Final Report: Using CODE-PSID to Coordinate the Integrated Development of Environmentally Friendly Sustainable Water Infrastructure and Economic Development in El Convento, Honduras

EPA Grant Number: SU833941
Title: Using CODE-PSID to Coordinate the Integrated Development of Environmentally Friendly Sustainable Water Infrastructure and Economic Development in El Convento, Honduras
Investigators: Smith, Joshua , Brandes, David , Hutchinson, Gladstone , Jones, Sharon A.
Institution: Lafayette College
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: August 31, 2008 through July 31, 2009
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2008) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Agriculture , P3 Challenge Area - Water , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


These students contributed to this project: Katherine Reeves, Economics and Business & Bio-environmental Studies, Jacqueline Egan, Economics and Business & Government and Law, Lori Gonzalez, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Kavinda Udugama, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Jason Mills, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Aubrey Kelley-Cogdell, Mechanical Engineering, Alec Bernstein, Civil and Environmental Engineering ,Michael Adelman, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Currently, over one billion people live daily with the deprivations, human insecurities and indignities associated with not having access to a reliable and/or clean water source [1]. This condition negatively impacts their well-being, burdens them with systemic un-freedoms, and encourages poor and/or unsustainable ecological, environmental, farming and hygiene practices. This is especially the case if they live in impoverished rural communities. This condition can further contribute to the portability of easily managed diseases and illnesses, to the depletion of forest and woodland, soil erosion, global warming, and to civil strife over water access and usage. Because the resulting negative outcomes often spill beyond their immediate locale and create inescapable global consequences, they represent classic cases of global public problems that require creative and collaborative solutions at the multi-group, multi-country, multiagency/institutions, and multi-disciplinary levels.
While globalization and advances in communications have increased awareness of these issues, the collective production and consumption nature of these public problems often prevent accounting of their negative consequences. In particular, for technical reasons (difficulty assessing and assigning, or determining and enforcing property-rights), educational reasons (associated information asymmetry and processing), strategic reasons (free-rider problem, i.e., incentive to not reveal one’s true valuation of its abatement in the hope that others will do so and bear the greater cost), and market valuation reasons (perceived as being a luxury good that is valued and afforded only at higher levels of income), damage to the global and local “commons” is underappreciated. As a result, insufficient resources are mobilized toward their abatement. Unfortunately, these factors and outcomes create perverse rationalizations, incentives, and behaviors toward the health and sustainability of the natural ecology and environment, especially among the rural poor who can least afford the consequences.
Under our P3 Phase II proposal, we seek funding to continue developing a collaborative stepwise framework, CODE-PSID (Community Oriented Design and Evaluation Process for Sustainable Infrastructure and Development), which was started in Phase I, that coordinates the simultaneous building and interlinking of infrastructures and institutions for producing potable and nonpotable systems and economic development. We intend to apply our framework in the rural village of El  Convento in the Yoro region of Honduras. In order to capture inherent synergies and efficiencies, we have organized ourselves into a partnership between the Lafayette College groups Engineers Without Borders (EWB-LC) and Economic Empowerment and Global Learning Project (EEGLP). EWB-LC is experienced in problem-solving, design and collaborative building of water systems in rural Honduras, and EEGLP specializes in collaboratively establishing an incentive framework for entrepreneurial economic development in communities with already established social capital, but that have low financial, human and entrepreneurship capital. EEGLP and EWC-LC have successful ongoing projects in the rural villages of Lagunitas and La Fortuna in the Yoro region of Honduras.
The philosophy behind the project is two-fold. First, it holds the enhancement of the well-being and human security of the rural poor as intrinsically and instrumentally good. Second, it is motivated by the belief that the most important requirement for achieving a balanced, healthy and sustainable stewardship of the ecology and natural environment, especially in situations where people face systemic deprivations from their impoverishment, is for the natural environment itself to deliver sustainable improvements to the well-being and human development of its inhabitants. Applying this philosophy, students develop a greater capacity for far-reaching citizenship and global stewardship.
CODE-PSID is a new collaborative project design, implementation and assessment paradigm for coordinating simultaneous building of water infrastructure and economic development systems. The key element is bridging students and other non-resident stakeholders of a project into a productive operational relationship with residents of the community of focus. CODE-PSID is a successor of CODE-PSI, which was used previously in the villages of Lagunitas and La Fortuna, for the single objective of developing potable water systems. In Lagunitas, this narrow focus proved restrictive when the villagers set out to use the newly built water system as a platform for economic development. Redesigning the already built water infrastructure system to give it nonpotable water supply or to direct some of its flow towards agriculture fields will be costly even for the most rudimentary results. CODE-PSID has incorporated these lessons from Lagunitas into its proposal for a more comprehensive, holistic and multi-faceted project in El Convento. For example, EWB-LC and EEGLP have integrated early, and thought out the design of a dual delivery of potable water for household use and non-potable water for economic development activity use. They have also created systemic interdependencies between the operations of the water and the economic development infrastructures that promote healthy and sustainable ecological and environmental practices by the community members.
Inherent in CODE-PSID is the development of business entrepreneurship as a basis for creating regionally competitive and profitable commodities and services from existing and potential community assets. In developing the proposal for El Convento, a collaborative approach, which was heavily reliant on the local expertise of technical officers from regional NGOs, was used to determine the business activities that could be included in the economic development plan. Such a plan is necessary to build the community’s capacity to generate the economic surplus necessary to afford its twin goals of meeting the financial and human capital demands of maintaining the water system throughout its natural life cycle and of meeting the growing demands of its economic development framework. If successful, CODE-PSID will improve well-being and economic development of villagers in El Convento. Equally important, however, is that its success will also cultivate business entrepreneurship, institution building (planning and management boards for water, economics and commerce), social capital building, and confidence in self-agency, dignity and pride as community assets.
The operating principle for CODE-PSID and the partnership between EWB-LC and EEGLP is that the proper role for outside stakeholders in the development of poor rural villagers is to facilitate the strengthening of their capacity to be informed and effective agents of their wellbeing, circumstance, and freedoms.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

