Members of the Campana Cocha community of Ecuador installed 30 rainwater catchment system tanks
Our Work in Ecuador
GPA had a presence in Ecuador from 2003-2009. During that time, we focused on community health workshops from marginalized communities, and supporting community-driven projects in Azuay, Orellana, Pastaza and Napo provinces, consisting of rainwater catchment systems and ecological toilets.
One of the smallest but most diverse countries in South America, Ecuador is comprised of coastal lowlands, the central Andean range, and the Amazon jungle basin. Its population of an estimated 15.6 million people is also diverse: 25% come from one of fourteen indigenous groups.
As the fifth-largest oil producer in Central and South America and a leading source of crude oil imports into the U.S. West Coast, Ecuador has one of the continent’s worst environmental records, including major deforestation and contamination. In the northern Amazon, oil spills, nearly double the volume of the Exxon Valdez, have polluted rivers and been linked to significant increases in cancer and birth defects.
Ecuador is characterized by high poverty rates and income inequality, which affect indigenous, mixed race, and rural populations disproportionately. Infant and maternal mortality rates remain high in these regions, though the national rate has decreased since 1990. The government, which has increased its investment in the social sector since 2009, introduced a cash transfer program, which requires the children of those participating to attend school and have medical check-ups, which has improved education levels and healthcare among poor children. Still, about 30% of the population, mainly the poor, rural and indigenous, lack access to basic health care, and about 1 in 10 adolescents give birth each year.
Ecuador has had its share of political instability. Three of Ecuador’s last four democratically elected presidents were driven from office for corruption or failure to reduce inequities. Democratic indigenous federations organized and gained political power to address problems of health, poverty, and environmental conservation at the local and national level. Voters approved a new constitution in late 2008, Ecuador's 20th since gaining independence. In February 2013, general elections were held and voters re-elected President Rafael Correa.
Installing a rain catchment system in local community households.
GPA conducted community health workshops for more than 150 people from three villages and intensive training for nine health promoters in pediatric primary care, family planning, and basic pre-natal care.
We supported eight community-driven health projects in Azuay, Orellana, Pastaza and Napo provinces with our Small Grants. These included the installation of 60 household rainwater catchment systems and 15 dry ecological toilets. Two of the projects received second-year grant renewals to deepen their impact.
Dry ecological toilets are an effective solution to combating diarrheal disease. To promote this technology in rural communities, we created a full-color manual for public distribution with detailed instructions on how to build these toilets using locally available, low-cost materials.
Bacteria levels in rainwater catchment systems were tested in laboratory conditions to measure the effectiveness of common practices for cleaning and maintenance. Without disinfection, levels were above those recommended for drinking water. We identified a simple and effective method to treat water with a dilute bleach solution making it safe to drink. This study was conducted by volunteer Leticia Rubalcava and presented at the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers 2009 Conference.