In rural areas when a family has clean and accessible water, its members lives change. Citizen engagement is at the forefront when addressing poor people needs, as well as local initiatives based upon shared visions and efficient, accountable organization.
Water Initiative exists for one purpose: collaborate with rural poor people and established authorities to improve collaboration around local water and sanitation sustainable projects.
In the case of San Ramon, the situation is critical: more than 35% of the total 91,000 citizens living in isolated small villages are lacking formal water services and about 45% have not sanitation infrastructure. Thus, health is below the national standards, even below the state’s conditions.
The social and institutional settings: a major challenge
- The urbanization of rural localities and the nuclearization of the family have created new forms of identification and community organization.
- Nuclearization is the process of movement and shift from joint family system to nuclear family system, to switch off from joint family and switch on to nuclear family is nuclearization. Different factors are responsible for the nuclearization of a family, these includes; industrialization, rapid communication and transport, decline of agricultural and village trades, individual freedom, better socialization of children, and privacy.
- The diversifications of economic activities and spatial displacement have opened the way for specific and differentiated identification of households´ members.
- The change has been rapid. Last three generations are very different their perception of what the rural life is. In one family, grandparents, parents and children consider rural life from different perspectives, often incompatible.
- For grandparents, the indigenous language, corn and traditional dress are practices that affirm identity.
- For the younger, agriculture has lost meaning, as well as the indigenous language and the importance of peasant life and culture. This however does not cancel an appreciation of rural life.
- The family remains the bond of cohesion, including at the community level.
- Rural actors live nowadays closely articulated to a pluralistic society and culture that enable, even today, the coexistence of several modernization projects.
- For the elders, modernization was improving their traditional agriculture, better technical services and more financial support, while they migrated seasonally to the city to work as construction workers.
- For the next generation, life in the town started seeming possible. Instead, traditional agriculture became progressively unable to meet the family needs. Some obtained opportunities to leave the countryside; others started new jobs, in local or municipal retailing activities.
- For younger, chances are in professions such as teachers, and trade in the town, in the county seat or in the nearby towns.
- At present the programs and projects to combat poverty have been decentralized. However, the old forms of clientelism remain as a dominant framework in the relationship between the state and the citizens.
- The transfer of resources to the municipalities has increased the power of local elected officials and the bureaucracy. Poverty alleviation programs have chosen to have local representatives, in some cases elected by the population. However, families with more local power have managed to obtain the new roles for their members.
- On the other side, political activity has increased, mainly because of the greater importance of the municipal budget. New local representatives of political parties, mostly members of the most powerful families, are increasingly competing at elections. During the election promises abound, both in improving public services and offer opportunities for local economic revitalization. Then, during the course of their mandate, the authorities are inclined to projects involving construction projects and short-term results. The public works and services have value for electoral credibility of elected officials. Something similar happens in the municipal bureaucracy, which is a link in the chain of clientelism and not always subordinate to elected officials.
- In the case of water and sanitation services new works fail to meet the demands of the population. First, it happens because of the scarcity of financial resources. Second and more importantly, because of the weakness of the municipal body responsible for operating the services. New works often suffer deterioration or malfunction, which are not treated on time. Beneficiaries do not have a sense of ownership of these new works and services: they are felt as part of the promise of the successful candidate, nor as subjects that require proactive control and evaluation from the citizens. All in all, the condition of poverty and marginalization favors the persistence of clientelism in the provision, operation and performance of public services.