Lack of educational opportunity is one of the principal reasons why people may get stuck in the cycle of poverty. In many places, people are at least required to have a high-school level of education to get a minimum wage job. Most high-paying positions, however, expect people to have a college degree education, something that for many low-income Peruvians, is very hard to obtain.

In the year 2015, Peru ranked 64 out of 70 on the International Programme for Student Assessments: A standardized test that measures student’s performance on academics. The problems don’t lie within the lack of teachers or a good infrastructure; it lies within the fact that most Peruvians don’t have access to a decent education. Most of the most competitive schools and colleges are in major cities, and with usually high tuition costs.

This difference is prevalent in the countryside where some children have to walk for hours to go to school. In the Peruvian Andes, children are less likely to go beyond high-school education and much less pursue a college degree. As of the year 2017, only 16 percent of young adults were pursuing a college degree, principally because of the inability to pay the high tuition. Fortunately, a governmental program called Beca 18 (Scholarship 18) may soon change that.

The Story of Beca 18

Beca 18 is not the first program that has given scholarships to well-deserved students. The National Institute of Scholarships and Educational Loans, was founded in 1972 and lasted until 2007. While they did offer necessary scholarships and loan payments, they only centered in Lima. After 2007, the new Office of Scholarships and Educational Loan opened, with a more polished selection of students and with a clear focus on trying to reach scholars located on problematic areas of the country, but by all merit have achieved academic excellence.

The Office of Scholarships and Educational Loan worked until 2012, the year on which the former president Ollanta Humala “upgraded” it, becoming the National Program of Scholarships and Educational Loans, also known as Beca 18. The program works as an administrative unit of the Peruvian Ministry of Education with 24 regional offices, giving around 52 236 scholarships around 25 regions from 2012 to 2016. Most of the students that benefited were living in extreme poverty.

How the Program Works

The first thing that applicants have to know is if they meet all the appropriate requirements. For Beca 18, a student’s living conditions have to be below the poverty line, attending the last year of high school or have recently graduated and been on the honor roll. The Scholarship has other ramifications that cater to different students, like Beca Albergue, that centers around students that lived in foster care.

After meeting the requirements, the next step is applying to the National Exam, which can be done by just accessing the scholarships webpage during the call-up time, that happens around December each year. Each student needs to present their essential legal documentation; however, depending on what portion of Beca 18 the student is interested in they may submit additional paperwork. After taking the exam, hosted by many public and private schools around the country, each student receives guidance to get into their desired college. Once accepted, the process of applying for the Scholarship can begin, only students with satisfactory grades on both the National Exam and their college entrance exam, are granted the scholarships.

What Costs Are Covered

Depending on each of the holder’s family and economic situations, the scholarships cover the costs of the admissions exam, full tuition and other work materials, such as a laptop. If needed, the awards include accommodations, transportation, and pocket money. A private tutor is also an option but only for public universities, as privates often offer that service to its students. These, of course, help students that either came from the Andean of Rainforest Regions of the country or lived in an extreme poverty situation.

Famous Recipients

As mentioned before, Beca 18 is an excellent opportunity for many people that couldn’t afford higher education but had exceptional academic abilities. Like Omar Quispe, a recipient that now is a developer for ElectroPeru. He is currently working on a project that could bring good quality electricity to his native Huaylas, a district surrounded by extreme poverty. Another famous case is of Abel Rojas Pozo, that upon graduation started to help local guinea pig farmers spend their business. These efforts were to make his hometown one of the centers of guinea pig exports.

With an educated population, the chances of escaping poverty are higher. And like the recipients of Beca 18, they can use their new-found knowledge to help their families and their communities.

Adriana Ruiz
Photo: Wapa

The World Bank Helped to Increase Water Reliability in LimaA sweaty man grabs a large plastic pipe on the back of a cab and starts to fill a series of plastic containers on the ground. Once he fills in one container, he holds out his hand to receive some coins from the owner and then goes away in his vehicle. This is a daily routine for tens of thousands of people who live around Lima.

Lima’s future water reliability is of great concern to the local government, the water utility company SEDAPAL and the people who live and work there. Recently, the World Bank helped the water utility company SEDAPAL plan for increased reliability in an uncertain future and saved the city more than $600 million.

The World Bank has completed SEDAPAL’s $2.7 billion master plan for water resources for 2040. The World Bank used state-of-the-art methods for Decision Making under Deep Uncertainty (DMU), investigating key questions such as could the proposed investments ensure reliability in the face of deep uncertainties? What if there are delays? What’s the best sequence so that investments ensure both “no regrets” and maximum future adaptability?

Through the study, the World Bank helped SEDAPAL revise its Master Plan of 14 large-scale investments by identifying projects that are adaptable as conditions evolve. After analyzing the 14 projects, the Bank found that 75 percent of the full $2.7 billion plan could meet water reliability targets, so the investment could be reduced to $2.0 billion. The study saved the city more than $600 million.

“We have to make decisions even when we don’t know the future,” said Laura Bonzanigo, World Bank economist specializing in DMU. “Through the DMU methodology, we can look at the range of possibilities and come up with minimum requirements to meet every possibility — robust decisions with no regrets.”

According to Bonzanigo, nowadays, utility companies are not only used for construction, such as pumping stations, dams, water treatment plans and tunnels through mountains but also are used to solve some valuable things, such as working with farmers and ranchers to make ecological investments in the upper watersheds.

In order to solve water utility problems, the utility company reaches out to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to protect watersheds and groundwater aquifers. It also works with consumers to use less water per household and explores ways to recycle water for parks. Engaging Peruvian NGOs is significant because they work closely with communities in the upper watershed management and environmental monitoring. Moreover, universities are important in helping SEDAPAL spread their methods through training.

