Image Credit: Courtesy of Natura Foundation (Fundación Natura).Environment Bolivia
Locals Help Farmers Protect Their Water-Producing Forests
In Bolivia, farmers and city dwellers protect the water – and by extension the forest – in a project gaining momentum across South America, raising awareness that water protection is everyone’s responsibility.
By 2019, the Reciprocal Water Agreement (ARAs) program attracted 8,000 farmers protecting 350,000 hectares in 58 Bolivian municipalities. Today, “there are 24,000 farmers in Bolivia protecting almost 600,000 hectares in around 80 municipalities,” says María Teresa Vargas, Executive Director of Fundación Natura), the organization managing the ARAs.
Through Reciprocal Water Agreements – or Acuerdo Recíproco por Agua in Spanish – city dwellers who live in the lower part of the basin pool economic resources and support upstream farmers who, in return, protect water sources. For example, upon signing an agreement with Fundación Natura, a farmer received four crates of bees plus all the necessary equipment to harvest honey, thus generating additional profits on a yearly basis. This innovative conservation project led to the creation of 23 protected areas covering a total of 3.4 hectares. According to a recent study, ARAs have “a positive impact on environmental values.” Indeed, where they were implanted, “the intervention increased the likelihood that people choose environmental protection as a value that should be prioritized for their children.” Similar projects are coming to life in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Mexico.