Significant observations during March 2015 visit by
Tom Cunningham, Bruce Britton & Bill McQueeney
First of all, our schedule, our travels and their impact.
We arrived in Managua on Saturday, March 14th and departed 8 days later. We travelled extensively going from community to community in the back of a covered pick up along horrible roads for 6 of those days. We visited 5 rural communities, connected with the mayors and other officials of 3 municipalities and had meetings inManagua on the first Sunday and the last Saturday with APLV's leaders. In the process of all of this we also received updates and points of view from our APLV Rio Blanco team. It has taken awhile to organize and prioritize events.
We met with Aynn Setright, president of the APLV Nicaragua Board. Aynn had a number of concerns.
Perhaps worst was that APLV are dealing with a 2015 budget that shows them to have an $80K deficit. They will not survive that. (Relax! Gilles informed me on April 2nd that he plans to take care of this deficit. Furthermore, he plans to provide for budget deficits over the next 5 years on a descending basis, providing 20% less each year. WHEW)
APLV needs to have 5-6 projects each year to absorb their engineering and construction operations overhead. To accomplish this they need a backlog of "shovel ready" projects to send to foundations and other contributors for possible funding. It often takes foundations 6 months to a year to review and decide whether to support a project. So APLV may need up to 10 projects in their pipeline on a continuing basis to generate a stream of funding that will support 5-6 projects per year.
There is a need to improve acquaintance between the Team in Rio Blanco and the Board inManagua. It is to be hoped that will occur as each gets to know and appreciate the other better. I think that the initiative has to be with the Board. Perhaps if some members traveled to rural communities with RB folks they would gain a grasp of the challenge Team RB has and appreciate them more. Then, perhaps, Team RB would appreciate the Board more .
Following our meeting with Aynn, Jaime and two of the Team took us by truck to Matagalpa so we could be off very early Monday AM for our visit to themunicipalityofRancho Grandeand the site of RWV's first project this year, El Achiote Kuskawas.
Matalgalpa to Rancho Grande & El Achiote Kuskawas
Our meeting with "la alcalde", the mayor of Rancho Grande, went very well. She is a strong supporter of increasing the availability of safe water and sanitation to her rural communities, She sees APLV as an excellent partner with RG to help attract these communities to request a project. There are over 70 rural communities in RG and over 50 are without safe water and sanitation. Overcoming this is a major priority for her.
We moved on along, with the vice mayor of RG, to the community of El Achiote Kuskawas to meet with their CAPS (Committee for Safe Water and Sanitation). The truck ride to there was long and bumpy. There was a small turnout of committee members and local beneficiaries. The project is off to a slow start because the weather has been especially rainy and this has damaged the bean crop badly. Rather than show up to work on the water project folks have been focused on drying out their beans before they spoil.
Both Jaime and the vice mayor spoke to the locals encouraging them to pick up their pace and enthusiasm. The vice mayor said that he would be back to see progress and to encourage them.
We returned to Matagalpa to stay overnight in preparation for visiting Valle de Casa, site of our 2014 project, to celebrate with the community on Tuesday.
Valle de Casa
Valle de Casa is a very high spirited community. Each home in the community now has access to abundant quantities of safe water and hygienic sanitation. They are thrilled.
We enjoyed an excellent celebration featuring a kids drum band, singing, dancing and other musical entertainment, numerous speeches and, of course, a very nice meal for all.
The mayor of themunicipalityofSan Dionisiowas present The municipality had contributed funds to the project. The mayor spoke warmly of APLV and their ability to help communities obtain durable access to safe drinking water and hygienic sanitation. We spoke with the mayor about San Dionisio & APLV working together to find & encourage other communities to consider approaching APLV about undertaking a project. He was strongly supportive.
Lirio de los Valles
The Project at Lirio de los Valles was completed in 2011. The purpose of our visit was to see how well the system was working and how well it was being operated and maintained.
