bolivia: revolutions and beyondReciprocal Agreements for WaterAn environmental management revolution in in the Santa Cruz ...
section headerSerafín Carrasco, “we will give you one         mental services” tariff are channeled, the    Left to right:...
bolivia: revolutions and beyondabout what policies and interventions         assessed the diversity of beetles and am-    ...
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Asquith revista

  1. 1. bolivia: revolutions and beyondReciprocal Agreements for WaterAn environmental management revolution in in the Santa Cruz valleysBy Nigel AsquithSeptember 21, 1967. A hot wind sweeps tum- the Masicuri River and his spinach fields the number found in the whole of Northbleweed through the village of Alto Seco. will be dry all winter. Claudio’s ten cows, America. These forests have other usesWomen peer from behind drawn shutters, his only other income source, struggle to too: the region provides drinking waterto catch a glimpse of the visitors who ar- find water. They spend most of their time to the 1.5 million residents of Santa Cruz,rived earlier in the day. They had walked close to the temporary streams: compact- and supplies irrigation water and floodslowly into the village, carrying immense ing soil, eroding the stream banks, pol- protection to the fertile lowlands wherebackpacks. The men made camp in an luting the water and grazing on the few soy producers drive Bolivia’s agriculturalabandoned house next to a waterhole, and remaining forest tree seedlings. export economy.during the evening talked to a group of 15 The upland forests of the Santa Cruz Deforestation and cattle-grazing—aamazed and silent peasants: “The gov- valleys are also increasingly threatened tragedy of commons exacerbated by cli-ernment has abandoned Alto Seco: you by illegal land incursions. Encouraged by mate change—are fundamentally chang-have no healthcare, no paved road, and farmers’ unions and local leaders, landless ing the Santa Cruz valleys. The valleysno clean water.” “But don’t worry” said migrants from the altiplano are entering are fast losing their ability to provideComandante Che Guevara. “We’re here to the region to clear water-producing cloud food, water and other environmental ser-help. We’re communists.” forests for agriculture. Deforestation and vices to their residents, while the farmers September 21, 2010. The same hot forest degradation in the Mosqueras and are as poor as they were when Che failedwind still sweeps tumbleweed through Vilcas watersheds of Cruceño Valleys in- to persuade them to rise up and revolt.Alto Seco. Little has changed: villagers creased by almost 500% between 1986 Water scarcity has led to reduced agricul-greet visitors with the same guarded sus- and 2004, while downstream flooding tural yields, and of the 3,000 children inpicion, and Alto Seco still has no health- over the same period caused $250 mil- the region, almost a sixth spend signifi-care, no paved road, and no clean wa- lion in damages. In 2006, floods in the cant time out of school, suffering fromter. “But don’t worry” said Maria Teresa lower Rio Grande destroyed more than diarrhea caused by drinking water con-Vargas, the leader of the latest group of 250,000 acres of soy and other crops. taminated by their families’ own cows.visitors. “We’re here to help. We’re con- Except where they suffer intense graz- In early 2003 in the municipality ofservationists.” ing pressure, the eastern slopes of the Pampagrande, in the small village of Santa Claudio Gutiérrez could do with the Andes support some of the world’s most Rosa de Lima, a quiet revolution began. Athelp. With each passing year, he sees few- biodiverse forests. Bordering the northern a meeting facilitated by a non-governmen-er rain clouds above his farm. Rainfall has edge of the Santa Cruz valleys is Amboró tal organization, Fundación Natura Boliv-halved in the 50 years since Che and his National Park, home to 10% of all the bird ia, five downstream irrigators negotiated aguerrillas passed through the Santa Cruz species on planet earth. The 100 square groundbreaking deal with their upstreamvalleys, and with current rates of defores- mile Los Negros Valley supports 235 counterparts. “For every 25 acres of foresttation, Claudio expects that in five years resident bird species, almost a quarter of you conserve for a year,” Andrés Rojas told58  ReVista  fall 2011 photos courtesy of nigel asquith
