Problems and Purpose
In 2003 a state of emergency was declared in Vorniceni village, Moldova, after 75 students of the Ion Inculet Lyceum* contracted Hepatitis A. In response, the Moldovan Network of Rural Volunteering Centers for Water (MNRVCW) was created to improve the management of the nearby Dniester River's tributaries and to involve residents, stakeholders, and beneficiaries in the process. Shortly after the establishment of the MNRVCW, a Youth Water Parliament was created and, five years later, a formal project to democratize the governance of the Dniester River.
As well, the MNRVCW sought to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals which place particular importance on clean water. With funding by several international governments and organizations, the MNRVCW was designed with an eye to replicating its unique model of public participation and collaborative service delivery on various government levels within Moldova and, if proven successful, to other European and non-European countries.
Background History and Context
The Republic of Moldova has long struggled to provide its citiens with sufficient clean water infrastructure. Of the countries numerous rural localities - representing more than half the country’s population - only 17 of have aqueducts, 67% of which are rundown and do not meet hygiene standards. Those without aqueducts rely on wells and springs for their water supply, making them susceptible to pathological bacteria.
Clean water remains out of reach for most rural inhabitants due to a combination of factors includeing low personal income (20-25 USD/person/month) and insufficient local and state budgets. Undertaking such large-scale civil infrastructure projects would require the assistance of international organizations and donor countries.
Lacking financial capital, human capital has been indispensible in the quest for clean water. Unable to rely on government assistance, locals have formed community organizations and participatory networks to assist in the supply of clean water.
Originating Entities and Funding
The non-governmental organization “Terra-1530” was registered on June 30, 1999 with the mission to instruct and strengthen rural communities’ capacity on Sustainable Development. Starting in 2000, the organization begun publishing the independent periodical ADEVARUL (Truth), in three languages: Romanian, Russian, English. Terra-1530 has since expanded and now encompasses 18 smaller organizations: Terra-HS; Association for Youth Promotion 21 Century etc.
All projects are supported by Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is realizing by Eco-TIRAS in partnership with WECF - Women of Europe for Common Future.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Rural localities from Moldova are included in the network. For example. The local communities (Galesti, Lozova, Vorniceni etc) are involved in network activities for example pumps arrangement (persons number is unlimited); they have proper financial sources in the projects that are for water supply. People from communities informs network about garbage which is near water sources. Information about water quality will be preventing cases of catching disease; it will raise population sanitary culture. More than this poor people will have chance to participate to center’s activities and a part of them will have a job. Only after supplying in centralist way and creating a water network, in village the situation will change.
The water supply will give chance to youth to built houses; will appear small and middle factories, new jobs, a better informational network. Rests Centers will be opened which will contribute to ameliorate health situation.
Methods and Tools Used
The community network is really an extension of existing practices on the local level. Many rural Moldovans have never had access to clean water infrastructure so have an intimate knowledge of, for example, pump installation and DIY methods of water purification. The establishment of the MNRVCW provided outside financial and communications support to an existing network and it connected locals with other institutions willing to aid in the co-production of clean water.
Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interation
The Moldovan Network of Rural Volunteering Centres for Water coordinates the efforts of existing citizen organizations, local and international NGOs, local officials and public services, independent businesses, and academic institutions. The central body oversees the identification of water sources, the drawing and elaboration of infrastructure design, expense estimation, aquisition of materials, and reconstruction. The implementation of these activities involve all members of the network. , will participate at seminars, round table sessions and other events connected to water use and protection problem.
The local communities (Galesti, Lozova, Vorniceni etc) are involved in network activities and collaborative assistance such as pump and well placement and the pooling and management of finances for other water-related resources. As well, with the establishment of the MNRVCW, existing community organizations and networks were provided with much needed financial and communications aid which helped them expand and improve their work. For example the citizen-network provides information on sources of pollution and garbage which other organizations and social services then help clean up. As well, the network has the local knowledge necessary to assist academic and regional institutions like the Preventive Medical Centre, to collect and analyses samples from aqueducts, wells, and pumps. With the funding help from the Network initiative, these Medical Centres and experts could then turn their analyses into actionable information on disease prevention or eradication. As well information campaigns coordinated between community volunteers and experts helped raise awareness and develop a culture of sanitation. Scientific and publicly-accessible articles have been written and published using the information gained through the project. As well, this information is communicated to the public and to the wider community of clean water activists through radio and television programs and through publications such as "Adevarul" (Truth) with special editions on community-generated ideas and comments on the rectification of the water problem.
Finally, the MNRVCW helps build and harness the capabilities of young and low-income residents who would otherwise not have the resources to participate in governance and social service delivery. By centralizing the network's activities and communications, individuals can access more resources and provide support where its most needed.
Youth involvement has also been a goal of the MNRVCW and the establishement of the Moldovan Water Youth Parliament has formalized their role in the project's governance. Assisting the work of the Youth Parliament is a committee comprising non-governmental institutions, NGOs and business representatives. As well, the Parliament has a dedicated support team of approximately 120 persons from all administrative units of Republic of Moldova, among them mayors, NGO-leaders, and enterprise managers. The Parliament also invites the participation of members of the Parliament and National Government, and foreign and local donors.
Influence, Outcomes and Effects
To date, the Moldovan Network of Rural Volunteering Centres for Water have accomplished the following:
- Onoing water quality analysis and control
- Ecological monitoring of pumps, wells, tributaries etc.
- Informational exchange between international partners and local volunteers
- Creation of a European Rural Water Volunteering Center Network
- Partnership with NGOs, businesses, public services, and local administration
- Consolidate managerial capacities of Association of Water Consumers founders.
- Organization of yearly local and regional Water Forums
- Establishment of the Moldovan Water Youth Parliament
- Creation of a water Caravan
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The Moldovan Network of Rural Volunteering Centers for Water is the first centralized citizen-led participatory institution in the country's history. Before the Network's establishment, there was little to no communication or inform provision to the rural population about water quality or proper pump-placement. As well, without a centralized information and communication Network, the locals were without institutional assistance in the proper cleanup of pollution and management of water sources. Now, with connections to local administrators as well as academic institutions, the population has gained an understanding of the dangers of polluted water and are able to assist in the analysis and monitoring process. Collaboration has improved local capacity to act independent of the resource-strapped government institutions.
Petru Botnaru, "Moldovan network of rural volunteering centers for water," International NGO Journal, August 2008, http://terra1530.md/files/rural_volunter.pdf
* Lyceums in Moldova are schools covering grades 10-12.
The original version of this case study first appeared on Vitalizing Democracy in 2010 and was a contestant for the 2011 Reinhard Mohn Prize. It was originally submitted by Petru Botnaru.