Friday, June 21, 2013

Reducing Disease and Improving Sanitation in Rural Guatemala by Building Latrines

In searching for local non-profits to partner with, Cause & Affect looks for those organizations that implement a bottom-up model, allowing the local community to speak up and propose solutions for the issues that affect them.

For, this reason, we were overjoyed to discover the work of People for Guatemala, a US and Guatemalan-based NGO that creates development councils of village women that meet to discuss their local issues, propose solutions and then submit a detailed proposal to the organization's board to seek funds.

This model is imperative as it allows the local Mayans, for decades cut off from any involvement in their own development, to identify problems and seek solutions. In many cases, the only thing holding them back from realizing all of their projects is a lack of funding. Cause & Affect visited one such village, Los Magueyes, to learn about their attempts to improve their living situation. Fortunately, they had already addressed two of the most pressing issues:
1. They had built Chapin-style stoves in their home to cut down on respiratory problems caused by use of wood-burning stoves
2. They had installed water purifiers to reduce the amount of
 water-borne diseases
The 3rd issue was addressing the unsanitary and often dangerous latrines they had been using. Without running water, rural Guatemalans use latrines, but the old-fashioned ones (basically a hole in the ground) present a lot of dangers, such as:
1. Flies breed in the waste and then enter the family home, spreading disease through contact with food, etc.
2. Mosquitoes breed in the latrines and spread disease
3. Children accidentally fall into the deep holes, often drowning
4. During rainy season, latrines overflow, spreading waste everywhere
5. Fecal matter seeps into the groundwater, tainting water supply.

What are needed are a special type of dry latrine that separates the waste between urine and feces, as it is this mix that becomes noxious; on its own, the feces biodegrades and can be used to fertilize the fields, as all of these families grow their own food.  These latrines are much safer and do not breed flies or mosquitoes.

The community has seen these special latrines in action and only lacked the start-up funds to make it a reality. Another great component of this development model is the fact that each family makes a financial contribution to the projects, so they have a stake of ownership and maintain the facilities with pride and diligence. With $1,500 Cause & Affect financed the construction of 5 latrines for the community of Los Magueyes. In addition, everything is done on a communal basis. We purchased the materials and dropped them off and taught them how to construct the first latrines and then the village men get together and build the other four. This is the most effective model of communal development and we are very happy to have been able to help the inhabitants of Los Magueyes help themselves! The film shows the success of this model and the entire process in action. To donate to projects like this, simply click here - donations accepted via credit card and Paypal. Wonderful projects like this are financed due to all of your wonderful donations, no matter how small!