In Belize, a better water system promises a better future

Today in the small community of Santa Anna Village, tucked away in Belize’s remote Toledo District, 90 households have woken up with access to running water.

Unlike years past, there is no fear that the pipes will run dry, leaving mothers and children to trek to the nearby Moho River to fetch untreated water to meet their families’ daily needs.

Santa Anna Village, Toledo District on a map of Belize

For the nearly 550 people who live here, having a reliable, safe supply of water also means less visits to the Village Nurse and Health Worker, who have seen and treated far too many residents with skin rashes and diarrhea. These are the telltale symptoms for men, women and children who bathe in the river and stream, particularly during the dry season.

The turnaround for the villagers, 46 percent of whom live below the poverty line, has come through a Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and Government of Belize intervention that upgraded and expanded the village’s rudimentary water system.


A traditional home in Santa Anna Village, Belize
A traditional home in Santa Anna Village, where 46% of the population live below the poverty line.


 

The 20-year old water system was designed to serve the 111 people who lived in Santa Anna when it was built; with the population having almost quintupled in two decades, it was hardly enough.

The old water system that provided just 5,000 gallons per day for the community has been upgraded and expanded. It is now supplied by a 20,000-gallon capacity tank to which households, the community health post, churches and the Santa Anna Government School are now connected.

Supported through the CDB Social Investment Fund II (SIF II) loan, the initiative is a long awaited solution to an unbearable water shortage. Under the SIF II loan project, CDB lends the Government of Belize resources to be made available to Belize Social Investment Fund (BSIF) on a non-reimbursable basis. The Fund uses these resources to finance social and economic infrastructure, social services and organisational strengthening sub-projects in poor rural communities.

Community and Collaboration

When the inauguration ceremony for the upgraded and expanded water system took place on Friday, January 29, it was a strong demonstration of the positive outcomes that can be achieved when communities, governments and development agencies collaborate.

This community, 90% Kekchi Maya and 10% Mopan Maya, has helped drive the intervention, funded by the Caribbean Development Bank and the Government of Belize. From voting to make the water system a development priority, to providing USD13,000 in labor for trenching, the residents of Santa Anna Village have been integral to the process.


 

In Belize, Santa Anna Village residents give the new water system a vote.
Residents giving the new water system their vote.


With the handover of the new system, community involvement deepens. The Santa Anna Water Board will now be responsible for the structures that form part of the new system. This includes operations, security and maintenance. The Board’s charge also includes replacing equipment and supplies such as pumps, chlorinators and metres. Training from BSIF and the Ministry of Labour, Local Government, and Rural Development in water system management, operation and maintenance will ensure the system keeps running efficiently.

 

The Conduit to Improved Livelihoods

Improved access to a safe, sufficient supply of water could be the conduit to improved livelihoods for the Santa Anna Village.

In this farming community, a new water system expands opportunities in agriculture. Already, residents are growing corn, beans, rice and ground provisions for their households and sell the excess in Punta Gorda Town.

Now that there is a reliable water supply, perhaps villagers can now boost their incomes closer to home. They will no longer have to seek employment outside the community to cover basic expenses such as housing, utilities, education and health.

Students at the Santa Anna Government School, particularly adolescent girls, will gain access to better bathroom facilities. Girls will also be able to stay in school longer, instead of having to stay at home to help with water-dependent household chores.


Fetching water at the River near Santa Anna Village in Belize
Fetching water at the River, before the upgrade.


The expansion and upgrade was supported by a SIF II loan of USD287,000 from CDB; a USD14,000 contribution from the Government of Belize, and subsidized labour from the Santa Anna Village community.

The SIF II loan, combined with USD5.5 million and USD1.6 million committed to Belize in the seventh and eighth cycles of CDB’s Basic Needs Trust Fund respectively, continues to support projects in education and human resource development, water and sanitation improvement, and basic community access and drainage improvement across the country.


Child drinks from pipe in Santa Anna Village, Belize.
Children celebrate the expansion and upgrade during the inauguration ceremony in Santa Anna Village on January 29, 2016.