Early Local Network Activation in Celica

The idea of Integrated Watershed Management first emerged in Celica through the Dry Forest Project (Proyecto Bosque Seco), which was part of FAO’s community forestry development program, DFC, described in chapter 4. Severe drought and soil degradation from deforestation and corn monoculture attracted the attention of two outside IWM advocates. One was Tjalling Postma, a member of the Dutch development agency SNV. The second was William Zury, an Ecuadorian watershed management expert who coordinated FAO’s DFC program in Loja province (where Celica is located). In chapter 4, I noted Zury’s role as a national broker for the FAO-DFC network. Zury’s role in diffusing IWM to Celica, described in this section, illustrates the crucial role national brokers play in expanding transnational governance networks to the local level and beginning the local network activation process during phase 1 of grassroots global governance.

Concerned by Celica’s drought, Zury and Postma came to Celica in 1997 to assess the feasibility of creating a more participatory and sustainable approach to watershed management. After conducting a baseline study of natural resource management, they developed a project called Community Management of the Dry Forests and Micro-Watersheds in the Southwest of Loja Province. The project, known as the Dry Forest Project (Proyecto Bosque Seco), was created in December 1997. It was financed by the Dutch government, administered by SNV in collaboration with Ecuador’s national forestry department, INEFAN, and directed by Postma.[1]

Program documents reveal the strategies the project’s creators used to build local motivation and capacity for implementing local IWM reform (which they expected would be implemented through Ecuador’s environmental decentralization process). Project experts advocated IWM as the solution to locally identified problems ofwater scarcity and poor agricultural production. They developed three strategies for addressing these problems: (1) organizing and training rural community members in environmental management; (2) strengthening interinstitutional coordination to link the municipal government and various local actors; and (3) providing a coherent IWM plan (Proyecto Bosque Seco 1999b). In other words, the project employed network activation strategies—training local knowledge communities and creating linking institutions to connect stakeholder groups—in order to create a new decentralized, participatory, and integrated approach to watershed management.

During its first phase, the Dry Forest Project focused on creating and strengthening municipalities’ institutional structure for environmental management, particularly by creating environmental management units. Celica was among the first municipalities in Ecuador to develop an environmental management unit, which constituted a local governing node in the transnational IWM network. Celica’s experience illustrates the impact made by a new generation of local experts trained in IWM at Ecuadorian universities. In addition to working for FAO’s community forestry development project, William Zury taught environmental management in the National University of Loja, specializing in watershed management. In 1997, one of Zury’s students, Paulo Bustamante, graduated with a degree in forestry management and returned to his native Celica to work with the municipality as part of a required rural service program. This occurred just as the Dry Forest Project was formulated, and Bustamante was involved from the beginning. With advice from Zury, Bustamante helped create Celica’s first environmental management unit and became its first director.

Celica’s environmental management unit was created in 1998 through a contract between the Dry Forest Project and Celica’s municipal government. Under the contract, Dry Forest Project experts trained municipal personnel and provided technical and financial assistance for agroforestry and watershed management activities undertaken by the municipality with local communities (Proyecto Bosque Seco 1999a, 3). Project experts also helped create a new IWM governance institution within the municipal council (the local legislative body), the Natural Resources Commission, which was created to enhance political support for environmental management within the council. Experts from the Dry Forest Project and partnering organizations trained council members on issues like watershed management, decentralization, environmental health, waste management, and project development (Bustamante 2004, 50).

Celica’s environmental management unit provided IWM advocates an important institutional basis for promoting IWM reform. As a salaried employee, Bustamante could work full-time on the issue and had the authority to institutionalize practices and influence policy. The unit also served as an important node for mobilizing resources and building a local IWM coalition. Bustamante was a key local broker due to his ties to transnational IWM networks, local politicians, and community organizations. His training by Zury at the National University of Loja made him a member of the transnational IWM epistemic community. As director of the municipality’s environmental management unit he had ties to local politicians. The fact that he and his family had lived in Celica for generations also gave him strong ties to community groups. A local expert and activist, born and raised in his community, trained in global IWM concepts locally, and working in the municipality, Bustamante embodies the grassroots global governor. His personal and professional ties made him uniquely positioned to promote global principles regarding IWM within various local stakeholder groups.

From the beginning Bustamante attended monthly meetings of the Dry Forest Project’s technical team as well as its training programs. The Project held workshops to define the environmental management unit’s vision, values, mission, and objectives, as well as to construct a strategic plan of action. Through this process the Dry Forest Project helped provide an organizational structure and define the roles and functions of different stakeholders involved in watershed management. This included developing plans and activities to conserve and restore water catchment areas (Bustamante 2004, 42; Proyecto Bosque Seco 1999a, 8).