We met with the pastor and a few residents. At Lirio the pastor continues to be a very strong presence. He is not the coordinator of the committee but he is the treasurer and runs a very tight ship! His records show that the treasury has a decent balance available to address problems.
They are having some problems with water meters breaking because of the high pressure. But the committee is handling it OK. They fix what meters they can and remove meters when they are not able to be fixed. Beneficiaries in cases where the meter is removed are charged the lowest fixed rate for their water. APLV indicated that they will help the community to address and overcome this meter pressure issue.
They have a maintenance program for the tank and for the spring box which has worked satisfactorily to date.
The pastor & APLV believe that the CAPS is functioning well.
(1)First meeting was with reps from municipality of Paiwas & RAAS @ Ubu Norte,
RAAS= Atlantic Autonomous Region South
Joining us for the trip to Ubu Norte, site of the Paiwas municipal offices, was a woman, la Doctora del Consejo Regional, representing the RAAS as a member of the regional government public health team. As of that date, Paiwas has signed on with APLV to pay US$20,000 as their share of the project cost. Esteban Cantillano's son Freddie is the engineering rep for Paiwas for this project.
The Doctor said that she will recommend to the governor that he authorize their share. RAAS, Paiwas & APLV will meet again on April 9th to conclude a deal to provide APLV with US$32,000 and to choose a start date. Both representatives from themunicipality ofPaiwas and la Doctora del Consejo Regional expressed interest in an ongoing association with APLV to attract other rural communities in the municipality and within the region to request a water and sanitation project.
(2)Meeting with reps from municipality of Paiwas & RAAS & CAPS from Calderon @ Pueblo Nuevo
The second gathering was with reps frommunicipalityofPaiwas, RAAS & CAPS and others from Calderon @ Pueblo Nuevo to discuss project preparation & launch issues. The site for this was the rural community of Pueblo Nuevo, a rural community way east of Ubu Norte & well west of Calderon. Calderon itself was too far a round trip from Rio Blanco in one day.
Five members of the Calderon Comite including their Health Promoter (who is also a teacher in the Calderon school) and 3 beneficiaries rode three hours on horseback to reach Pueblo Nuevo. They said that the community was very disappointed that our meeting was not being held in Calderon. They wished to show us how important doing this project is to them. We got that impression quite clearly from the comite and beneficiarios who came to Pueblo Nuevo.
Esteban advises that 100% of the community participants have signed a compromise.
The hospitality by the folks in Pueblo Nuevo was gracious and generous.
Walana el Achiote
The project for safe water and hygienic sanitation at Walana el Achiote was completed in 2012.
We met with the comite to discuss how things are going. We discovered that there are some problems because of heavy rains saturating the ground which then causes pin holes in some pipeline joints which In some cases these then propagate. The comite is working to replace such pipe joints. In spite of this the system continues to deliver water to each residence.
The comite operates a maintenance. Indeed, they have a hand written manuals for maintenance & operation.
The treasury has C$4732 in reserve presently to cover repair needs.
It was a good gathering with 4-5 comite members attending followed by an engaging lunch and then a visit to a good sized multi crop working farm. Amazing really. The number of different crops, the size of the acreage with crops and that's it's all done by hand. And only 4-5 farm hands!!
Carmen Gonzales, national coordinator of APLV Nicaragua met withTom& me. Carmen's principal office is inManagua. However she travels often to Rio Blanco to collaborate with Team APLV there.
Carmen's concerns mirrored those of Aynn Setright on Sunday the 15th.
She also noted her concerns that APLV needs to generate more proposals to foundations and other large donors starting now. She points out that these organizations usually require 6 months or more to approve a proposal. She also notes that no more than 50% of proposals made will result in funding.
Because of those two considerations Carmen believes that we need to have an inventory of 10 proposals at any one time to bring about the generation of 6 projects per year. Six projects per year should allow us to absorb all overhead through distribution to projects.
Carmen believes strongly that APLV needs better and more efficient ways to generate proposals than the informal, unscheduled ways that have worked in years past.
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