Visit to successful experiences and pilot sites of IUCN projects in San Marcos

20 December 2012 | News story

Partners and beneficiaries share experiences in two IUCN Mesoamerican projects, BRIDGE and Good Governance for Adaptation to Climate Change-BMU, on a trip October 15-19, 2012.

San Marcos, Guatemala, November 2012 (IUCN) – A four-day trip was made to share experiences in areas of the Coatán, Suchiate and Naranjo river basins, department of San Marcos, where the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is supporting interventions. The object was to learn about conceptual aspects and methodological processes developed by IUCN through application of the ecosystem and sustainable livelihoods approaches, thus demonstrating a model of microwatershed-based participatory planning and community water management.

The model centers on broad community participation, recognition of microwatersheds as planning and land ordering units, involvement of local political authorities in environmental management, interinstitutional coordination and the creation of community capacities for integrated water resource management. Other shared experience concerned the establishment of strategic alliances with government agencies, nongovernmental organizations and academia for linkage and integration of institutional and multisectoral efforts, as in the case of the San Marcos coordination body for natural resources and environment (Coordinadora de Recursos Naturales y Ambiente de San Marcos–CORNASAM).

Participating in this event were technicians and partners from the Cahoacán II project in Mexico, representatives of the Coatán and Cahoacán river basin committees, representatives of the Costa Rica-Panama binational commission of the Sixaola river basin and members of the El Salvador-Honduras Sumpul River binational committee.

During the exchange, visitors saw demonstration sites for forest restoration and areas with natural generation of pinabete, a Guatemalan fir, in the upper parts of the microwatersheds of the Esquichá and Coatancito rivers in the Coatán river basin. There the focus is on forest restoration in degraded zones and adjoining pinabete forests, initiatives promoted by IUCN and the Agronomy Department of Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala. The importance of participation by municipal government was stressed, as exemplified by the Ixchiguán municipality’s support for restoration on Cotzic hilltop. After many failed reforestation attempts due to the extreme climate conditions, the municipality mandated special protection of this area through forest restoration.

Another experience illustrated the approach and concept of creating microwatershed councils (in the microwatershed of the Esquichá River, in the Coatán river basin, and Palatzá River in the Naranjo basin) based on community development councils (Consejos Comunitarios de Desarrollo-COCODES) as base organizations through which management plans recognize, prioritize, plan and administer projects for comprehensive and sustainable use of water and associated resources in these microwatersheds. It was shown how the microwatershed approach makes it possible to consider communities’ needs, concerns and requirements in a more tangible and authentic way, as well as identify priority management activities. Extensive discussion left clear that one of the greatest advantages of using watersheds as land planning units, especially for purposes of water resource management, lies in communities’ integration and management of joint projects for the watershed’s conservation and protection.

The trip included visits to demonstration projects executed by IUCN and its partners in San Marcos for environmental conservation, food security, income generation and essential social services (primarily water for human consumption), such as medium- and large-scale production of forest species in nurseries, production of edible mushrooms, implementation of agroforestry systems and energy-efficient wood burning stoves (implemented in the Palatzá and Upper Naranjo microwatersheds), comprehensive potable water systems including protection of recharge areas and basic sanitation along with aspects of traditional water systems, and others.

In the Tacaná municipality, participants were taken to the Municipal Water and Sanitation Office established to promote a culture of payment, administration and regulation of the water system in the municipal seat and its communities. The objectives are regulation of the water system in Tacaná’s head town, implementation of a payment for environmental services (PES) system and technical assistance for the municipality’s communities.

Another experience was shared by Jorge Juárez, current coordinator of CORNASAM, who explained the entity’s background, vision and work philosophy in promoting interinstitutional and multisectoral coordination in the Suchiate, Coatán, Naranjo and Cuilco river basins. He spoke of the difficulties encountered in forming this body, particularly in integrating all of the institutions and organizations that work in the zone, and then described the main advantages of being an entity for the coordination and integration of efforts with a shared vision and linked work, and the achievements that have been obtained through joint action with the microwatershed as territorial vision.

Day three of the trip focused on experience implementing an urban-rural PES mechanism, developed by Asociación Fondo para la Gestión Hídrica Participativa (AFOGESHIP) Agua Viva in the municipality of San Pablo, San Marcos. This association brings together organized civil society (COCODE and the Negro River microwatershed council), the private sector (mainly coffee cooperatives) and the San Pablo municipality. The association’s manager explained how the system operates and main achievements in relation to PES. For example, the PES provision established in San Pablo’s municipal water regulations permitted the transfer of Q2.00 of the total fee to AFOGESHIP to execute conservation projects, and as the result of negotiations with La Bendición, 21 de Octubre and La Igualdad coffee cooperatives, Q0.50 of each quintal of coffee produced was used for PES. In addition, AFOGESHIP donated Q50,000 to the San Pablo municipality for conservation activities.

Participants were then taken to the microwatershed of the Palatzá River and met with the microwatershed council to learn about its work in coordination with the Department of Protected Areas and Environment of the Esquipulas Palo Gordo municipality, and the department’s connection with the microwatershed council.

Wrapping up the tour, Bribri participants from Costa Rica and Panama shared experiences with Quiché living in the Masá River microbasin, in the watershed of Lake Atitlan, department of Sololá, where the IUCN’s microwatershed planning experience has been replicated. Here they learned about the process of forming the local organizational structure and formulating management plans for the microwatershed. After the presentation, the group reflected on the preservation of traditions and cultures that are maintained and stipulated in the microwatershed management plan.

For more information contact:
Ottoniel Rivera Mazariegos
Technical officer of the IUCN Livelihoods and Climate Change Unit for San Marcos, Guatemala
IUCN Regional Office for Mesoamerica and Caribbean Initiative
Tel: 00502-5510-5890 and 00502-7760-4294