Photo by Tanushree Rao from Timoer-Leste on Unsplash

Moderation should be exercised in all things, as excess is always damaging. For everything there is an optimal size or rate…

Written by #ebbfmember Oscar Zuluaga

The Context:

I was in a humanitarian mission in East Timor; I arrived in October 2001 and left in June 2003.
“Timor-Leste, a country in Southeast Asia that occupies part of the island of Timor, is surrounded by coral reefs full of marine life. Monuments in the capital, Dili, recount the country’s struggles for independence from Portugal in 1975 and, later, from Indonesia in May 20–2002.

The most widely spoken language in Timor-Leste was Indonesian at the time of the Indonesian occupation, and today is Tetum (most widely spoken in the capital). Tetum and Portuguese form the country’s two official languages, while Indonesian and English are considered working languages by the current constitution of Timor-Leste.

Timor-Leste has an average income below that of the world economy, a population of almost 1,300,000 inhabitants (2017) and an area of 15,007 km2, with 37.4% of the country’s population living below the international poverty line, which means living on less than US $ 1.25 a day, and about 50% of the population is illiterate. The country continues to suffer the side effects of a decades-long struggle for independence against Indonesian occupation, which severely damaged the country’s infrastructure and killed at least 100,000 people. The country is ranked 128th in the Human Development Index (HDI). However, it had the sixth highest percentage growth in gross domestic product in the world in 2013.”- source: Wikipedia-

The Need

Many families in rural areas have to seek drinking water from public pipes, wells, springs or water.There are many villages were the people need to walk a lot to collect water.

How to work with rural communities, applying the “moderation”?

We had a team of local people with experience in water and sanitation, who work as follows:

1. Community leaders contacted the humanitarian organization and asked for their help.

2. Several visits were made to the rural community and it was defined with them what the need was, where there were water sources and how to make the water arrive by gravity to a place where a tank was installed to collect the water and where people could go to collect the water in cans. That place should be close to most of the houses.

3. Several meetings were held with the community and it was explained what the project was

4. The community met several times and discussed the project among themselves. If there were doubts, they invited the team to talk with them to answer their questions. the conversation was in one of the languages of the community and in Tetun or Bahassa.

5. Timorese are very proud people and do not trust other people. They do not like to be forced ideas or rushed to make a decision.

6. The process took 6–9 months before starting the execution of the project. This made it possible to seek financing through international donors and to purchase the materials and equipment necessary to install the water pipes and the tank.

7. When the community finally approved the project, it also indicated the people who were going to help the group of technicians and to receive training to maintain and repair the system.

8. Then the construction part began in rural mountain areas

9. Meetings were regularly held with the community and they were informed of progress and setbacks and a solution was sought.

10. At the end there was a delivery ceremony with the community

The project took 12–15 months depending on the complexity of the terrain and consultations with the community.

This guaranteed the empowerment and commitment of the communities and the regular maintenance of the system, in addition the families felt that it was their project and their water and used it with care.

Then follow-up visits were made every 3–4 months to solve problems and help them with whatever they needed.

Normally these projects can be done in a few months, without counting on the community, but that is a mistake because they are the ones who know their needs and know how to solve them with a little technical, material and financial help.

These water projects continued to be used by the community and improved their sense of belonging, their health and their esteem.

Every year about four projects were carried out in this way.

Sometimes the dialogue was a little bit frustrating because they have long internal discussions but at the end the result was excellent.

If they feel that the humanitarian organization try to push them, they stop the project.

Moderation in this project means to respect the communities, to engage them, to listen and to wait until they accepted the project. People need to trust you and to consider that this is the best solution for them.

This also implies the acceptance of the spring water selected and the installation of the pipeline, which crossed some properties.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store