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Pacific Institute Insights is the staff blog of the Pacific Institute, one of the world’s leading nonprofit research groups on sustainable and equitable management of natural resources. For more about what we do, click here.

  • water-vlogged-no-water-utility

    Water Vlogged: Where There Is No Water Utility

    By Misha Hutchings, Senior Research Associate

    September 27, 2013

    In cities throughout Indonesia, utilities employ some of the latest technologies to supply treated water to millions of residents. However, service still isn’t available to thousands of those who are living in informal neighborhoods (slums) or just outside service networks. How, then—and from where—do these residents get their daily water for drinking, bathing, and washing? Here are just a few examples of typical urban water sources in medium and large-size Indonesian cities. …»

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  • community-choices-system-8-13

    Where Have We Reached on Our WASH Models Journey and What Impacts Have They Made?

    By Dr. John Akudago, Senior Research Affiliate 

    August 13, 2013 

    A month ago, I blogged on “Improving Access to Water and Sanitation: Is the Answer Individual Behavioral Change?” After several reflections, thoughts on “model journeys and changes we have seen as well as travelled on this road” keep coming to mind. The answer is still not clear. Hence the need to continue to ask, “Where are we on the model journey and what changes have we seen as we travel on these journeys?”

    Fresh from college, in the mid-1990s I had the opportunity to be part of a team to develop a participatory model of rural community water and sanitation supply in Ghana. Before the participatory model era, many communities in Ghana, especially in the northern part of the country, had received water supply wells that were financed and managed by the central government. Various types of hand pumps metamorphosed (from monarch, mono, etc. types) in order to reduce the frequent breakdowns and cost of repairs. Changes in hand pumps, however, did not result in any significant increase in communities’ independence, ownership, management, and maintenance of the hand pumps, since they still had to report repair and maintenance issues to a central point which took several days to months before any decision was made as to whether to repair them or not. …»

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  • infographic-water-barringer

    Unleashing the Information Floodgates: the Right to Information in Water and Sanitation Provision

    By Misha Hutchings, Senior Research Associate

    July 19, 2013

    Working closely with communities in Ghana, Indonesia, and India has given us firsthand, sobering insight into the problems affecting the 783 million people in the world without safe water and 2.5 billion without sanitation. Undeniably, the lack of safe and reliable water and sanitation services in low- and lower-middle-income countries impacts women, poor people, and other marginalized groups the hardest. They spend disproportionate amounts of time and money and risk health and safety for basic needs—a glass of water or use of a toilet—for which other people within the same borders yet of different socio-economic statuses and means don’t have to give a second thought (see infographic below). …»

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  • blog-akudago1-6-25-13

    Improving Access to Water and Sanitation: Is the Answer Individual Behavioral Change?

    By Dr. John Akudago, Senior Research Affiliate 

    June 25, 2013 

    Born and raised in rural Africa where I spent my youthful life, open defecation was not only the norm but preferred to outhouses that were poorly ventilated and unbearably hot. We did not understand the consequences of exposing human waste around our houses. At that time, the best practice for sanitation and hygiene was to use a hoe to excavate the ground and bury our feces during the farming season so that the food we grew in the wild did not get contaminated. …»

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  • Notes from the Field: What We Know about Indonesian Urban Residents, Water Utilities, Local Government Agencies and NGOs at the Beginning of Our Third Year Developing WASH SMS

    By Misha Hutchings, Senior Research Associate

    February 5, 2013

    Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success. – Henry Ford.

