Note: This blog post originated on RarePlanet, our online community inspiring conservation. It was written by Pride Program Manager Marissa Anzueto and translated from Spanish by Natalia Santoyo.
With the signing of a commitment letter by the local autonomous government of the Espíndola Canton (located in the province of Loja, Ecuador), the Environment Ministry and the Ecology Foundation “Arcoiris,” the Espíndola’s Pride Campaign will be implemented to assure water in the long term for all the population of this Canton in the South of Ecuador.
Arcoiris’s Rare Pride campaign is working to increase the number of farmers participating in conservation agreements to protect watershed resources. This campaign is working to reduce the threat of forest fires in the watersheds of Cantón Espíndola. Through an ARA scheme (Reciprocal Water Arrangements), this campaign will change the behavior of producers and urban residents, promoting social and political responsibility, as well as a reciprocal agreements system able to provide upstream land owners with new productive alternatives and better fire management practices.
This campaign is part of Rare’s Program forAlliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) habitat and watershed protection in the Andes. The framework for the cohort is straightforward: Lowland farmers, who depend on stewardship of highland watershed habitats, contribute to a conservation fund. The fund provides “payments” to the highland landowners as an incentive to maintain healthy forests. The most popular payments are barbed wire, fruit trees, and bee keeping equipment. Pride campaigns accelerate and deepen community support for this approach.
Mayor Álvaro García mentioned that in the past years, the lower part of the Canton has been suffering a decrease in the quantity of water, and even though it is not severe now, it is a consequence of the poor care and protection that the forest has had. He said the Municipality now “has the double task of providing this vital liquid to all our people, and, more importantly, taking care of the quantity and quality of water.” It is important to mention that, in order to achieve the signing of this Commitment Letter, the Environment Ministry played an important role because of the field work they have been developing in the buffer zone of the Yacuri National Park.
Maritza Azanza, the conservation fellow for this campaign, presented the objectives and activities to develop during this year and, of course, the conservation’s message carrier, a bear named “Sammy. Sammy got the mayor and the Arcoiris’s director to dance, as well as the rest of the audience.
The campaign song “Espíndola’s Pride” (Orgullo de Espíndola) was received with great enthusiasm and at the end of the event everyone was talking about it and congratulating Arcoiris, not only for the rhythm the song has, but for the message it contains. Everyone was singing the song.
As a sign of commitment to begin the the campaign, the institutions’ representative gave equipment to 50 beneficiaries to encourage them to have more responsible management of coffee and protection of water streams and tributaries. These beneficiaries were the member of PROCAFEQ (coffee producers). In this event, an unplanned action took place: the Mayor ordered in that moment the delivery of seeds for the improvement of grass and the increase of incentives to the direct users of water in the upper part of the watershed of this Canton. This decision made the producers’ representative, Ramiro López, to thank him in public.
This event closed with friendly volleyball and football matches between the Campaign’s team (that was integrated by the Municipality’s personal) and the “Cantonal de Amaluza” League (volleyball) and the Cofradía’s Riverplay (football). Just for the record, the matches were easily won by the Campaign’s team.