“bridging the gap for those left behind”
Throughout the developing world, nearly a billion people lack access to an improved water source free of pathogens, parasites and disease. Since such water must frequently be collected from a distance, sometimes queued for, and carried back to the home, it is acquired at the expense of time spent in school, family care, or income generating endeavors, and – given that this task is generally performed by women and girls – it is also at the expense of advancing women’s rights, education, and opportunities.
The most effective way we can contribute in helping to address this problem in the communities in which we work is by addressing ‘point of use’ water treatment possibilities. The means of water treatment we help provide are bio-sand filters (http://www.cawst.org/en/resources/biosand-filter). We promote this method because it is very effective in removing bacteria and pathogens, as well as affordable, durable and sustainable.
We act in various capacities to help provide filters. We finance the establishment of filter manufacturing facilities within our partner organizations from which they operate a cost-recovering filter distribution program. We have also designed small micro-loan packages for households who wish to purchase a bio-sand filter from the area manufacturing center.
We also act to disseminate knowledge, general and technical, on many aspects of water health and sanitation. We host on-site work-shops in which we contract directly with The Center for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology for our instructor. Here we help train our partners’ technicians and health promoters for their work in the field where they share their knowledge with the wider population.
We also reach out to water committees to receive their input on area water concerns. We feel that working with them not only advances improved water access coverage, it also honors local democratic processes on area water concerns. We feel it important to engage as many institutions and individuals as is practical in our work for improved water access.
We put our resources into two types of investment projects: 1) micro-loans; and 2) resource and capacity expansion for our partner organizations.
Within our micro-loans projects, finances are first established within an operating fund and are then loaned out and administrated by our field partner. We presently have three partner organizations; two in Nicaragua and one in Honduras. They all operate a general fund, which is parceled into micro-loans following certain guidelines. Presently, we loan principally to women. We also establish funds for loans designed for families to purchase bio-sand water filters and improved ovens.
Within our capacity expansion projects, we invest directly in our partner organization by helping them to further develop their strengths and resources. Examples of these strategic investments include purchasing and donating iron molds for bio-sand water filters or financing initial production costs. We also contribute towards human resource development by hosting water and health workshops to further train our affiliate’s staffs to add key information and methods to their knowledge base and field capacities.
For our on-site workshops we work directly with The Center for Affordable Water and Sanitation (cawst.org) in Canada by contracting for one of their staff to act as our instructor and seeking their consul in real-time through skype. These workshops are purposed to train our affiliate organizations’ technicians and field workers on water concerns, identifying appropriate water solutions, bio-sand filter construction, community health promotion, and other material. We also host smaller workshops that reiterate this material with a site specific focus.
Throughout all of our endeavors we try to actively engage the communities we assist, and they are represented on many levels. We consult with local, democratically elected water committees on matters such as bio-sand filters, workshops, and wider ecological endeavors. Each of our micro-loan projects includes a democratically-elected credit committee from the associated community. This credit committee reviews and monitors every micro-loan from inception through full repayment.
Our water filter micro-loans include money for fees paid to a local health promotion agency that teaches families how to use and understand their filters. They also assist in monitoring and maintaining filter quality through time. The filter’s material components, as well as the labor needed for their manufacture, are all locally sourced and are therefore a direct boon to the community’s economy. The same can be said for the improved ovens we help make available. These use 50% less wood and contribute to significant respiratory improvements for the family. We also attach an environmental stewardship clause to every micro-loan we issue, meaning these funds can only be used for projects that do no substantive harm to the surrounding ecology.
Our first partner in the region was The Savings and Credit Cooperative of Orfilia Vasquez (COACOV). They began as a Rotating Savings and Credit Association (ROSCA) in 1997, operating in rural areas of the Department of Nueva Segovia in northern Nicaragua. They work principally with landless women and in fact named their cooperative after one of their members who died in childbirth. In addition to microlending, they work directly with their members in developing many critical capacities, including: a greater awareness of women’s health and gender concerns; financial principles and accounting relative to their microloan client needs; and greater environmental consciousness. Beyond training, COACOV meets directly many of the technical, business, and land stewardship needs of their members by: planting and preparing seedlings for use in food gardens and reforestation projects; the installation of ovens that use less wood from the surrounding countryside; and the propagation of important farming and land management practices. In administering microloans, they use solidarity groups. Their legal representative, Rosibel Gonzales, has been active in social issues for 35 years. She is available to provide additional information on our microloan program, as well as any of their other projects, at email@example.com.
