This post is a modified version of a longer project overview, which can be viewed here.
In the Andean region, changes to society and to the environment are increasing competition and conflict over water. Population growth, globalization of trade, new food consumption patterns, ecosystem degradation, pollution, climate change, and urbanization are all factors that actualize the need to redistribute the benefits of water among all water users.
Benefit-sharing mechanisms—i.e., negotiated agreements between stakeholders on how the benefits from water will be managed and shared—are most likely to be successful in watersheds where high demand for water downstream occurs in combination with strong land use impacts on water quantity and quality upstream. However, in such areas, the power balance between stakeholders who might negotiate such agreements is often skewed; the poorest, who typically live upstream, have limited access to information and lack negotiating skills.
Successful benefit-sharing mechanisms are dependent on balancing the power relationships between any actors competing over water. Establishing platforms for stakeholders to obtain hydrological knowledge and developing and enforcing clear regulatory frameworks, based on locally relevant hydrological science and locally acceptable management practice, are both important steps to reduce power imbalances. That’s why the COMPANDES project developed and piloted a negotiation support system that can help communities in the Andes reach consensus on and implement equitable benefit-sharing mechanisms.
Building Capacity for Better Benefit-Sharing Mechanisms
The COMPANDES project was carried out under the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) between 2010 and 2013. The project developed data and tools that have empowered communities in the Andes to better understand, negotiate, and manage their water resources through benefit-sharing mechanisms.
The COMPANDES project developed a consolidated negotiation support system process that can help water users tackle a wide range of challenges associated with making decisions on benefit-sharing mechanisms.
The negotiation support system includes use of the CompAndes and Water Evaluation Planning System (WEAP) software tools, which solve many of the fundamental constraints related to accessing information, carrying out sophisticated hydrological analysis, and building scenarios of impact for different interventions that might be negotiated. By highlighting the benefits and drawbacks of potential benefit-sharing mechanism schemes, the tools can help local stakeholders develop hydro-literacy, i.e., obtain locally relevant and critical hydrological knowledge.
The negotiation support system process also makes use of conversatorios. Conversatorios are part of the facilitation framework through which stakeholders can come together to define the key issues causing water-related conflicts in the basin and identify any politically and socially acceptable benefit-sharing mechanisms that could prevent conflicts and lead to more equitable water sharing.
If, after reviewing information and scenarios, stakeholders agree on a way forward, then they can partner to secure funding and implement the benefit-sharing mechanism. In this way, science-based tools can be applied to develop benefit-sharing strategies that are more informed by local hydrology and more inclusively negotiated.
The COMPANDES project trained local organizations and partners in using these tools, understanding hydrological data, accessing regulatory and social resources, and using mechanisms for environmental management in their basins.
Local stakeholders, who are trained in understanding hydrology and in using tools to anticipate impacts of interventions, who participate in social processes, and who can represent the needs of the less favored population in basins, are critical to implementing successful benefit-sharing mechanisms that can help reduce poverty and protect the environment.
The COMPANDES project collaborated with more than 59 institutions, 31 national organizations, 15 international organizations, and 3 private sector actors and trained more than 220 people.
The people empowered by the COMPANDES project’s trainings are now leading local processes for benefit-sharing projects. For example, in the Coello Basin in Colombia, local stakeholders negotiated with more than 15 local, regional, and national institutions and contributed to 28 binding agreements on investments and management for the conservation and protection of strategic areas, conversion of productive systems, and provision of basic sanitation and potable water facilities. Local stakeholders’ ability and drive to work with independent initiatives and government institutions ensures the sustainability of the project’s interventions and carries promise of future, equitable benefit-sharing mechanisms in the Andes.
The project was conducted in collaboration between King’s College London, WWFColombia, the Stockholm Environment Institute (USCentre), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, and the National University of Colombia and was funded by the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food.