PIER INSTITUTE INNOVATIONS IN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

  
Indigenous Community Starts Micro-Enterprise to Purify Water from the Amazon River 

October 28, 2013
Amazonas, Colombia

An innovative indigenous community along the Amazon River now has access to clean drinking water through a collaboration between the community of Macedonia and PIER Institute.  Using the Healing Waters International system, the community started a micro-enterprise that not only provides affordable access to purified water but also funds free health and hygiene education for all its members and serves as a model of how to operate a sustainable business.

The system is 100% owned and operated by members of the community.  The community also invested in everything from the construction of the business location to the purchase of supporting equipment. 

“They build a first-class structure for the store by hand, cutting wood from the jungle and using sand from the river to make cement," said Rich Mitchell, who led the project for PIER Institute.  “The management team also took the Water Tech II solution up the river in their own boat and paid out-of-pocket for many of the start-up costs.  There is a true sense of ownership and responsibility for the enterprise which is already paying dividends as the team enters the world of small business.”

The business had seven customers in its first few days and within three weeks had to adjust their hours of operation to handle the demand from their customers.  While water is free for everyone along the river, the production of purified drinking water requires a committment of time, expertise, and resources. The affordable price of the pure water enterprise in Macedonia covers the costs of supplies, improvements and operations, which include free health and hygiene classes for all members of the community (with special classes for the children.)

When PIER starting collaborating with Macedonia in 2011, the community was already searching for a market-based solution.  A number of previous “traditional aid” projects that relied on political administration had failed and the community was looking for alternatives.  PIER Institute’s mission of using sustainable, market-based approaches combined with Healing Water’s mix of enterprise and commitment to community proved to be a good fit.

PIER Institute managed the complex process of importing the system into Colombia, trained the local team in the machine’s operations, assisted with engineering a system to pump water from the Amazon River, and facilitated the creation of a business plan by the indigenous team.

 “We could not have asked for a better team on the ground to work with,” said Andrea Pineda, PIER’s engineer based in Bogotá.  “We all worked so hard together . . . and now the community has clean water and we have good friends.”

 

 

 

Sustainable Development with Water & Hygiene Education

PIER and a team from Macedonia selected the state-of-the-art holistic system developed by Healing Waters International (HWI) for this project.

HWI engineers develop scalable, cost-effective water treatment systems that can be transported, installed and locally operated anywhere in the world.

Systems are locally-owned and operated by community based organizations with accountability for measurable results so that long-term transformation takes root.  For more information about Healing Waters International, please visit their website.