As part of the ¨Seminar on Sustainable Development of Biosphere Reserves of Iberoamerica and the Caribbean, 2-visitantes-17-paises-2environmental professionals from 17 countries travelled to El Torno and one of the community where local people are implementing WaterShared. The visitors—from Cuba, Spain, France, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, Nicaragua , Dominican Republic, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Uruguay , Argentina, Ecuador, Chile, Brazil and Bolivia—first visited the Association of Water Cooperatives that comprises of the 7 water cooperatives of the municipality of El Torno. This association has brought together 10,000 water users to contribute water and forest conservation.

Seminar participants then visited the El Salao community, where Mayor Gerardo Paniagua, Jose Beltran (President of the Water Cooperatives Association), and the Executive Director of Natura, Maria Teresa Vargas, witnessed 13 new families signing RWA agreements in which they committed to conserve 508 ha of forest that are critical for water provision. In return these community members from El Salao received productive initiatives that will help them diversify their economic production systems and reduce deforestation.

The mayor noted “By conserving these forests we are protecting the water supplies not only of El Salao and EL Torno, but also for the city of Santa Cruz. The Autonomous Municipal Government of El Torno has contributed $14,000 to the local fund, while at the same time each individual water user in the water cooperatives contributes $2 every year. This is how we engage these families to continue with the conservation of forests”.