Tell us about the community that you engage? eg. economic conditions, political structures, norms and values, demographic trends, history, and experience with engagement efforts.
Muisne is a county in Ecuador on the northern coast. It has a population of about 30,000 people scattered through dozens of towns, the largest of which has about 12,000 residents. Compared with the rest of Ecuador, Muisne is impoverished. The life expectancy in Muisne is about 10 years less than in other parts of the country. There is a small hospital and several clinics in the county, but they are understaffed and lack necessary equipment such as operating rooms and sterile tools. Nowhere in the county is there a reliable piped water source. The municipal government, because of instability and corruption, has repeatedly failed in its efforts to build adequate water treatment systems, leaving the job to small NGOs like Agua Muisne to provide small-scale drinking water purification. Additionally, Muisne's population is rapidly growing, making it difficult for our water programs to expand rapidly enough to keep up with the steadily increasing demand.
People in Muisne value their health. For the most part, they know they do not have access to safe drinking water and they are motivated to finding ways to obtain it. While the municipal government is generally disorganized, it has committed to support Agua Muisne's efforts in the past and is sincerely interested in improving the health of its citizens.
Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project
I first visited Muisne in 2006. I had spent six weeks working in Muisne's hospital, seeing dozens of children every day with severe gastrointestinal illnesses. I suspected that drinking water might have been the culprit in many of these cases and completed a study to test available water sources in the area. I found that none of the local water sources was safe to drink and in fact, most had thousands of E. coli in just 100mL. Making the link between the hundreds of sick children I had seen while working in the hospital and the bacteria I could see growing on petri dishes motivated me to do something to improve access to clean water in Muisne.
When I came back to the USA, I founded Agua Muisne officially and raised money so I could return to Muisne and build drinking water treatment systems there. Four years later, we have 5 water treatment systems purifying water using sediment filters, activated carbon, and UV sterilization. Each system provides water for 500 people daily. The water is sold for about one cent per liter, enough money to pay for the salary of a manager at each system and for operating costs. Each of our five water systems is a self-sustaining entity that provides both clean water and a source of employment. We have found that people consuming our water have only 48% the diarrheal illnesses of people consuming water from other sources..
I am proud of the success Agua Muisne has had. The credit belongs entirely with the people in Muisne who have supported this project and all the foreign volunteers who have devoted their time to assist Agua Muisne.