Espacio de Salud, A.C. (ESAC), a non-profit organization based in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico, has nine years of experience working with organized low-income urban and rural communities in health and environmental issues in central and southern Mexico. ESAC provides health and environmental education and training to extension workers, leaders and grassroots organizations in peri-urban and rural communities. These actors are involved in broader goals such as social and economic justice and human rights, and have identified health and/or environmental areas as a specific area of work. ESAC's priority on using sanitation technologies to protect water supplies has been motivated by these communities throughout the country affected by water-borne epidemics caused by inappropriate sanitation.
In 1998, ESAC began implementation of Clean Water, Healthy Community, a project which included the participation of five grassroots organizations in four states in central and southern Mexico whose target groups represent more than 12,000 families. Benefits obtained from this project include improved sanitation services, protection of underground water supplies and improved soil fertility and soil structure at minimal costs, thus improving water quality, crop production, nutrition, and ultimately the health of the population and
surrounding eco-systems. This project was funded by SIDA/
SanRes, NAFEC and Christians Linked in Mission.
An important aspect of ESACs work is exchanging information and experience with similar organizations in Mexico and around the world in community environmental education, ecological sanitation and gender issues. Espacio de Salud is a founding member of RedSeco (Eco-San Network in Mexico). Objectives include influencing public policy, exchanging information and professionalization of the sector through education and training. Members include researchers, civic organizations, small business entrepreneurs, and multi-lateral organizations. Research in microbiology, anthropology and agriculture are other areas of interest where ESAC has undertaken joint projects in cooperation with institutes such as the Linkoping University in Sweden and the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control.
Through collaboration with the Autonomous University of the State of Morelos (UAEM), microbiological studies are being performed to measure the efficiency of the "ecological dry toilet" as well as post-treatment of dried excrement and use of urine in agricultural production. Community members carry out experiments in composting dried excrement and using urine as fertilizer. The UAEM provides laboratory analysis and report back to the community in order to support the local educational and decision-making process. This involvement also increases the status of the project and participating families.
Thus the technologies and processes will be tested both in the laboratory as well as in the field over a range of climatic conditions and social realities. Funding is currently being sought in order to carry out this project.
ESAC demonstrates dry toilets, greywater treatment systems, rain water catchment and provides technical assistance in their construction and use. All these alternatives are low-cost and environmentally friendly. We also help communities set up composting centers, including training in using the finished compost in organic gardens or selling it as an income-generating project.
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