The Dry Forest Project also trained and organized community members in natural resource management, a task complicated by low levels of social organization and citizen participation. In fact, the Dry Forest Project’s efforts to organize citizen participation were the first such efforts in Loja province (Bustamante 2004, 39). Project personnel initially organized local stakeholders by forming Agroforestry Committees (new linking institutions). To mobilize community support and participation in agroforestry activities, project experts trained and organized local agro-ecological organizers (promotores). Paulo Bustamante was among the first community organizers trained. Bustamante had left the municipality’s environmental unit in 2000 after elections brought a change in administration. But he continued to work on watershed management issues as a community organizer (and grassroots global governor).

These local organizers, with support from the project’s technical staff, helped communities develop Community Agroforestry Plans that identified priorities and planned activities (Proyecto Bosque Seco 1999b, 12). Like the other components of the Dry Forest Project, this process utilized the network activation strategies discussed in chapter 2. This included providing new information to facilitate planning, for example through diagnostic studies of communities’ demographics, production practices, and natural resources. These studies were conducted through community-based participatory research; community members were highly involved in collecting information and identifying problems. This experience educated community members and government officials about the problems faced by each community and strengthened ties among them.

Network connections were further strengthened by new linking organizations created by local agro-ecological organizers. These linking institutions connected different stakeholders and mobilized informational, material, and social resources for ecologically sustainable agriculture. A leading example is UCPACE (Cantonal Union of Agricultural Producers of Celica), a linking institution that connects 18 grassroots farmers’ organizations across the canton. Another important linking institution was the canton’s Local Management Committee, created in 2002 to produce a Cantonal Development Plan. The committee connected local organizers from different communities and stakeholder groups with technical experts from NGOs, as well as representatives from the private sector and local government.

Celica’s Local Management Committee functioned for several years, but disbanded soon after the Dry Forest Project ended in 2004. In the end, the

Dry Forest Project produced few concrete watershed management projects. However, it placed watershed management on the agenda of local organizations and created a network of trained local experts and organizers who would later be important brokers between communities and transnational networks advocating IWM reform in Ecuador. Another legacy was the municipal environmental management unit, an institutional structure that later provided legal, technical, financial, and human resources for promoting IWM reform in the canton.

The proposal to institutionalize IWM principles and practices through new participatory decision-making and local financing institutions came to Celica through technical experts from CEDERENA. As chapter 4 described, CEDERENA is a national NGO comprised of Ecuadorian experts trained through FAO’s DFC program, who helped create Pimampiro’s pioneering payment for ecosystem services program. Boosted by Pimampiro’s perceived success, CEDERENA was looking for places to replicate the model. CEDERENA’s top watershed management expert, Robert Yaguache, was a native of Celica and interested in working there. As a regional director of FAO’s DFC program, Yaguache was a member of the expert network constructed through the program. He was, therefore, well aware of how the Dry Forest Project had placed watershed management on the local agenda in Celica, constructed a network of trained local experts, and created an institutional structure for natural resource management. Yaguache saw these as promising conditions for implementing a new local IWM system.

When Paulo Bustamante was again tapped to direct Celica’s environmental management unit in 2004, Yaguache saw a window of opportunity. Yaguache had developed a personal relationship with Bustamante during his visits home, and in December 2004 he approached Bustamante about launching a campaign to implement a Pimampiro-style payment for ecosystem services program in Celica. Bustamante was immediately interested and agreed to advocate the idea to the newly elected mayor and council members. After six months of lobbying, in May 2005 Celica’s municipal government signed a contract with CEDERENA to jointly design and implement a Pimampiro-style IWM system. The contract marked the beginning of Celica’s IWM reform campaign and thus the transition from phase 1 to phase 2 of grassroots global governance.

Celica’s local IWM coalition was initially rather small, comprising just the experts from CEDERENA and the municipal environmental management unit. However, the coalition quickly recruited new members thanks to the social support for IWM created by the Dry Forest Project. The rapid expansion of Celica’s coalition illustrates the influence of early local network activation during phase 1 on local campaigns during phase 2. The Celica case also shows the power of nodal governance during phase 1. Both founding organizations of Celica’s IWM coalition—CEDERENA and the municipal environmental management unit— grew out of FAO’s community forest program, DFC. So did the Dry Forest

Project, which was the vehicle for early local network activation in Celica. Even though the Dry Forest Project formally ended in 2004, and Postma and other Dutch experts left, IWM reform efforts continued in Celica through the efforts of local IWM experts like Paulo Bustamante, who were trained through the DFC and Dry Forest Project. This lasting, if indirect, influence of network activation by external IWM advocates is the essence of nodal governance during phase 1.

  • [1] The Dry Forest Project was carried out in five cantons: Celica, Macara, Pindal, Puyango, andZapotillo.
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