COMMUNITY SURVEYS AND SELECTION
Our process begins with the selection of communities we will begin our project in. This is a very important, methodic and strategic process that is vital to the sustainability of the project.
We work closely with the government structures in Massinga and the broader province. We are very aware and up-to-date on their priorities, difficulties, and concerns of their vulnerable populations. The local government has constant monitoring of their at-risk areas in the district, despite not having the resources to address them. We align with their primary assessment of those communities and, in an effort to align with the government's efforts for development, use these communities as our jumping off point.
WE CONDUCT SEVERAL ON-SITE SURVEYS IN THESE COMMUNITIES.
The primary survey assesses the vulnerability of the community and collects data on:
- Where they are currently fetching water from (primary and secondary sources)
- Quality of those sources
- Distance to those sources
- Number of families in the community & Density of population (we have found this to be a very important factor for community cohesion)
- Disease & history of outbreaks in the community
- Attendance rates of boys and girls in the school (if those numbers are affected by water/sanitation related issues)
- Condition of the school and if there are local latrines made (leading to insight for our secondary survey)
- Sanitation situation in community (open defecation levels)
- Economic fabric
- Various other collected stats
THE SECONDARY SURVEYS
ARE VERY IMPORTANT.
Community Engagement is a fundamental platform in the Water Underground model, and we must be sure that they are willing to be a part of their development, breaking the systemic dependence on foreign aid, and ensure that this will be their project, leading to overall sustainability.
During this survey, we include the Chief, head of the school, Traditional Leader, and Pastor and request them to gather respected elders in the community.
We have a long conversation and first listen to their story. Understand their situation - outside of statistics - and what their vision is. We begin to see their personality.
We ask questions and gather insight to:
- How mobilized the community is as a whole
- If they are willing to have 'skin in the game' via training and investments of their time that all lead to ownership of the project.
- If the chief is willing to have new leaders emerge to support the development of the community.
- If they have already tried (on their own without government/NGO support) to develop and improve their lives (ie building their own latrines for the children in the school, building their own classrooms in the school from local materials, etc)
We openly explain to the community that we are surveying other communities and we are not able to do projects in every community. In an effort to further understand the potential emotional and literal skin in the game from these communities, the community then submits a proposal to our team explaining why we should do a project in their community and how it will impact them. Of course, we get many of the same answers, but we continue to hear their community voice develop.
THE NEXT STEP
Once we have decided on which communities would be good candidates, we ask if they would be willing to form an official Water Oversight Committee (16 members, majority women. More on that structure on the next pages), and if they would be willing to be financially responsible for the sustainability of the well (ie community contributions for maintenance and repair).
If the answers are yes, we begin a partnership with the new community and the process begins.
Community engagement is VITAL to the success of the projects. We involve the community in every process, from the initial design stage through implementation, making them decision makers right alongside us. This creates a two-way street between the beneficiaries and Water Underground. For the community, it gives them a voice in the process, explains their concerns, and communicates how their issues may be addressed most effectively. It also builds trust in us, the implementers, creating community buy-in. This community-based approach ensures both local pride and local applicability to the project, ultimately leading to sustainable, long-term successes.