Reciprocal Water Agreements School

In 2013 Natura Bolivia created a training school to help support and advise institutions and municipal governments that want to build their own reciprocity-based watershed management programs.

What is the objective of the RWA School?

The RWA School builds technical capacity to implement watershed management programs inspired by and based on concepts of reciprocity.

Specific objectives 2014-2016

• Build capacity among 150 local leaders to establish Reciprocal Watershed Agreements in their home communities through participation in an intense field-based training course

• Create a virtual platform for course participants to enable subsequent peer-to-peer learning and lesson exchanges

• Provide technical and financial support to help implement 50 of the most promising Reciprocal Watershed Agreement initiatives developed during the field-based training course.

The success of the RWA School will be measured on the basis of the number of reciprocity-based watershed protection schemes implemented by training participants. Over three years we expect to help participants to:

• Develop 50 new Reciprocal Watershed Agreement initiatives • Protect 100,000 hectares of water-producing forests and grasslands

• Generate additional income for the rural families that conserve their ecosystems

• Mitigate the effect of climate change through forest conservation

• Reduce the vulnerability of rural families to climate change by helping them protect their water supplies and develop alternative income sources.

How will the school achieve these objectives?

The first phase of the RWA School requires the presence of participants during six days of training, which are characterized by a balance of theory and practical exercise, and intensive interaction between participants, and trainers, many of who work for local authorities, water cooperatives or farmers associations.


The training first goes into the theories underlying the RWA model: the use of incentives for conservation, behavioural economics, and Elinor Ostrom’s institutional theory for commons management. The actual steps that need to be taken to construct an RWA are then presented, in conjunction with field visits to municipalities that are implementing RWA. On the basis of the theory and the field examples, course participants conduct practical exercises that help them conceptualize and design a RWA for own community or municipality. Each participant receives constant personal advice and feedback on the design of his or her RWA from Natura´s team of trainers.

The second phase of capacity building consists of participation in virtual platform where participants encounter materials such as draft legal agreements, monitoring and evaluation strategies, videos and photos, and other tips on how to implement RWA. Participants can also receive real-time advice from the Natura team and share experiences of constructing their own RWA. The most promising designs of the first phase will be assisted in develiping a tailor-made implmentation plan. This follow up support will be on-site or virtual, depending on where the new RWA is located.


How can you participate in the next RWA School?

Each round of training starts with a call for applications and a competitive selection process. The person or institution selected to participate in the RWA school receives a scholarship that covers all food and accommodation costs and within-country grounds transportation. International participants or those representing donor organizations should cover their own travel costs. Only in special circumstances the RWA School can cover the travel expenses of international participants.

Additional requirements are that each participant must:

a) Have an initial idea for the development of a reciprocal watershed agreement within their home municipality

b) Once selected, bring to the School a basic proposal for RWA development that ideally already counts on local support

c) Be available for six complete days for an intensive training course that takes place both in the city and in the countryside

d) Elaborate, upon return their communities, a full project design to conserve watersheds these and generate income for rural families as per the RWA model. The best of these proposals will receive follow up technical and financial support from Fundación Natura Bolivia.

Where does it take place and what does it entail?

The first versions of the RWA School were held in Bolivia in 2013, with related trainings in Peru and Kenya in 2014. Future iterations of the school will continue to be held in Bolivia and also in Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and South Africa. The capacity building process starts with a six-day intensive on-site training course. For the events in Bolivia the first day takes place in the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, with the rest of the training being spent in the rural municipalities and communities, such as Samaipata, Comarapa and El Torno, where RWA are being successfully implemented. Technical staff from Natura, along with mayors, village councillors, representatives of water cooperatives and irrigation boards, and individual landowners share their experiences and knowledge of the process of developing reciprocity agreements. Participants are presented with a six-step guide on how best to implement an RWA, and spend the last two days of the on-site training developing the conceptual basis of their own RWA program.