainability, as well as contributions from the Water Committees, municipal mayor’s office and other donors; and technical sustainability, with ACOMIC members that have the capacity to inform and collectivise organised communities also managing a technician. At the start, ACOMIC required a lot of support from Water For People to carry out its technical processes. Today, they have direct contact with ICF if they require assistance from a non-governmental organisation with specialised technicians. This shows that they are an empowered structure interested in continuing to support and ensure that their municipality has water for the current and future population.
What did you learn during the initiative or after? And is it possible that others could learn from you?
One of the most important lessons learned from this initiative is the need to involve the private sector from the beginning, if it is possible for it to become part of the committee, as they could be influential in negotiations. In terms of the committee’s transparency and credibility, management of the municipality’s treasury and prosecutor’s office by the Catholic and Evangelical churches has been successful. Municipal authorities’ political will is essential to support legal and financial processes. This initiative is capable of strengthening all local structures that protect natural flora and fauna resources, while promoting community development. It is worth mentioning that this initiative, through the exchange of experiences facilitated by Water For People, is now in the process of being replicated in Bolivia.