    December marked the beginning of year three in the development of the WASH SMS platform through our pilot project in Indonesia. The Institute and our partners Nexleaf Analytics and PATTIRO have been developing two Indonesia WATER SMS systems …»

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  • Rosyid awaiting customers in his shop where he sells secondhand mobile phones, handpon bekas, at prices the poor in Malang can afford.
Source: Misha Hutchings

    Notes from the Field: Mobile Phones Within Reach

    By Misha Hutchings, Senior Research Associate

    Septemeber 26, 2012

    Due to their ubiquity in low- and lower-middle income countries, mobile phones are being used throughout the developing world to connect the poor with a range of information and services that can transform their lives: education, election polling information, peer-group (mental health) support, health services, disaster relief, and micro-banking. Indonesia is ranked fifth in the world for number of mobile phone subscribers …»

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  • Pictured Above: Mr. Abdulai Ibrahim standing in front of the stand pipes

    Notes from the Field: Multiple Use of Water Allows Disabled Man to Live Comfortably

    By Dr. John Akudago, Senior Research Associate

    December 12, 2011

    Abdulai Ibrahim lost his leg during an accident several years ago. Like many disabled persons in Ghana, Mr. Ibrahim could have been forced to beg on the street or depend on his extended family members for support. Instead, he opted to fend for himself through an innovative multiple use of water system. …»

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  • pilot_project_location

    Notes from the Field: Waterways

    by Meena Palaniappan, Program Director
    December 5, 2011 

    In parts of Indonesia, waterways are used to wash clothes, bathe, deposit litter, and sometimes used as a toilet.

    Indonesia is a beautiful place full of people with ready smiles. It is a democratic country with a rich cultural history. Given it is identified as one of the rising Southeast Asian economies, I was excited to see the state of water here. While our Indonesia WATER SMS Project is working on water services, a long time passion of mine has been urban waterways. I’ve always looked at urban waterways as the soul of a city. They are the reasons that human settlements emerged, and can be such a focal point of an urban area. What stories would waterways in Indonesian cities tell?

    Sadly, it was all too similar to what can be seen in India, Africa, and Central America. It always amazes me that so many of the waterways running through cities are running sewers. A site that could be such a source of beauty is often polluted and littered beyond recognition. In India, Indonesia and in many places, the poorest communities, who often don’t have adequate water and sanitation services, can be found living next to waterways. The water is used to wash clothes, bathe or deposit litter, and the waterway is sometimes used as a toilet. What could be high value “river-front” property (!) is instead the smelliest, dirtiest part of the city. My hope is that one day in Jakarta, Malang, Chennai, Mumbai and cities across the world, buildings can face towards the water and people can find recreation along the banks of waterways. Wouldn’t it be amazing if waterways that at one time created reasons for people to build cities, could once again become the soul of the city?

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  • Notes from the Field: How Can We Promote Sustainable WASH Facilities at the Community Level? Naba Kuliga in Burkina Faso Joins the Discussion.

    by John Akudago, Senior Research Associate
    November 14, 2011

    I took a recent trip to Burkina Faso to conduct a learning session on the WASH decision-making tool (www.washchoices.org) currently being developed by Pacific Institute.  I arrived in the town of Sabtenga, a rural community located in the Northern part of Burkina Faso about 50 kilometers north of Ouagadougou.

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    Sa Majesty Naba Kuliga, Chief of Sabtenga, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

    As part of the traditional custom, visitors intending to hold meetings within the community must first report to the Chief.  I arrived at his house about 300m north of the village market to find the 66 year old community chief, Sa Majesty Naba Kuliga, seated in front of his house.  After welcoming us and listening to our mission, he smiled and gave blessing for the meeting. The photos below shows Naba Kuliga.

