Home > Basin > Andes > Hydro-literacy: Making sure everyone can benefit

CPWF works extensively on benefit-sharing mechanisms. In the context of our work, benefit-sharing mechanisms are tools by which the benefits and risks associated with natural resource management, or development, can be more equitably shared.

It is powerful concept, but is often difficult to implement when dealing with numerous stakeholders with competing demands. Inherent in all dialogues between different stakeholders are issues of power and knowledge. Local communities, particularly upland, ethnic groups, are often at a disadvantage as they lack the knowledge and information to adequately negotiate with others.

Dr. Mark Mulligan, from King’s College London, discussed some of CPWF’s benefit-sharing work from the Andes at Stockholm World Water Week in a presentation entitled “Policy Support Systems for Benefit Sharing across Landscapes and Communities in Pursuit of Sustainable Food and Water Security”. The presentation was part of the session regarding “Safeguarding Global Food Security and Life Supporting Ecosystems”.

Project AN3 (Compandes) is working to develop ‘hydro-literacy’ amongst communities in basins throughout the Andes, enabling them – through collective action – to design and implement benefit-sharing mechanisms for water.  The aim is to improve agriculture-water interactions and access to water for all users in their river basins, with a special emphasis on improving the hydro-literacy of the basin’s poorest people.

In order to accomplish this, AN3 promotes the use of conversatorios. Conversatorios provide a facilitation framework through which stakeholders can come together to define the key water issues leading to conflict in the basin and then discuss and define a list of benefit-sharing mechanisms that are politically and socially acceptable.

From this list stakeholders assess potential benefit-sharing mechanisms using two tools. AguaAndes Negotiation Support System and the Water Evaluation Planning system (WEAP) [IP1] provide valuable information related to regional water resources and water allocation baselines, as well as impacts of scenarios and policy options.

The list of proposed benefit-sharing mechanisms are narrowed down on the basis of those that will work from a biophysical perspective to achieve the desired goals.  In this way, participants are able to assess which mechanisms will work to improve water quantity and quality in the basin, and which users are likely to gain or lose water as a result of each mechanism. The tools have contributed  to the development and analysis of local hydro-literacy.

After this step, negotiations take place.  If stakeholders can agree on a way forward then they partner to secure funding and implement the benefit-sharing mechanism.  If an agreement cannot be reached then the process continues with other proposed mechanisms.  In this way, science-based tools are applied to develop benefit-sharing strategies that are both evidence-based and equitably negotiated using a common platform where all have access to the same information.have contributed [IP2] to the development and analysis of local hydro-literacy.


As Dr. Mulligan commented, “Most stakeholders are always trying to find ways where they can ‘benefit’ more than others. Providing a leveled playing field between different actors is an important check against people taking advantage of the system”.

By Michael Victor

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