  2. 2. section headerSerafín Carrasco, “we will give you one mental services” tariff are channeled, the Left to right: Small streams from insidebeehive and training on how to produce municipal government agrees to annual Amboro National Park feed the Los Negros River and provide important irrigation water;and sell honey.” And so the first reciprocal purchase of beehives, fruit tree seedlings, the Comarapa Cloud Forests; the Los Negrosagreement for water was struck. irrigation pipes or other development River affected by upstream deforestation By 2010, the initial five Santa Rosa tools, to be given in compensation for exacerbated by climate change; agriculturefarmers protecting 1,235 acres had mush- forest conservation activities, and Fun- in the middle of Los Negros watershed.roomed to 63 families conserving 10,000 dación Natura invests cash from its do-acres. The scheme had spread to neigh- nors, and provides technical support to ment offered Claudio six beehives andboring Comarapa and Mairana munici- get the scheme up and running. training and equipment for honey pro-palities, which protected another 12,000 Maria Teresa Vargas of Natura ex- duction—a value of more than $600—inacres through conservation contracts. The plains: “the model is cheap, efficient and exchange for the conservation of 75 acrescrucial innovation, though, is not just that transparent. Each party pays its own of his water-producing cloud forests, heupstream farmers have signed contracts costs, including technician salaries, fuel was converted. Claudio is slowly convinc-to conserve their forests. What really is and other expenses, so that every single ing the rest of his family, starting with hisnoteworthy is that the downstream water dollar that enters the water fund is in- brothers Jesús, Carlos and José, that theusers are paying for the schemes. In 2007, vested in upstream conservation. The scheme can also work for them.residents of Los Negros, Comarapa and accounts of the water co-operatives are A more important question for Na-Mairana voted to increase their water tar- open for all members to see, so there is tura Bolivia is whether the local wateriffs by 9%, 15% and 7% respectively. simply no space for mismanagement or funds achieve their stated goal. “While In Comarapa, for example, every $20 misappropriation of funds”. it all sounds great on paper,” notes Ma-invested by Fundación Natura Bolivia In 2007 the concept was scaled up a ria Teresa Vargas, “we haven’t yet provenand its donors is matched by $30 of local level when Rubén Costas, the Governor that these funds really are catalyzing newfunds, which together purchase a beehive of the Department of Santa Cruz, created conservation in areas which otherwiseto compensate for conservation of 5 acres a new 1.8 million-acre protected area to would be degraded or deforested, and ifof water-producing forest for five years. conserve the forested headwaters of the local people really have received benefitsHoney revenue per acre of forest con- Santa Cruz valleys. The Rio Grande-Valles that would not have occurred withoutserved is $10 per year, so within five years Cruceños Protected Area filled a hole in the funds.”the landowner has not only used the $20 of Bolivia’s conservation map, creating a This lack of knowledge about thedonor funds to conserve five acres of forest, biodiversity corridor between Amboró impact of conservation activities is notbut has also sold $50 worth of honey. For- and Iñao National Parks, and, like a virus, unique to the Santa Cruz water funds.est conservation and watershed manage- the water fund concept replicated into Across the globe, conservation initiativesment have thus been transformed from Moro Moro, Vallegrande, Postrervalle, large and small have rarely been subjectunenforceable top-down impositions by Samaipata and Pucara municipalities. to scientific analysis of their effectiveness.central government, to negotiated agree- In Pucara, close to Alto Seco, Claudio Instead, conservationists have dependedments among participating equals. Gutiérrez took some convincing. “Visi- on intuition and anecdote to guide the While the details of each municipal tors have been coming and going from design of investments. This makes littlescheme differ, the basic concept is the Pucara since before the time of Che,” sense: as Paul Ferraro and Subhrendusame everywhere. Three parties sign a he asserted. “They come with so many Pattanyak suggested in 2006 (in PLOSten-year agreement: the water co-opera- promises, and always end up providing Biology): “If we want to ensure that do-tive opens a separate bank account, into nothing.” But once the Pucara hydroelec- nors’ limited resources make a difference,which revenues from the new “environ- tric cooperative and municipal govern- we must accept that testing hypotheses drclas.harvard.edu/publications/revistaonline  ReVista 59