    As I prepared to leave for the meeting grounds, Naba Kuliga requested a private conversation with me. Unsure of what he had to tell me, I moved back to squat before him as local culture demands.  According to him, of the town’s 7 hand-pumps wells, only 4 of them functioned for a population of 4,315.  “It takes over 3 hours to get water from the hand-pumps. Fighting among the women and children at the pump site is normal and a daily activity they have to undergo”.  I knew 7 hand-pumps for 4,315 people translated to over 600 people per hand-pump which was still not enough compared to the standard of 300 people per hand pump. Worst of all, 3 of the hand pumps had been broken down for a very long time and were not repairable. I asked the chief why they did not have enough water. Naba Kuliga responded by saying, “When we are assisted with water or sanitation facilities, the providers forget to ask us why we need the water or toilet for and how can we use the water or the toilet to sustain the facility provided.”  He asked, “how are we to survive and continue farming on three months of rainfall, especially when the rains are not regular. Not to mention, having any extra money to spend towards the maintenance of the hand-pumps.”  Though they knew what to do to maintain the hand-pumps (buying part and seeking for a mechanic to repair), the problem lay in finding the means to do it.As the meeting with the community progressed, it became clear that the community had been given hygiene messages and had been educated and provided with ecological sanitation facilities, but those messages and facilities provided to them are not sustainable. The community members could not practice whatever they had learned from their educators because they lacked water to maintain personal hygiene and clean the toilets. They had no knowledge of other technologies that required less cleaning.  In order to make their contributions towards sustaining the water facilities at the village, women would clear the little forest for firewood to sell and generate income. “This was not only an issue of desertification, but it forced them to be dependent on external assistance,” the village chief said.  Naba Kuliga thinks if NGOs and development partners want to succeed with sustainable community WASH facilities, they must explore beyond just providing single-use water for the communities but rather engage the communities in a dialogue to understand the needs of the communities and design a facility that could take care of multiple needs. He said helping the communities to fish would promote sustainability rather than just providing the fish for them. Based on these ideas, people who were present at the learning session think empowering communities would release trapped knowledge and would promote their ability to contribute during discussions towards providing the community with water and sanitation facilities.

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  • Notes from the Field: DIY: Do-It-Yourself as a Way of Life

    by Misha Hutchings, Research Associate
    September 17, 2011

    do_it_yourself_water_container.jpg

    Transport-it-yourself: Various water containers that are filled and carried back to neighboring homes with no running water – a 20-liter jerry container, when full, can weigh about 45 lbs. Tallo, Makassar.

    DIY is one of those terms that is at once so familiar to me and seems universally used and understood, but in reality it takes on a very different meaning in different contexts, cultures or countries.

    Although the term DIY (do-it-yourself) emerged in the 1950s, in the past 10 years it has come into widespread use in the US to describe the “can-do” attitude to complete a job without the aid of experts or professionals (who are usually widely available) or not purchase a ready-made product and instead to do or make it yourself. DIY projects range from hand crafts such as knitting and jewelry-making, to gourmet cooking, and home and car repairs. In one sense, it is a hobby. After all, you could probably choose to have someone else with knowledge and experience do it faster and sometimes more cheaply, but it must be out of pleasure that you take the task upon yourself.

    In another sense, it is a show of self-efficiency and cleverness (“Why yes, I did brew that beer/install that veggie oil fuel system/make that music video/build that composting toilet all by myself in my spare time.”). Somehow, at some point our culture got out of touch with performing some of the most basic tasks and instead chose to outsource, and it has come into fashion to choose to do some of these things with our own two hands again. Whether for cost-saving, quality control, or hobby, DIY by and large is a trend to show others that you simply can.

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    CIY – Clean-it-yourself (right): Water filtration with a cloth next to a household water well, in Banta Bantaeng, Makassar.

    Why? Because there is a choice involved. Once interest or patience in doing-it-yourself fades away, one can simply revert back to having others provide you with most everything you need or desire, cheaply.

    But what if there was no choice? What if you had to grow your own food, make your own clothes, or go out and find your own bathing and drinking water by yourself? Without training or knowledge to undertake the task, how safe would the water collected be for your family to consume, every day?

    I couldn’t help but think about this contrast as I visited different communities in Makassar, South Sulawesi. When it comes to basic needs, such as supplying household water, Indonesians are no strangers to DIY, because some of them have few or no options.

    There are some services that are better performed by specialists. But if the specialists aren’t making their services available, what do you do? If the services are basic necessities and yet aren’t affordable, what choice do you have? DIY, then, is not a choice, but a way of life.

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