The first step towards conserving important forests for water provision in a Biodiversity Hotspot area of ​​the Department of La Paz, has materialized with the creation of a local water conservation fund. This was as result of an institutional alliance between the Municipal Government of Caranavi and the water cooperative COSAPAC. Both local stakeholders put in action their commitment to conservation by designating economic resources to be used in sustainable development projects with 22 families who will adopt more efficient coffee farming practices.  In turn they will voluntarily conserve 105 hectares of forest that are currently at high risk of deforestation.

How do we ensure that municipal governments together with the society implement a mechanism to avoid land-use change?

This is possible when downstream population (water users) recognize the importance of maintaining their water sources and, in turn, they encourage their authorities to achieve this through a reciprocal agreement with upstream landowners. In this way, the issue of water, an essential element for nature and life, gets rooted in a local political environment.

Reciprocal Watershed Agreements (RWA) are a key tool for the management of natural resources that local governments adapt and implement, thus, incorporating biodiversity and ecosystem services conservation within public policy. For the Mayor of the Municipality of Caranavi, Lidio Roberto Mamani Strauss, the local fund is the fertile land where the seed that will promote productive development and conservation will be planted. He also considers it important to promote the management of the fund so that other local institutions can support this RWA initiative.

How do we accomplish that upstream families conserve their forest and avoid land-use change?

When the alliance between downstream population and local authorities recognizes their shared responsibility with the upstream families, whose livelihood depends on land use, they prioritize reciprocity as a value of society. This value is transformed into an incentive for forest owners so that they improve their productivity and their sources of income, and protect their forests that serve regulatory functions which are vital for development.

For Mr. Celedonio Cala, leader of the San Antonio de Bolinda community -the first community in Caranavi Municipality that decided to conserve their forests- the incentive is a small seed that will reactivate the coffee-producing activity in his community, improving the production conditions, and at the same time raising awareness of the protection of the natural resources they depend on. Reciprocity then, becomes a seed that is sown and rooted in local actors, and the fruits are reflected in a better conservation of their forests.  Fundación Natura Bolivia has been supporting and inspiring local public and private actors to protect their water sources, promoting a local scheme for the conservation of water producing forests and rich in biodiversity. This mission has been possible thanks to the support of the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund – CEPF.