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Creation of a community water fund through financing for agricultural production


Please briefly describe your Water ChangeMaker journey

What was the problem addressed? The interrelationship between agricultural land and the conservation or protection of water recharge areas. On the one hand, disorganised agricultural production does not enable harvests to be planned to meet market demands, and on the other, organisations that manage irrigation have a view of water use that does not consider integrated management for the conservation and protection of water recharge areas. What caused the problem in the first place? Generalised analysis of the current situation in the areas, production factors, organisational models within an organisation, and the model of disjointed management between institutions involved in water issues, leading to sectoral (rather than intersectoral) policies for local territorial development. Were there any barriers? Direct financial support for organisations regarding the agricultural irrigation proposal. Weakened organisations without leadership to benefit the entire irrigation organisation. Issues around setting up irrigation organisations to legally manage and receive financial support directly. Who or what was involved in causing the problem, and who or what was affected by the problem? The institutional framework does not have binding action plans for irrigation and water protection areas, nor does it have budget allocations. Irrigation organisations not having proposals drawn up to manage the necessary resources. Leadership by obligation and not by belief among organisation management. Not having legal entities to sign contracts and agreements directly without the need for intermediaries. Design of unilateral public policies with an entirely sectoral vision, without involving organisations.

Please describe the change that your initiative created and how was it achieved

The impetus for change comes from a combination of many factors within a strategic process dating back to 2016, when the Cañar River Basin Council was established, expertise generated in the territory by the Coordinator of the Cañar River Basin Council and an official from the Department of Water – a public institution currently called the Ministry of the Environment and Water – the confidence of leaders from grassroots organisations, joint leadership as people wishing to collaborate were found along the way, partnerships through institutional agreements with the academy and public bodies, and the training of leaders in the territory. The application of public policies and operational tools for integrated water management set out in the Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador, the Constitutional Law on Water Resources and their Use, the Law on Citizen Participation, "Requirements for the Creation of an Irrigation Management Board", "Corporate Social and Environmental Responsibility", "The Territorial Development Plan Tool" with the strategy for collaboration with the academy, the electricity company, the Department of Water, territorial representatives, the representative of the social irrigation sector from the Water Basin Council, and leaders who manage water for irrigation use. The analysis of water supply areas using geographic information systems, in a process of social involvement to ensure project sustainability. The financial company ELECAUSTRO S.A. (Empresa Electro Generadora del Austro) created a budget line exclusively for financing irrigation and drainage projects.

How did your initiative help build resilience to climate change?

COMMUNITY WATER FUND: areas of hydrological importance were outlined in a document enabling the declaration of community water recharge areas within the land use plan.
Preparation of property management plans to increase water retention capacity and prevent soil erosion, with the signing of joint water agreements. Financial sustainability mechanism for investment in projects for the conservation and protection of water recharge areas at the socio-institutional level.

ORGANISATIONAL: administrative and operational procedures were developed to foster cohesion among organisation leaders, based on the Annual Operational Plan. Definition of strategies with an integrated approach, areas of water recharge, hydraulic infrastructure, production, and organisational strengthening. Integrated "Réplicas" training agreement, land legalisation. AGRICULTURAL

PROPOSALS: development of management plans for the main crops in relation to soil, water, plants, and animal husbandry. Agreements to replicate the implementation of plot irrigation. Implementation of organic fertilisation. Technical assistance for crop diversification and project monitoring. Weather monitoring.

What water-related decisions did your initiative influence or improve?

COMMUNITY WATER FUND: the establishment of water recharge areas is linked to local decision-making and the land use plan that allows the creation of a legal framework for the implementation of actions through an environmental sustainability strategy. ORGANISATIONAL: organisational strengthening through collective leadership with the establishment of joint responsibilities in an annual operating plan calls for the participation of underrepresented societal groups, the design of inclusive policies, and applied science to balance water resource supply and demand. Coordination through management with the region’s leaders. AGRICULTURAL PROPOSALS: pragmatism based on local experience, development of planning and operational tools that make improvement processes more sustainable, transparency in organisational management, access to information about the local reality that results in the creation of public policies based on these realities. The development of skills for financial project management that bring about joint responsibility for economic growth. Coordination with a clear objective to achieve local development, using spaces, policies, and relationships.

What were some of the challenges faced and how were they overcome?

What made your Changemaker process special? The experience gained as Coordinator of the Cañar River Basin Council since 2016 helped us understand the specific problems and actors involved, in order to form partnerships that would enable us to address the challenges raised by the proposal. Financial management and the creation of an item for irrigation and drainage in the ELECAUSTRO S.A. budget as part of its corporate social responsibility, and linking this to an existing item in the environmental component, which enabled investment in development projects. Understanding the current state of the agricultural system would enable us to identify integrated natural resource management strategies to develop water recharge areas. Encourage commitment by involving direct actors and signing agreements enabling income to be generated in agriculture, with society taking joint responsibility for the conservation and protection of water recharge areas. Was the change difficult and why? Because of the lack of a clear management policy and socio-institutional coordination due to individualised sector policies without a state vision. Was it challenging to reach agreements with others? Yes, organising all the key players in order to promote the initiative, finding willpower was more personal than institutional. Why? For example, was there inertia among the larger organisations that had not changed in many years? Strategic planning is often, in a vertical sense, theoretical. When applied, plans can reveal flawed decisions that, by not considering feedback when they are implemented, do not take the consequences felt by the communities into account or involve appropriate participation of key actors.

In your view: Will the change that was created by your initiative continue?

What makes you confident that the changes achieved will last? COMMUNITY WATER FUND: the regulation of land use established by the joint water agreements with landowners in water recharge areas linked to the land use plan and the financial sustainability mechanism. ORGANISATIONAL: operational tools and legal regulations are linked in an integrated approach along with training, called "Réplicas", to strengthen collective leadership. AGRICULTURAL PROPOSAL: a continuity project is underway, allowing for a second phase to build on the pilot with the links in the production chain. What do you think puts your achievements at risk (if at all)? Initial changes of leaders who were not there from the beginning, motivation for collective leadership, institutional sectorisation. Have you done anything to help the change you introduced to continue? In addition to having developed a continuity project, we are leading the formation of an Association of Irrigation Boards at the macro level, initially made up of 20 beneficiary organisations.

What did you learn during the initiative or after? And is it possible that others could learn from you?

About the pilot: Work must be done through an intersectoral process where the needs of inhabitants and those who manage the resource, in this specific case water, are considered in land use plans. Contracts or agreements should be signed directly by applicants and not by third parties, with strict monitoring of what has been signed through an upright socio-institutional committee. Institutional initiatives that encourage public officials to develop proposals to improve institutional action with the appropriate budget must be developed. Social participation and institutional experience are fundamental issues in water governance. Local policies must be aligned with national policies, i.e. planning must be horizontal and include direct stakeholders, and feedback and reform will be based on experiences. There are key elements that must be linked to organisational structures, and administrative and operational procedures.