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Haiti - Social : Water at low prices, community-managed
06/11/2011 12:48:13

Haiti - Social : Water at low prices, community-managed
Gomier is one of 15 rural towns and villages in the Gran'Anse, where the national water and sanitation agency (DINEPA), is developing sustainable community-managed water distribution systems.

DINEPA has as initial support of $25 million, donated by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Spanish Cooperation Fund for Water and Sanitation in Latin America and the Caribbean, to complete the investments in rural communities of the rand Anse and three other departments: Nippes (Southwest), Artibonite (Centre), West and particularly the island of La Gonâve.

While local management is a fundamental aspect of the program, the key lies in achieving long-term sustainability, so the community systems can continue to operate and expand after the initial push. Many a well-intentioned project has foundered because sponsors overlooked the costs associated with maintenance and physical depreciation.

Gomier, community of about 2,000 people, now has four kiosks where chlorinated water is dispensed several hours a day. Residents can now buy 20 liters of water for 1 Gourd, the equivalent of two cents.

Since Gomier's new system started operating in December 2010, 14 individual home connections with water meters have also been installed. Although these cost 2,000 gourdes (roughly $50, paid in monthly installments) there is a growing demand for metered service, said Taylor Exantus, a DINEPA official overseeing the program in Grand'Anse. Cherie Serrete, opted for a home connection. In the past she would pay neighbors to fetch water for her. She now pays a flat rate of 50 gourdes per 1,000 liters, which is only slightly more per gallon than water bought at the kiosk.

A portion of the fee, which was established by Gomier's water commission, goes to a savings account to pay for future investments in the community's water system. A smaller portion goes to DINEPA, which supervises the decentralized water systems. The rest of the revenue goes to pay the persons who tend the water kiosks, to cover the local commission's administrative expenses, and to compensate a key figure: the system's operator. In Gomier, that role is filled by François Charles Fils, a strapping young man. Every day he rides his motorcycle to the village's 25-cubic meter tank to fill it up with water piped in from a source higher up in the surrounding mountains. Once the tank is filled, he mixes powdered chlorine in a bucket and treats the collected water.

For François Charles Fils, Gomier represents a model for other rural communities in Haiti. The nearby town of Roseaux initially chose not to participate in the community-managed project, as its authorities were reluctant to charge for the service. According to the supervisor of the DINEPA, the mayor of this village is reconsidering its decision because it found that more and more people, make the trip to Gomier to buy water at a good price.

HL/ HaitiLibre

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