Rare commits to implement its model of Reciprocal Water Agreements (ARAs for their name in Spanish) in the Region of Valle del Cauca in Colombia, in partnership with the Corporaci?n Aut?noma Regional del Valle del Cauca (CVC), a regional water utility and environmental authority in Colombia. Under ARAs water users, who depend on a clean and reliable water supply, pay a small, regular fee into a municipal water fund to finance locally-valued and relevant livelihood incentives (e.g. support for honey or tree crop production) for upstream farmers and landowners who conserve habitat parcels of significant biodiversity and hydrological impact, thus designing a simple, locally-negotiated and owned solution to conserve ecosystems.
Rare will work with CVC in seven sites in the Valle del Cauca to facilitate ARAs with local water utility managers from CVC and train them in a tested community engagement methodology, which is proven to accelerate adoption of ARAs and build social cohesion and local leadership around watershed management. Rare trains emerging local leaders using a targeted and systematic method to change social norms; often, they mentor additional local conservation leaders to negotiate ARAs and conserve unique biodiversity.
CVC's adoption of the ARA technology will position the corporaci?n at the cutting edge of sustainable water and natural resource management in Colombia. In the past four years, Rare has built conservation constituencies with local partners in Colombia to establish six community-supported municipal water funds at nine sites that previously lacked funding mechanisms. Now, Rare will work with CVC to establish ARAs as a key watershed management tool within the institution to help catalyze a CVC-wide ARA program. Rare is well positioned for significant impact on watershed health and biodiversity conservation in the Andes based on our history in the region and track record of success.
Rare's program with CVC follows a proven technology-transfer methodology and Rare-developed training curriculum that has been applied in more than 250 sites globally. The action plan outlines a timeline and specific deliverables consistent across all Rare projects:
Training Phase I (Jan-Feb 2014): CVC water managers attend phase first university-level training with Rare-designed curriculum with social norms/behavior change focus: Project theory of change, project concept model, survey design plan
Implementation Planning (Apr-Aug 2014): CVC water managers return to the field to carry out field assessments: baseline data surveys, data analysis, regional brand strategy, benefits exchange assessment, monitoring work plan
Training Phase II (Sept-Oct 2014): CVC employees attend phase II of university-level training: community engagement plan, final benefits exchange plan.
Engagement workshops with local authorities (Oct 2014): CVC water managers, with Rare, facilitate local authority workshops to gain commitment from community authorities to the ARA methodology
Regional launch and implementation (Nov 2014-Nov 2015): CVC water managers return to sites for field based community engagement campaigns and ARA negotiations; community engagement activities (school, municipal, community parades and work days) and materials/products; monitoring activities and site-based mentoring visits.
Training Phase III (Nov-Dec 2015): CVC water managers attend final university-level training: post-implementation surveys and research analysis/results; long-term monitoring plan.
Final wrap-up (Jan-Feb 2016): Rare staff and CVC counterparts carry out project assessment and final evaluation.
Colombia's cloud forest ecosystems contain extraordinary biodiversity, including some of the world's rarest and most endangered species. They also supply irrigation and drinking water to millions of people. Yet increasing pressure on these ecosystems for cattle ranching and agricultural expansion threatens sustainable land use and clean water supply. Land transformation increases run-off, sedimentation, and contaminates and disrupts downstream water flows to downstream users and promotes, droughts and floods. Without economically-viable incentives to support sustainable land use practices, these critical ecosystems will continue to suffer habitat degradation and species loss.
Rare has been implementing in other locations a proven model for behavior change where social marketing mobilizes community support and adoption of Reciprocal Water Agreements (ARAs).
ARAs offer a viable and scalable approach to safeguarding Andean cloud forests, protecting delicate and globally-unique ecosystems and preserving clean fresh water for thousands of people downstream. Over the past four years, Rare and local partners have facilitated 20 ARA projects throughout the Andes. Under ARAs, land owners, water users and local authorities within a watershed work together on a simple, locally-negotiated and owned solution to conserve forests and other ecosystems which regulate water provision in key watersheds. This enables upstream land users to sustainably manage their cloud-forest terrain and deliver a quantifiable improvement in the clean water supply. A permanent, locally-established financial mechanism ensures financial resources from different sources, especially water users, to secure watershed protection investment in the long term. ARAs also mobilizes a network of municipal authorities and community constituencies who actively participate in the delivery of a continued flow of benefits.
Rare is currently seeking financial resources to support its program in Colombia.
Rare offers an opportunity for local partners to learn proven social marketing techniques and reciprocal water agreement negotiation skills to improve community-based watershed management if they apply to our program during our partner recruitment process. If other water utilities within Colombia or other countries are interested in the model, Rare is open to jointly assessing how to implement the program and jointly raise the necessary resources with new partners in new geographies.