Agenda for Change members working on systems approaches

Please note this is a summary of information. You can learn more on the CARE, Helvetas, and Water For People websites.

CARE focuses on scaling and strengthening the management capacities of the OMAS (municipal water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) offices) to improve urban and rural WASH services in Guatemala.

Helvetas has introduced work approaches for systemic change into the delivery of WASH services in the Western Highlands region, focusing on more equitable water management and more direct participation and influence of the end-users over local WASH governance.

Water For People works to promote long-term sustainability of water services, by advocating for a national water law and working to establish district water and sanitation offices in every district across the country.

Systems strengthening activities

At the national level, CARE, Helvetas, and Water For People work together as part of a national network advocating for official implementation of the OMAS (municipal WASH office) model across the country, known as Red de Agua Potable y Saneamiento de Guatemala (RASGUA). Through this network, NGOs are using data collected by municipal governments to make the case for establishing OMAS, while also advocating for a model that has been developed and promoted by multiple agencies in Guatemala. The model puts women and marginalized populations at the center to ensure they have a strong role, they are consulted, and are integrated into defining sustainability.

OMAS are now found in nearly 100% of the municipalities of the San Marcos department. After the first 3 were co-funded by CARE, the remaining 25 OMAS were funded entirely by local government budgets. OMAS were also established in the 4 municipalities where Water For People implements the Everyone Forever model in Quiché. Overall, 125/340 municipalities have recently established OMAS. Beginning in 2007, as an outgrowth of the Proyecto Mi Cuenca (My Watershed Project) with CRS and Helvetas, there are now over 117 OMAS (out of 340 municipalities) nationwide.

Helvetas works to improve governance of the water and sanitation services in the San Marcos department through strengthening of integrity in the sector. This includes efforts focused on empowering local organizations to manage their water services and giving them tools and training to advocate for basic service delivery for all. Additionally, Community-Led Total Sanitation was piloted beginning in 2016 by Helvetas, with support from UNICEF, reflecting the activation of 93 communities in the covered municipalities. As a result, 6 communities have been certified and declared Open Defecation Free (FIDAL) and important progress has been made to achieve more FIDAL certifications soon.

Country Collaboration Representative

Mario Velásquez

Country Director, Water For People Guatemala

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Mario is a forestry engineer with a Master’s degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Economics. He has more than 20 years of experience in rural development, integrated water resources management, water and sanitation, grants management, and others. He is convinced that all people should have access to WASH services and is committed to the cause.

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Other partners
Entities of the Central Government

National government (congress), Ministry of Health

Local Governments

Municipal governments

All others

Members of Red de Agua Potable y Saneamiento de Guatemala (RASGUA), Action Against Hunger, Association of Municipalities Basin of the Rio Naranjo (MANCUERNA), Catholic Relief Services, Water Integrity Network, Swiss Development Agency, UNICEF, USAID, Millennium Water Alliance

  • Systems strengthening activities


  • 125 municipalities have an established OMAS, and some associations of municipalities (mancomunidades) are now implementing the model.
  • OMAS is seen as a successful model with over 30% of municipalities independently establishing offices for water and sanitation. Municipalities are now collecting data on water and sanitation coverage and use.
  • CARE worked with partners to create a manual for how to implement OMAS in Guatemala.
  • Recently, CARE supported 10 municipal governments to develop gender action plans to reduce gaps in women’s participation and decision-making in community structures.
  • CARE’s 2019 WASH Systems Change award was given to CARE Guatemala.


  • Constant governmental changes affect the negotiation and approval processes for the National Municipal Code modification.
  • Strengthening local governments to address gender equality while simultaneously focusing on ensuring effective WASH services.
  • Providing regular follow-up to the WASH commissions and local governments to keep focus on quality WASH and accountability.
  • Capacity strengthening and follow-up is needed in planning and monitoring, modernization of current offices, regular data collection and review, and ensuring greater functionality and administration of WASH services.

How strong are the systems?

To determine how well systems are working, we rely on data derived from Building Blocks, which are manageable ‘sub-systems’ that can be supported and strengthened. Certain building blocks may be more strongly developed or applied at district or national level. Interactions between building blocks are essential.

National level

Building Block




Institutional Arrangements & Coordination

Service Delivery Infrastructure




Regulation & Accountability

Water Resource Management

Learning & Adaptation

  • Not implemented
  • No data yet
  • Poor results
  • Fair results
  • Good results


Systems Library

Please note this is a summary of available resources. Please visit the CARE, Helvetas, and Water For People websites to learn more.

Strengthening Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Systems: Concepts, Examples, and Experiences

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Strengthening Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Systems: Concepts, Examples, and Experiences

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Water Systems Strengthening in Guatemala and Perú: 20-30 years

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Political Advocacy to Leverage Water and Sanitation Action in Guatemala

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Challenges in the Implementation of Water Projects


Documental del Proyecto WIP para el Fomento de la Integridad en el Sector Agua y Saneamiento

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Estrategia de Trabajo en Saneamiento con Instituciones Microfinancieras en Guatemala

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OMAS as an Entity for Social Change

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Plan Municipal de Gestion de los Recursos Hidricos del Municipio de Santa Cruz del Quiche. El Quiche, 2018-2022
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