Bolivia Nature Foundation Wins 2010 International ReSource Award

Bolivia Nature Foundation takes home the 2010 International ReSource Award from Swiss Re for its work in maintaining potable water flow and conserving the upper watershed clould forests above the Santa Cruz valleys. With the award money, it has set up a trust—Water Fund for Santa Cruz (FONACRUZ)—that supports five municipal water funds to protect forests that contain potential sources of water for the city of Santa Cruz.

The municipal governments of the Santa Cruz valleys have been pioneers in the use of reciprocal agreements between upstream land owners and downstream water users. These agreements are conservation tools that protect the area’s natural resources and improve the quality of life for local communities. In each case, the downstream communities agree to increase their drinking water rates in order to feed a local water fund that will later be invested in the protection of upstream vegetation that helps to provide water of sufficient quantity and quality. Many of the valley’s farmers have agreed to protect their forests in return for in-kind compensations, such as beehives or fruit trees. Other communities closer to Santa Cruz are trying to establish their own water funds, but still lack the financial capital.

Using the award money from the ReSource Award, Bolivia Nature Foundation plans to work in these municipalities around the city of Santa Cruz, jointly with the departmental government and a few water cooperatives, to bring together in-kind compensation packages for the upstream land owners to compensate them for the opportunity costs of preserving their natural vegetation, as well as to augment their incomes.

In addition to protecting the flow of water and aquatic ecosystems, the project will help to conserve 15,000 hectares of forests in the buffer zone of the Amboró National Park. Approximately 1,000 inhabitants in the upper watershed will receive assistance through this program, and some 5,000 water users in the lower watershed will benefit from a secure source of water. Swiss Re has donated $US 150,000 to Bolivia Nature Foundation as the winner of the award, in order to move this project forward. Bolivia Nature Foundation was chosen for this select award from a competitive, international applicant pool of 150 organizations.