More than a decade ago, Bolivia pioneered an innovative conservation project. For the very first time, inhabitants of the same watershed, both those living in rural areas and in cities, could work together to protect the forest and its water sources. These Reciprocal Water Agreements, also known by the Spanish-language language acronym ARA (Acuerdo Recíproco por Agua), sought to raise awareness of the fact that water protection is the responsibility of everyone who benefits from the resource, not just of those living along the headwaters of rivers high in the mountains or along the streams in the middle watershed. Such agreements would enable city dwellers in the lower part of the basin to create a fund to pool economic resources and support upstream farmers as they protected water sources. The program was dreamed up by five locals, who wanted to take action to protect part of their territory. By 2019, it had already attracted 8,000 farmers protecting 350,000 hectares in 58 Bolivian municipalities. A scientific study that set out to evaluate the model’s results found that “this conservation was in exchange of $500,000 worth of development projects annually contributed by 250,000 water users.” Today, “there are 24,000 farmers in Bolivia protecting almost 600,000 hectares in around 80 municipalities,” says María Teresa Vargas, Executive Director of the Natura Foundation (Fundación Natura), the organization managing the ARAs. The program has become a prime example of conservation success, leading to the creation of 23 protected areas totaling 3.4 million hectares in Bolivia, and is…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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