SEDAPAL has requested further World Bank support. Decision-Making under Deep Uncertainty is an increasingly important tool for any sector’s long-term planning and investments. Based on the study in Lima, final workshop participants Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil have already approached the World Bank country offices to request support in the water sector.

In a new methodological book “Confronting Climate Uncertainty in Water Resource Planning and Project Design: The Decision Tree Framework,” the World Bank includes more information on the Lima water study to help program managers demonstrate the robustness of their projects.

Through state-of-the-art study, the World Bank helped SEDAPAL decide on its Master plan of increasing water utility in Lima and saved the city $600 million. It not only contributed to solving the problem of water utility in impoverished areas but also cut the unnecessary cost to the city.

Shengyu Wang

Sources: World Bank, BBC
Photo: Wikimedia

In an effort to alleviate its water problems, Peruvian hydrologists have been researching the most effective ways to provide Lima with a steady flow of water throughout the course of the year. However, it turns out that the most cost-effective solution is rooted in the past, not the future.

Researchers have found a solution to dealing with Lima’s water crisis in a network of ancient canals in the Andes mountains, dated as early as 500 AD to the pre-Inca era. The Peruvian capital is seeking to restore the stone canals, or amunas, as they are called locally, by regrouting them. Hydrologists have studied other methods for retaining the water supply during the dry season but found that this would be the cheapest option.

Rather than requiring new infrastructure, this project is cost-effective because it only requires improvements to the structures already in place. It is also beneficial that the project is non-disruptive to the environment.

According to a report in New Scientist, when used in the past the canals used to capture water from rivers in the Andes Mountains during the rainy season to slowly seep through rocks to flow into springs closer to the ground later in the year during the city’s dry season, which can last over half the year. The delay in water flow allows for gradual distribution of the water flow much later in the year.

However, the canals have not been maintained and generally just flow water directly downhill in a matter of hours. Hydrologists have noticed that regrouting the canals with cement would allow them to function as intended, potentially delaying water for weeks or months. This water flow, coming from over 3,500 meters above sea level, can provide the city with a more consistent water supply during its dry season.

Sedapal, the city’s water company, discovered that this project would be the most cost-effective way to provide a more steady water supply from the Lima population of almost 10 million people. In order to fund the $23 million project, the company plans to use one percent of its water charges for the next five years.

While Lima is struck with drought during its dry season, its wet season is often comprised of floods and landslips from the Chillón, Lurín and Rímac rivers. By holding back water through this system for the dry season, these problems can also be avoided.

While research is still being conducted, Bert De Bièvre of CONDESAN, a Lima-based nongovernmental organization that is spearheading the restoration, believes that 50 of the canals can be revived, mostly flowing from the Chillón River, according to the New Scientist report.

De Biévre’s work with American water specialists has indicated that this project has the potential to increase the water supply by 26 million cubic meters and decrease deficit during the dry season by 60%.

– Arin Kerstein

Sources: The Guardian, New Scientist
Photo: PRI

In rural communities, appliances such as dishwashers, toilets, and washing machines are almost nonexistent. The physical demands of managing a family and maintaining a decent lifestyle requires individuals to walk miles for fresh water in cities such as Lima, Peru. Yet, these facts are not meant to sadden but inspire. Students at the Art Center College of Design put their skills and creativity to the test and accepted the challenge of transforming the lives of families in Lima through simple innovations such as the foot-powered washing machine.

While a fairly stereotypical image of rural dwellers is that they are dirty, Mario Orellana Gomez of Un Techo Para Mi Pais stresses that the poor are not exempt from the desire to live clean and sanitary lives. Washing clothes in the hillsides of Lima proves to be a much more difficult task than one could imagine. People must walk 3.5 miles and carry their water everyday. They must go up and down flights of stairs multiple times, and only then can they begin the back breaking process of washing their clothes. With clothes taking a long time to dry, mold and bacteria gather on the clothes, creating health risks such as tenosynovitis and asthma.

What needed to be done was a customer tested and approved washing machine that would alleviate all those problems. Students in the design matters programs at the Art Center founded and invented GiraDora, a human-powered washing and drying machine. After multiple prototypes and field tests with community members who would actually be the ones using the product, they came up with a functional way to alleviate the constant walking and physical stress of completing this every day task.

The machine uses a foot pedal that powers an inner drum that works similarly to the idea of a salad spinner. Two extremely useful additions is a seat cushion (which comes in multiple designs, all taking into account Peruvian art and culture) to allow the person washing clothes to relax or multitask and let their foot do all the work. There is also a drain plug so that the leftover water can be recycled or drained. The design prevents water leakage and bacteria from forming both on the clothes and on the parts. Built from lightweight materials, users can even take the ‘machine’ itself to the water containers in their village instead of carrying water long distances.

It seems these sorts of innovations are endless, and that they should be. Made from simple materials, products such as the GiraDora create a bigger impact than meets the eye. They save water which not only saves families money but also allows them to use the water for other purposes. It frees up time which in turn lets them attend to other duties or even provide a much needed period to relax.

The cost of the set is $40 and the reason why such a simple, small sum is important is because it doesn’t leave room for questioning. For donors looking for a quick and easy, yet effective way to help those in need, equating and illustrating that $40 provides one machine is the best way to raise the funds.

Social entrepreneurs thus, are truly on the rise. While many are students or come from small college programs, the idea that change does not have to come from a political movement or a legislative bill is such an important thing to remember. As Gomez puts it in the documentary Hands in the Midst, “There’s no possibility that change can come from the top to the bottom…real human change comes from the bottom to the top”.

– Deena Dulgerian
Source: Co.EXIST
Photo: BeHance