Through the use of CODE-PSI’s feedback process in the communities of Lagunitas and La Fortuna, EWB-LC determined that the water system built in Lagunitas may not be sustainable because of the financial constraints villagers face. This is unfortunate because the water system addresses significant community healthcare and well-being needs and allows villagers more time to work for income and/or spend on family and community life. It is increasingly evident, however, that financial constraints faced by residents may result in the exponential decrease in the water system’s ability to benefit the community in the long term. The partnership between EWB-LC and EEGLP is motivated by a desire to address this issue by integrating the community’s improved capacity to generate the economic profit necessary to maintain the water system through its natural life cycle. An initial secondary goal is to generate additional economic surplus that can be directed at supporting the villagers’ growing demand for well-being and economic development. This latter goal has now been mainstreamed into CODE-PSID because of the primacy it attaches to economic development as a vehicle for enhancing a rural community’s well-being and expanded freedoms, and its commitment to a healthy and sustainable stewardship of the ecology and natural environment.
The integration of the economic development (D) component early and throughout should address an important weakness in the CODE-PSI paradigm and give the new approach an improved ability to enhance well-being and development among the poor in rural communities. Its integration of the development component should make an interesting case study for undergraduate and graduate institutions interested in the workings of multi-faceted, step-wise approaches to facilitating environmentally friendly sustainable economic development.


Our research and survey of El Convento under the Phase I grant revealed a great and actionable community demand for economic development and well-being issues to be paired with the building of a new water system. This demand complemented the lessons learned in Lagunitas, our first community, where robust business entrepreneurship and economic activities were shown to be vital for the economic development of the community and the sustainability of the water system. Lagunitas also gave us a greater understanding and appreciation of the delicate balance and interwoven relationship between the natural and built environment, and how each component—the physical, social and economic infrastructures, and the environment—plays a critical role in the well-being and dignified sustainability of the villagers’ lives. With this in mind, the Phase I grant heavily influenced the focus of our surveying, data gathering and discussions in El Convento as we were determined to make the community as informed as possible in their choosing among alternative frameworks for development of their water system and economy.
We accomplished the objectives of the Phase I grant by using the CODE-PSID process to determine the feasibility of the project in El Convento. From the survey and data collected, we are designing a system that will span more than 5 kilometers in length and provide clean water to the families of all the community members who signed the agreement to join the water system. The system will also be relied on to irrigate the agriculture crops of plantain, cocoa, sugarcane and home-based vegetable gardens and to give easy water access to the fish and poultry farms. The water distribution and sanitation system is expected to cost $32,522 and the annual maintenance cost will be approximately $240.
Proposed Phase II Objectives and Strategies
We are committed to identifying, developing and finalizing key generalizations from the El Convento project, as was done with the earlier projects in Lagunitas and La Fortuna, with an eye toward making the framework of the CODE-PSID portable and scalable to a variety of human deprivation challenges where a coordinated development of a community’s physical and economic infrastructure can optimally address development, well-being and agency issues, as well as ecological health and environmentally sustainability issues.
The CODE-PSID framework and performance, and its comparison with the older CODE-PSI framework and performance, will be included in our key findings and discussions. The final CODE-PSID framework and report will be published in the form of a manual for sustainable development for undergraduate student projects and will be disseminated to undergraduate campuses. The final manual, therefore, will include details on aspects ranging from infrastructure and economic project management to guides and materials on community member education about the systems.
We intend to present our findings at the EWB-USA national conference, at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), and at applied economic and applied engineering conferences. We also will disseminate our report to all college campuses that are already directly in contact with EWB-LC. The current version of CODE-PSI is featured on the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) website as a student resource guide and the new version integrating economic development (CODE-PSID) will also be featured on it. We also intend to provide our manual to the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U), which has shown a keen interest in student social entrepreneurism and has highlighted our work in New Orleans in this area. We are also coordinating our activities with the Lehigh Valley EWB Chapter of Professional Engineers (LVP) and they have expressed their interest in adopting our CODE-PSID process once we complete the document. The EWB-LC chapter has already made presentations to LVP chapter and the Lehigh University EWB chapter about some of the key parts of the process.

Journal Articles:

No journal articles submitted with this report: View all 4 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Community- based, community supported agriculture, economic development, El Convento, environment, rural, water

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Progress and Final Reports:

Original Abstract