AQUACOL: providing services and information for Colombian communities

Date: 9th November 2010

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In Colombia, the national government is responsible for providing water and sanitation infrastructure, but in the rural areas approximately 90 percent of the water and sanitation services are in the hands of community-based organizations. AQUACOL is an association of 33 community- based organizations which provide services to 70,000 inhabitants in the rural and peri-urban areas from the regions of Valle del Cauca and Cauca. Those service providers work on a voluntary basis, being both the suppliers and the beneficiaries.

The advantages of being an association include improved representation and lobbying ability. The more community organizations become official and group together, the more they can improve their level of representation in the water and sanitation sector, thus participating more actively in the related political decisions, and making more visible their needs, problems and strengths.

The guiding principles for growth in AQUACOL are related to work among equals, the capacity to influence state policies, the reduction of operating and maintenance costs through economies of scale, and the generation of larger-scale projects by the associated organizations.

However, delivering water and sanitation services requires knowledge on issues that are often complex. In the region where AQUACOL works, communities are also far from each other, and access to information is poor. In order to improve knowledge sharing and the water and sanitation services, CINARA, which is based at the University of Valle and coordinates WSSCC’s WASH Coalition, helped AQUACOL create the AQUACOL Bulletin to enhance the flow of information.

The AQUACOL Bulletin simplifies water and sanitation information and makes it understandable. Previously, technical information about water and sanitation was not shared with many people. The bulletin is written by the communities for the communities. To improve the authors’ communication skills, workshops are organized to give them the opportunity to enhance their editorial and analytical abilities.

A great advantage of the AQUACOL Bulletin is that its authors are constantly in contact with the target audience, i.e. the water and sanitation professionals in the communities, which makes the bulletin’s information demand-driven and relevant.

For more information on the AQUACOL Bulletin, contact Paola Chaves at paochave@univalle.edu.co. To download the bulletin (in Spanish) visit: http://cinara.univalle.edu.co/index.php?seccion=ARTICULOSPDF&area=37.

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