  3. 3. bolivia: revolutions and beyondabout what policies and interventions assessed the diversity of beetles and am- Kelsey Jack explains:protect environmental services requires phibians in each community’s forests. “All conservation and developmentthe same scientific rigor and state-of-the- Fundación Natura technicians then re- project face financial constraints, yetart methods that we invest in testing eco- turned to all 120 communities to report we actually don’t know if many popularlogical hypotheses.” back on results of the data collection interventions work or not. There is no Understanding of the ecological as- process; to explain to the farmers how better way of assessing whether an in-pects of conservation rests, in part, on current land practices such as extensive tervention actually works than throughwell-designed empirical studies. In con- cattle grazing are destroying the environ- a randomized experiment, and, giventrast, our understanding of the way in ment and their own water supplies; and that project resources are finite, there iswhich policies can help protect biodiver- to demonstrate the economic viability of no fairer way to allocate funds to com-sity rests primarily on anecdotal moni- alternative productive activities such as munities than in a random draw. Ourtoring of projects that were not even honey and fruit production, and ratio- methodology randomly assigns which communities receive the project first, and we use this ‘experiment’ to then sci- entifically assess if the project actuallyHarvard’s Sustainability Science Program helped works or not. What is increasingly cleardevelop an evaluation to show if direct incentives for is that effective conservation and devel- opment requires evidence about whatland and water conservation were effective. works, including the sometimes sur- prising ways that potential beneficiaries respond to the proposed interventions.”designed to answer the question, “Does nalization of cattle ranching.this intervention work better than no in- In August 2011, the experiment itself Just ask Che. His communist revo-tervention at all?” Sadly, we thus have no finally began. Through a simple lottery lution in the Santa Cruz valleys groundidea if the billions of dollars invested in conducted in front of local officials, 60 to an abrupt halt—mainly because heconservation in the last decades have ac- communities—half of the communities didn’t understand his audience’s needs,tually achieved anything. in the area—were selected to receive and they weren’t convinced that he In 2009, Fundación Natura Bolivia funding for reciprocal agreements. All could help them. Perhaps Natura Bo-approached Kelsey Jack at Harvard’s farmers in the selected communities who livia’s conservation effort, led by peopleSustainability Science Program to try to own land within 300 feet of streams and from the region, addressing a recog-develop a program evaluation: a study rivers are eligible to receive in-kind pay- nized local problem, will have more suc-that could show, once and for all, wheth- ments—i.e. fruit trees or bee boxes—at cess. “We will keep fighting to protecter giving farmers like Claudio Gutiérrez the equivalent rate of $2 per acre of wa- the people’s water supplies,” asserts Ma-direct incentives to conserve their land ter-producing forest conserved for a year. ria Teresa Vargas of Natura: “Hasta lacould achieve cost-effective conservation Farmers in the other 60 communities victoria siempre.” Unlike the events ofand development. Jack and Harvard col- will receive nothing other than infor- 1967, a rigorous experimental method-leagues then spent a year and half with mation about the state of the environ- ology will determine whether Natura’sNatura figuring out how such an experi- ment, and follow up data collection will revolution really is victorious or not.ment could best be implemented. Fol- indicate whether there is more effectivelowing the logic of the natural sciences, conservation in the sites where compen- Nigel Asquith was a 2009-2010 Giorgiothe analysis is straightforward in its de- sation is paid, and if these payments have Ruffolo Fellow in Sustainability Sciencesign. However, it is costly, complex, and had an effect on local livelihoods and at the Harvard Kennedy School. Whileslow in its implementation. perceptions about the environment and at Harvard, he helped develop a research To establish a baseline, every single local institutions. Once the experimental program to assess the efficiency of thefamily in the Rio Grande-Valles Cruce- results are in, farmers in the 60 “non- Natura Bolivia’s work in the Santa Cruzños Protected Area initially completed a treated” communities will then become valleys. His research was supported by15-page questionnaire about their socio- eligible for the scheme. the Sustainability Science Program ateconomic situation, their perceptions Critics of such program evaluations Harvard, the European Commission, theabout the environment and the role of assert that they are unfair (“How can MacArthur Foundation, and the UK’svarious institutions in their lives. At the you deny project benefits to some com- Ecosystem Services for Poverty Allevia-same time, researchers measured water munities and not others?”) and unethi- tion Program funded by DFID, ESRCquality in, above, and below each com- cal (“How can researchers justify ‘play- and NERC. Contact: nigelasquith@munity, mapped vegetation cover, and ing god’ with people’s lives?”). Harvard’s yahoo.com.60  ReVista  fall 2011 | winter 2012

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