Rural communities self manage their access to water in Paraguay

It is almost 2 pm and the southern hemisphere summer sun is strong during the Paraguayan siesta, a much needed break to escape from temperatures, which can reach 40 degrees especially for those  who start work very early in the interior of the country.

But this well-deserved rest won’t be an option for Julian Marecos and 4 other residents of Posta Ybyraró J. Augusto Saldívar, a small community within the urban area of the country’s central department, half way between the city and the countryside.

Marecos is the president of the Posta Ybyraró Board, one of 2,500 community associations operating throughout the country and providing access to drinking water, and, in some cases sanitation, in rural areas and small communities on the urban peripheries. Marecos volunteers as President of the Board and the other four members, who are also volunteers, meet regularly to supervise the operation of the service.

“Our board was founded in 1993 and we currently supply more than 3,800 users, all of them in neighboring areas, as well as the school, the health center and the church,” he explains.

Born and raised in the area, Marecos still remembers the difficulties entailed by the lack of drinking water.

“Traditionally, families used to get water from wells they had in their homes, but very often, particularly during very hot seasons, these wells dried up and no longer provided water. Thanks to the Board, we no longer have these difficulties and we have available drinking water, which in turn helps us to avoid many diseases,” he adds.

The Boards are non-profit organizations that were created with the objective of managing drinking water supplies and are led by the users, who choose their members and representatives every year in a general assembly. All of them are volunteers. This Assembly in turn hires a managing team, which is in charge of the service.

This successful service management model was promoted and financed with a loan for water and sanitation supply in rural areas provided to Paraguay by the World Bank in 1977.

This project established a successful partnership that continues to the present day. As opposed to many other countries, Paraguayan Boards are well organized and not only recover their maintenance and operating costs, but also expand their systems using their own resources and repaying a portion of the capital costs to the National Treasury.

Ede Ijjasz, World Bank Director of Sustainable Development for Latin America and the Caribbean, recently visited the emblematic Posta Ybyraro Board. The he reinforced the importance of organized work, “which has been vital to expanding the service’s coverage in rural areas and has made a very valuable contribution, considering that 48 percent of Paraguayans live in rural areas”.

Source | World Bank