Our second partnership in Nicaragua is with The Federation of Rural Associations for Integrated Development (FEDICAMP). Founded in northern Nicaragua and consisting of eleven area associations and dozens of water boards therein, FEDICAMP places a unique emphasis on sustainable water solutions, including: rain harvesting systems, community water-filter construction, wells, and cisterns. One of FEDICAMP’s foremost concerns in their stewardship of the countryside is reforestation. Towards this end they provide seedlings for planting as well as trained technicians on staff to convey these skills to associated families. For the administration of their microloans, FEDICAMP has cultivated credit committees in each of their eleven associations. Their methodology for lending is to eschew group solidarity in favor of individual responsibility, using instruments like collateral and contracts to establish liability. Their Executive Director is Miguel Marin. He is able to answer any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our first partner in Honduras was The Regional Association of Agricultural Services of Eastern Honduras, known as ARSAGRO. Formed as a bean producers’ cooperative in 1993, ARSAGRO has grown in size to represent and assist 1,600 small producer families. These small producers generally farm parcels of land 1-3 acres in size for subsistence, and then sell their surplus back to the coop after harvest. Their biggest client is the United Nations World Food Program. They have recently had some successes in the propagation of organic farming methods and bean varieties. ARSAGRO works with their producer associates year-round and in a great many capacities, including: various training, machinery, technical assistance, and social programs. They also operate finance and microfinance services, all of which further positions them to bring strategic value in our joint lending projects. In administering microloans, ARSAGRO practices a group-lending methodology as well as making individual loans available on a collateralized basis. Their General Manager is Dennis Irias. He is available at email@example.com to answer any inquiries on any of our shared projects or any of ARSAGRO’s many other endeavors and, particularly, some very good beans for sale.
Central America has seen its share of challenges over the past several decades. While some countries have seen sustained economic development, others have often oscillated between stagnation and unarguable deterioration. El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua have spent much of the past half century rifling through civil wars, insurrections, external meddling, and waves of state terror. Altogether, this violence cost over 300,000 lives, wrought havoc upon these countries’ civil institutions, and generally inhibited economic development for years on end. Within the aftermath a security vacuum enabled the surges of violence surronding narcotics traffic to reach monstrous levels making parts of this mesoamerican corridor among the most violent in the entire world.
When measured by the Human Development Index – a composite statistic which collates data on life expectancy, literacy, education, and standard of living – El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, taken altogether, form a basin of poverty that is second only to Haiti in its severity and extent within the Western Hemisphere. These countries post similarly bleak scores when gauged by the Environmental Performance Index, another composite measure focused on environmental health and ecosystem vitality. (i)
Due to it’s unique vulnerability to hurricanes and storms emanating from both the Atlantic and Pacific tropics, Central America is considered to be one of the regions that is most affected by climate change in the world. Central American governments and citizens operate under the cruel paradox of being among those least responsible for global climate change but most impacted by the resulting crises. As these storms have become more severe over the last 30 years, their destruction has been compounded by poor land management practices leading to massive erosion, scoured watersheds, and dropping water tables. The mountainous character of the region further intensifies the effect of these storms as more than 80% of land area in the region is threatened by potential landslides brought on by torrential rain. Crop yields suffer both directly from these storms as well as from the effects from the steady attrition of micro-climates. (ii),(iii),(iv)
However imperiled Central America may be, dire implications for its northern neighbors and the global community hang in the balance as well. At risk within Central America’s environmental performance are not only localized concerns but a stunning 7% of all global biodiversity. Similarly, the region’s grinding poverty impels waves of undocumented migrants northward to the U.S/Mexican border in numbers that have come to vastly exceed even Mexican migrants themselves. (v),(vi)
At Arbor Assets, it is our hope to work with communities in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua in their efforts to achieve sustainable, endogenous water and food provision. Our models of assistance emphasize partnering with community water committees and helping to institute manageable, small-scale water initiatives that provide clean water for household and agricultural uses commensurate with downstream and future interests. To support these aims, we have established capacities to loan finances to community water committees on a project-specific basis. We have also established individualized micro-loan programs to be administered on a per-household basis.
