Water Sustainability: Cultural Patterns and Household Dynamics

Faculty:  Rachel Hall-Clifford, PhD, MPH, MSc


Project Objectives
  • To understand the availability of safe water and sanitation in rural Guatemala
  • To understand the interconnections and responsibilities of government, local and international NGOs, and the private sector in the provision of essential services in Guatemala
  • To explore the role of social enterprise in community development
  • To query the concept of sustainability as a development paradigm
  • To develop occupational perspectives and analyses on water procurement at the household level, focusing of women and children, in the context of rural Guatemala
  • To position safe drinking water within human rights and social and occupational justice frameworks
 Project Activities

The Sustainable Social Enterprise group will explore Guatemala’s progress on Millennium Development Goal 7, focusing on Target 7C to halve the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe water and sanitation.  The Guatemalan government remains unable to provide adequate access to safe water for rural populations, leaving them vulnerable to intestinal infections and poor health outcomes.  Transportation of water and its purification typically falls to women or children within Guatemalan households, and distant water sources can pose a significant daily occupational burden.  To address these issues, highly-regarded social enterprise EcoFiltro (http://www.ecofiltro.org/en) provides affordable household water filters through an innovative rural business model in which urban sales offset the cost of filters for rural households.  EcoFiltro requires community adoption of the filter program and implements filter maintenance and hygiene training prior to distributing filters; individual households receive ongoing support and are required to make modest monthly payments for their filters.

The Sustainable Social Enterprise group will partner with EcoFiltro to conduct a program evaluation of rural implementation processes.  Employing qualitative research methods, students will interview EcoFiltro rural field representatives and key staff and conduct interviews and/or focus groups with rural end-users.  Based on this first-hand research, students will highlight trends in community and household adoption of the water filters, with particular attention to community adoption rates and household payment rates.  Research findings will be shared and strategies for program improvement will be developed collaboratively with EcoFiltro.

Key competencies gained will include: in-depth knowledge of social enterprise as a development strategy; qualitative research techniques, including in-depth interviewing and focus group discussion; basics of public health program evaluation; development of an occupational critique, and executive report writing.

NOTE: Students’ willingness to contribute to the report in the 2-4 weeks following the field school end date of August 3 is requested, in order to complete the writing, editing, and/or posting of the report.