This year's projects
United Caribbean Trust
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THE TEN DOLLAR CLUB - Nicaragua Rope Pump, February 2003
El Porvenir's mission
To improve the standard of living of poor people in Nicaragua through sustainable self-help water, sanitation and reforestation projects.
improve the health of poor people, especially the children, and to reduce
FUEL SAVING COOKING STOVES:
Since 1998, El Porvenir has promoted reforestation in the Ciudad Dario area, and since 2001 in the El Sauce and Camoapa regions, in villages where we have supported self-help water and latrine projects. The villagers have worked very hard to dig their well by hand, or to enclose their spring and dig trenches for a pipeline to the village. They are highly motivated to protect the water table on which these water projects depend.
Our reforestation workers promote small village seedling nurseries next to the well or spring, where villagers grow seedlings which can be transplanted when the rains come. To date, in 28 villages, over 81,000 trees have been planted throughout the microwatersheds in which the villages are located, in small parcels enclosed with barbed wire and watched over by the communities.
In 2002, a aspect of the reforestation program was launched: fuel saving cooking stoves.”
The major cause of deforestation in Central Nicaragua is cutting firewood for cooking. Campesinos really have no alternative. For people whose average annual income is about $350, the cost of a kerosene stove or a gallon of kerosene is a serious sum, and the cost of a propane stove is unthinkable. Firewood grows in the hills around the village and is free. An army of children descends on the woods and fields of Nicaragua with machetes every morning, busily deforesting the country. Commercial lumbering operations have also contributed to the deforestation of the Ciudad Dario area, which is now classified as a semi-arid zone. But the principal causes of the region’s deforestation are the cutting of trees for cooking fuel and for agricultural uses. Since this problem is created by the campesino way of life, the solution must come from the same people. It is critical that rural families grow and replace trees, and use less firewood to cook.
Designed by a resident of one of El Porvenir’s water project villages, the type of fuel saving stove we promote is built on a platform of stone, on top of which a firebox of bricks is constructed, and two or three openings are made on top above the firebox for the woman’s pots and “comal”, a flat griddle for cooking tortillas. A chimney made of concrete pipe at the back of the stove leads smoke up and out of the house. This chimney is a major improvement in the health of woman and children, who spend many hours each day in kitchens. The incidence of eye damage and respiratory disease is extremely high among rural women.
The fuel-saving stove uses up to 50% less firewood to cook the same amount of beans, rice, tortillas, and coffee, the staple foods of the rural family. The stove costs about $40 in materials, and El Porvenir pays the artesan about $40 for two days’ work in building and teaching others in the village how to build the smokeless, fuel-saving stove.
Solar cookers would be the most desirable solution, but they have several serious problems from the campesino’s point of view: they don’t work at 4 a.m. when the women get up to make tortillas and coffee, they don’t work when it rains, they don’t work at night, and they must be protected from free ranging domestic animals, which abound in all rural villages (pigs, goats, chickens, cows).The fuel-saving stove is less desirable from an ecological standpoint but more culturally acceptable to the villagers. Since we introduced the stove pilot project in 2001, we have had many requests from other women in the same villages where the pilots were built, and from women in nearby villages who have heard about them, for assistance in building these stoves. We plan to triple the number of stoves in 2003. We hope we have started a trend!!
WATER: ECONOMIC GOOD OR HUMAN RIGHT?
The third meeting of the World Water Forum, held in the three neighboring cities of Kyoto, Shiga, and Osaka from March 16-23, 2003, was hailed as the most important international water meeting ever held. More than 20,000 participants from 182 countries attended the Forum, which was called to stimulate global awareness of water problems, discuss policy issues concerning water, and to ensure compliance with the United Nations’ goal to “reduce by half the number of people with no access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015”.
The conference produced a 6- page Ministerial Declaration which was supposed to translate ideas to concrete action and outline specific agreements, but was so vague that many critics have labeled it a “model of blandness”. Most of the commitments described in the declaration had been heard at previous conferences and added nothing . Reference to water as a “basic human right”, which was approved by the UN last November, was completely omitted from the declaration. In addition, the ministers of nearly 100 countries failed to establish concrete plans or to commit money to the water problems of the world.
By far the most controversial segment of the declaration was a call for cooperation between the public and private sectors in the financing of water projects. To bring in these private sector funds, the privatization of the management of water services was considered. There was much op position to privatization on the ground that privatization would make it more difficult for poor people to have access to safe drinking water. Protesters noted that the sessions on financing were being hosted by the World Bank, the IMF, and other regional de velopment banks so that they could push their own agendas at the expense of the poor. These agendas include large projects such as dams and other major water diversion schemes, instead of simpler and more appropriate technologies which can be used to conserve water more effectively for the world’s poor and the environment. Although the UN played an important role at the Forum, many felt that representatives from the World Bank and the IMF, and CEOs from the world’s largest water corporations had too great an influence in the Forum.
Meanwhile, a different and much smaller water conference was simultaneously occurring in Florence, Italy, known as the First People’s World Water Forum. Representatives from environmental, development, farmer, and other NGO’s gathered to provide concrete solutions for the world’s poor and the environment at the grass-roots level without privatization and deregulation of the world’s water. Participants in the Peoples Forum claimed that higher consumer prices, bulk water exports, lack of regulatory oversight, and corruption make it very difficult to justify water privatization in the developing world. A commodity that is a “basic human right” should not be in the hands of those who think of it as an “economic good”, they say. The famous case in Cochabamba, Bolivia, exemplifies their point that poor people will not be better served if they can no longer afford to pay their water bill due to a dramatic rate increase. There, massive protests, resulting in one fatality, forced the government to reduce the water rates and prompted the cancellation of a contract between the government and a consortium, led by the San Francisco’s based Bechtel Corporation.
Those opposed to privatization believe that policy makers in the developed countries should stop requiring Third World countries with crumbling economies to give access to private companies as a condition for receiving development aid, grants, and loans. Instead, these policy makers need to focus on enabling local governments to serve the poor by working with local communities and NGOs whose sole interest is in serving poor people’s needs.
Born in the 1980’s during the United Nations International Drinking
Water Decade, El Porvenir began as an off-shoot of Habitat for Humanity’s
self-help housing program in Nicaragua
Includes members who have all either lived and worked long term in Nicaragua
or have traveled to Nicaragua to visit El Porvenir projects and staff
Learn more at: www.elporvenir.org
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