(i) http://wikipedia.com: List of Countries by Human Development Index.
(ii) Europe Aid: Climate Change in Latin America; © Europe Aid; 2009 Belgium.
(iii) United Nations Commission for Latin America; http://reliefweb.int/node/376693; 12/1/2010.
(iv) Reuters: Central America Coffee Land to Shrink as Globe Warms; 5/19/2010.
(vi) New York Times: Better Lives for Mexicans Cut the Allure of Going North; 7/6/2011.
At Arbor Assets, we contribute financial and knowledge-based resources to assist poor, rural communities in less-developed countries engineer their own economic development. We are presently working exclusively in Honduras and Nicaragua. Founded in 2009, we are a U.S. 501(c)3 non-profit organization based out of Lincoln, Nebraska.
We are principally a micro-lending company, though we also make strategic, capacity-expanding grants to our partner organizations, usually in terms of additional education, equipment, or materials. As a micro-lending company, we establish funds for our partner organizations to parcel out and administrate. We presently have three partner organizations; two in Nicaragua and one in Honduras. They all operate a general fund, which is parceled into micro-loans following certain guidelines. We also create funds explicitly for the purchase of bio-sand water filters, and, most recently, improved ovens.
Our micro-loan clients are principly women. While women generally comprise the majority of the agriculture labor force throughout the developing world, they tend to be significantly less productive because they have less access to land, resources, capital, and destination markets. However, addressing this historical inequity can bring a real windfall: multitudes of studies have shown that women, in much higher numbers when compared to men, tend to reinvest their income directly into their families’ food and water supplies, healthcare, home improvement, and schooling. (i)
We believe that increased access to necessary inputs substantially builds women’s capacities and skill sets, and that in doing so, these improvements resound powerfully through families and communities to more speedily engineer greater economic development. Furthermore, decades of experience has plainly demonstrated that women make better microloan clients in terms of their repayment rates when compared to men. For this and the several reasons above, over 95% of our presently outstanding loans are to women. We also look for leadership structures that include women in determining who will be our NGO partners, as well as the water committees that we collaborate with. (ii)(iii)(iv)
We feel it is important to support the local economies and ecologies of the communities in which we work as much as possible – especially within the solutions we advise for their greatest problems. The bio-sand water filter’s material components, as well as the labor needed for their manufacture, are all locally sourced and are therefore a direct boon to the community’s economy. The same can be said for the improved ovens we help make available. We also include a ‘good environmental stewardship’ clause in every micro-loan we issue, meaning that these funds can only be used for pursuits that do no substantive harm to the surrounding ecology.
Whenever possible, it is our intention to include reforestation and agroforestry efforts in our outreach to the communities that we work with. Trees play an extraordinarily important part in managing the hydrological cycle and preserving both groundwater and surface water resources. They prevent soil erosion and stabilize the earth against deadly mudslides. They enrich the soil and sequester pollutants from the earth and its atmosphere. Further environmental services brought by trees include: temperature regulation, habitat for biodiversity, water purification, climate regulation, enhanced pollination, and mitigation of extreme weather events and there effects.
We encourage any communications and are open to many types of collaboration. Please direct any inquires to our Managing Director, Rodney Krafka; firstname.lastname@example.org. Please direct mailings to:
Lincoln NE, 68501-0206
(i) World Bank; World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development; 2012.
(ii) Beatriz Armendariz & Johnathon Morduch; The Economics of Microfinance; MIT Press; 2010.
(iii) Muhammad Yunus; Banker to the Poor; PublicAffairs Press; 2007.
(iv) The World Bank; Microfinance Handbook; World Bank Publications; 2000.