Brazil’s Water Watchers
When you don’t have easy access to water, you find it wherever you can. In that situation, what water you do find is barely enough for household needs, never mind suitable for human consumption. Waterborne illness is a constant threat and frequent reality that keeps quality of life low.
That’s how it has been in the many Brazilian communities with no public supply of potable water. In 2001, ChildFund Brazil responded by creating a program called Water for Life. ChildFund partnered with communities and local organizations to build dams and domestic wells for rainwater catchment, and also set up management and conservation projects that are implemented by community members.
By 2010, 682 families could count on regular access to water in their homes — a little over 5 gallons per day. Two hundred families were growing and selling a variety of products. More than 360 youths and adults had been trained to work as environmental educators in their communities. Some projects involve the construction of ponds for farm use. Overall, more than 1,700 families participate in various roles and benefit from its projects.
Late last year, the project was singled out from other efforts in the state of Minas Gerais with the Belo Horizonte newspaper’s Furnas Blue Gold Award in the non-governmental associations and community associations category. More recently, the program has been nominated for a much more auspicious recognition that just happens to share its name: the inaugural “Water for Life” Best Practices Award, from the UN-Water Decade Programme on Advocacy and Communication (UNW-DPAC) and the UN World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP). The Brazil project is one of 35 nominees for the best in participatory, communication, awareness-raising and education practices. The prize will be awarded on World Water Day, March 22.
Francisco is a “Water Watcher,” trained by Water for Life to educate families in his community about the need for vigilance about water and to advocate for their engagement in water-related activities. “We show families the importance of their participation,” he says, “and that without it, the only four or five Water Watchers will not be able to change the community situation.”
|We organize various activities to raise awareness in the students in classes on waste recycling and community mobilization for garbage collection. Today the students talk to teachers about the need to bring the project to other communitiestest test test.|| |
| ||- Maria, school director|| |
Moésio, another Water Watcher, says that this advocacy is easier than it used to be: “We encountered many difficulties, but today the population is much more self-policing of the dam in our community.”
Even schoolchildren are in on the act, says Maria, director of the local school. “We organize various activities to raise awareness in the students in classes on waste recycling and community mobilization for garbage collection. Today the students talk to teachers about the need to bring the project to other communities.”
On a recent visit to Brazil, a ChildFund sponsor named Cris saw Water for Life’s impact firsthand. The encounter highlighted the power of what she calls “our little help through sponsorship.” She says, “We realize that the work is hard and long, like planting little seeds that will still take time to bear fruit. But therein lies the beauty of this work: When ChildFund enables the communities to identify the quality of the water, ChildFund is not doing welfare — it is helping, little by little, to create conditions for citizens to stand on their own legs to achieve dignity and a better quality of life.”
And that is the best prize of all.