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Laying the ‘Piping’ for a Healthier and More Sustainable Future

By Heather Kaczrowski

“On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 11 pipers piping...”

With support from Opportunity International, communities in developing countries are investing in pipers – though instead of song and dance, these pipers are building aqueducts and piping to bring clean, affordable water to remote villages, significantly improving the health and sanitation for families living in poverty. 

Why water?

Access to clean water is essential to the economic and physical health of families and communities. According to the World Bank, 2.4 million people around the world lack access to adequate sanitation, and approximately 700 million lack access to safe drinking water, causing water-borne illnesses and other diseases. For families living in extreme poverty, medications and hospitalizations can drain financial and personal resources as parents often must stay home to care for the sick, impairing their ability to earn a regular income and break the cycle of poverty. To sustainably address this need, Opportunity is demonstrating how blending the best community economic development strategies with microfinance can help communities tackling chronic issues, such as access to clean water, and accelerate a community’s exit from poverty.

Empowering communities in Nicaragua

Opportunity’s work in Nicaragua is mobilizing local leaders like Ana, pictured above, to identify local needs and drive sustainable, community-led solutions. In Ana’s community, due to an earthquake, families had to travel more than four miles to the nearest well and spend $24 per month for three cubic meters of water— the equivalent to what an average American family of four would use in just two days. After securing a loan from Opportunity on behalf of her community, Ana initiated the construction of a well and piping which is now a self-sustaining project that carries water to the homes of more than 220 families, who spend $5 per month for nearly triple the amount of water. Opportunity continues to provide training, support and financial support for communities to build aqueducts and piping – to date, Opportunity has helped provide more than 2,500 individuals in Nicaragua with clean, accessible and affordable water.

Investing in water to sustain jobs

Access to water not only helps keep a household healthy, it also enables entrepreneurs to more cost-effectively run their businesses. Whether cooking food to sell at a local market, irrigating a small farm or providing vital healthcare services, entrepreneurs are better equipped to grow their businesses with a reliable source of clean, affordable water. Opportunity recently invested in a well in Nicaragua for its yucca processing plant, which is currently getting built by Opportunity to help more than 1,000 yucca farmers extend the fresh time of their yucca from 24 hours to seven days. The well will enable the plant to operate cost-effectively, driving down expenses for yucca farmers while increasing profits. As more wells are constructed and piping installed in Nicaragua, more entrepreneurs will be empowered to grow their business, support their families and ultimately break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their communities. 

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