Project Factsheet
Tools for » Strengthening equity in access to safe drinking water and sanitation by empowering citizens and excluded indigenous groups in rural areas
Project ID:00067205Description:MDGF-1920-A-PAN Strengthening
MDG Achievement Fund
Start Date *: 31 Dec 2008
MDGF Economic Governance
End Date*: 31 Dec 2012
Country: Panama Project Status: Financially Closed
  Participating Organization:   Multiple


The programme aimed to reduce inequalities by reducing the gap in access to safe water and sanitation through the empowerment of citizens. The JP’s programme specific goals included 1) an improvement in health of the population as a result of access to clean water and sanitation and 2) strengthening the sustainability of the hydraulic resources through better local and institutional management.

The JP focused on 9 indigenous communities, it’s primary achievements included: 

  1. Strengthening of local indigenous organizations (Juntas Administradoras de Acueductos Rurales-JAAR) for the management of hydraulic resources;
  2. Created local capacity specific and focalized training sessions;
  3. Local teams were formed to formulate Water Safety Plans (PSA in Spanish);
  4. Guarantees regular access to safe drinking water for 5,834 people and sanitation for two communities;
  5. Strengthened democratic governance in the management of water and sanitation;
  6. Supported the creation of local networks for youth, women and teachers. 

In addition the JP has helped to create and consolidate leadership and better governance in the Ñokribo territory, providing a model for development which has strengthened relationships between local actors and authorities for decision-making on access and solutions for decent sanitation.


Outcome 1:

Health Improvement by expanding coverage for water and sanitation.


Outcome Achievements:

  • A base line was created on practices and attitudes to inform the rest of the programme.
  • Local capacity building through the creation of two methodological guides, which developed concepts and instruments linked to the formation of small enterprises. Both were translated into ngäbe, training for community leaders was undertaken.
  • Training for families, communities, local authorities and schools on issues related to health and environment with a focus on waterborne diseases and the ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous Peoples.
  • Promoting responsible use and proper management of water in daily domestic activities through the use of micrometering.
  • Training on proper handling of waste solids and water from kitchens.


Outcome 2:

Strengthening sustainability of hydraulic resources through local and institutional actions.


 Outcome Achievements:

  • Strengthening of the JAAR which is in charge of management of water and sanitation resources.
  • Creation of a networks for women, youth and teachers.
  • Creation of a Management Plan for the Northern Microcuenca, which supports the creation of a Reserve Water by municipal authorities.
  • The following tools were created: Business Training Manual; Guidelines for planning and forecasting water needs; Methodological guide on legal, administrative, technical and environmental; Manuals: source protection, simple bookkeeping, maintenance of rural water; Guide to the Convention 169; Guide for school sanitation and hygiene;  Manual Water Safety Plans.


Best Practises:

  • Horizontal communication among all partners was a key element which gave way to a win - win relationship based on trust, commitment and transparency, built on respect and appreciation for the multiculturalism and interests of communities.
  • Users were included in the process of selection of technology for building sanitary septic systems.
  • Methodological approach favored use of local labor, skilled and unskilled, and paid according to their abilities. This not only decreased costs but helped increase self-esteem of young professionals.
  • Local authorities and leaders of the Administration were brought on board to manage the contracts, so they can help monitor the works, especially since for the most part these activities took place in hard to reach areas.
  • Inclusion of women in decision-making bodies.


Lessons Learned:

  • The methodological approach developed by the joint program marked a before and after in the  way that  water and sanitation programmes are implemented ensuring community participation, involving dialogue and building social support and local capacities.
  • The level of acceptance in indigenous areas is greater when the speaker is a member of the community and speaks the local language. Investment should be made to create local capacities with a gender perspective, this strengthens sustainability and diminishes future costs given the difficulty in access, ultimately decreasing further construction costs for hard to reach areas.
  • Any initiative or social intervention should be based on strengthening local organizations, which allows the community to manage sustainable initiatives to reduce inequities and improve quality of life. In this sense, initiatives should include women and men, especially the most vulnerable groups (women), and provide opportunities to enhance their knowledge and participation, enhancing their role as agents of change while helping to increase their income.
  • Joint action allowed for the identification of synergies. 


More details can be found in the documents below.

Recent Documents
Key Figures
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If you have questions about this programme you may wish to contact the RC office in Panama or the lead agency for the programme.

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