ASIR-SABA results: for access to water, rural sanitation and peace building in Colombia

Since 2015, ASIR-SABA has positioned itself as a model that seeks to strengthen community water management processes in Colombia. In 2017 the Swiss Embassy - Humanitarian Aid and Development (COSUDE) started the second phase and together with community water leaders have cooperated, strengthened their capacities and contributed to more rural households having access to water. This road has encouraged the implementation of a third phase because the process has contributed to building peace in territories where violence still persists.

ASIR-SABA was born with the hope of contributing to the construction of peace, improving the quality of life of the rural population of Colombia, understanding their needs and capacities, through differential schemes that allow for the sustainable management of rural water supply and sanitation. Thus, this purpose joined forces to positively impact the rural communities of Antioquia, Boyacá, Cauca, Nariño, Valle del Cauca and La Guajira, strengthening the capacities of 25,882 people and benefiting another 50,259 in water and basic sanitation systems.

Consequently, the contributions of the communities based on their knowledge and the commitment with which they assumed each proposed activity were vital. Also fundamental was the contribution and commitment of the institutions with which ASIR-SABA was articulated, the mayors and governors' offices and each of the partner entities that implemented the project during these 26 months. These efforts led to significant impacts on the well-being of the rural population for the sake of stable and lasting peace building.

Achievements that speak for themselves

On the one hand, the institutional articulation allowed ASIR-SABA to support the implementation of rural public policy on water and basic sanitation through the management plans, RAS Rural, SIASAR, SINAS, among others that are developed by the Ministry of Housing, City and Territory. Similarly, it carried out a diagnosis of 35 communities on the conditions of access to water and sanitation in order to understand the reality of water in these territories.

In addition, it promoted the participation of leaders from 47 community aqueducts in the Congress of Aqueducts, in which the Water to the Countryside program was announced. This initiative made visible the community work in the territories, communities that watch over the quality of life of the people, guaranteeing that everyone has access to water. Similarly, the associations of aqueducts: Buga and Trujiaguas participated in the SENA course on the maintenance of treatment plants.

It was these initiatives that enriched ASIR-SABA's work and contributed to the sustainability of the processes managed, as well as the two quality analysis diagnoses and preliminary studies of the differential water supply projects for the communities of Imbilí Miras Palmas and Juan Domingo KM 37 in the rural area of Tumaco. It should also be noted that at least five communities have water supply and/or sanitation systems (conventional or alternative).

Of utmost importance, another result of this second phase is that seventy-two communities are strengthened in administrative, organizational, legal, and financial processes for the sustainability of community aqueducts, as well as ASIR-SABA betting on capacity building to enhance community water management for the well-being of the communities.

This strengthening was framed within a strategy of health education, communication workshops for social change and a diploma course in Sustainable Management of Rural Water and Sanitation.

Communication with a Rural Approach to Sustainable Water Management

During the training processes carried out by the project, there was a health education strategy, which allowed people to recognize that their negative actions towards nature impact the whole community and therefore they are changing their practices for the preservation of the environment.

Likewise, ASIR-SABA promoted communication workshops in the territories, so that together they could strengthen the communication dynamics in their aqueducts and make this trade a tool to advocate for their human rights.

Likewise, the diploma course on Sustainable Management of Water and Rural Sanitation brought communities closer to new technologies that strengthen community water management. This diploma course was replicated in two educational institutions at the national level.

For its part, and with the objective of promoting equitable participation between men and women in the decision-making spaces of community aqueducts and with the aim of measuring the real impacts of Water and Sanitation projects, ASIR-SABA formulated, together with the project communities, a Battery of Indicators with a gender perspective and an intersectional approach and a Toolkit that impact on territorial development, social inclusion, gender equality and peace building.

All of these impacts implied challenges along the way; however, they contributed significantly to the construction of peace in Colombia and to the possibility of having a third phase, in which ASIR-SABA will continue to strengthen the capacities of the communities with the intention of providing tools that serve to strengthen the processes of rural water and sanitation, which demonstrate that it is possible to dream of a country in which we all have the same rights.