Building Network Capacity

Motivating local stakeholders to join an IWM coalition is one ingredient of success. Another is building an IWM coalition’s capacity to concentrate the resources available to diverse stakeholder groups and convert these into pressure for reform. In the three successful cases (Tungurahua, Celica, and El Chaco), IWM advocates devoted substantial time and resources to simultaneously recruiting, training, and organizing members of each major stakeholder group. They created linking institutions to connect diverse stakeholder groups, provide a focal point for concentrating the resources available to each, and convert these into action. Examples include El Chaco’s Environmental Management Committee, Tungurahua’s Water Parliament, and Celica’s Environmental Services Committee. IWM advocates in these cases also created new governance institutions focused on IWM, like municipal environmental management units. This high level of network capacity building produced cohesive, dense, diverse networks of IWM advocates representing all major local stakeholder groups.

Figure 6.5 shows the network ties constructed among watershed stakeholders in Tungurahua and illustrates the kind of dense, inclusive governance networks constructed in successful cases. The size of nodes reflects their degree centrality (i.e., the number of network ties they have), with larger nodes being more central (i.e., having more ties to other nodes). Not surprisingly, GTZ, the German donor agency that first advocated IWM reform through its Watershed Management Project, is among the most central nodes. GTZ’s centrality and the density of its network connections with local stakeholder groups reflect its high level of network capacity building. Another indicator is the centrality of linking institutions created by GTZ and other IWM advocates (denoted as circles). Tungurahua’s Water Parliament (ParAgua) and watershed management fund (Fondo) have dense ties with local government entities, local landowners, local water users, as well as a variety of external organizations.

High Network Construction in Tungurahua

Figure 6.5 High Network Construction in Tungurahua.

In contrast, network capacity building was low and uneven in Ibarra and Pastaza. These coalitions focused on building ties with one or two stakeholder groups seen as particularly instrumental and spent relatively little time and resources constructing ties to other stakeholders. Nor did they create linking institutions. This resulted in narrow coalitions that did not incorporate members from all main stakeholder groups. Network capacity building was most limited in Ibarra. The director of PROFAFOR (the lead organization in Ibarra’s IWM coalition) at that time stated that he did not see social mobilization as part of PROFAFOR’s role. Rather, he saw PROFAFOR as a technical advisor only; its role was to provide the municipal water company with diagnostic studies of the watershed and design an IWM system.9

While Pastaza’s coalition recognized the importance of training and organizing advocates among landowner and water user groups, it did not make a sustained effort to do so. When faced with resistance, coalition members focused their limited resources on building support with local government authorities and designing IWM institutions. Figure 6.6 illustrates the sparse ties among stakeholders in Pastaza. There are no linking institutions. Initial coalition members (denoted by diamonds) are tied primarily to local government entities and external organizations. Their ties with most landowners and water users are indirect or nonexistent.

Zamora presents an interesting mixed case in which capacity building was relatively high with landowners and politicians but low with water users. Zamora’s IWM coalition was formed by the Ecuadorian conservation NGO Arcoiris, who teamed with The Nature Conservancy, FONAG and others to promote FONAG-style reforms in Zamora as a way to protect Podocarpus National Park. Like other IWM coalitions, Zamora’s focused first on mobilizing support among landowners. Arcoiris spent years training and organizing landowners in Zamora’s Limon watershed, located in the buffer zone of Podocarpus. The coalition achieved some initial success, thanks to their frame-displacement strategy. In the first year of the campaign (2006-2007), nearly half the watershed’s landowners signed compensation-for-conservation agreements. In 2008, politicians approved a draft ordinance creating a local water fund to finance IWM activities.

Despite this initial success, Zamora’s IWM reform process collapsed shortly thereafter. Both the municipal ordinance and all but one of the landowner agreements fell through. By 2009, most landowners and politicians refused to work with Zamora’s IWM coalition. Conflict surrounding IWM reform became so severe that it caused a breach in the IWM coalition. The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, and USAID ceased their financial support; Arcoiris

Interview by author, Quito, Ecuador, May 19, 2010.

Low Network Construction in Pastaza

Figure 6.6 Low Network Construction in Pastaza.

left Zamora to pursue projects in other cantons; and the water fund became inactive. What explains this breakdown in the implementation process?

The root of the problem was the coalition’s failure to mobilize support among Zamora’s water users between 2005 and 2009, when IWM reforms were being designed and implemented. After politicians passed the ordinance establishing a watershed fund, water users strongly rejected the fee on water use meant to finance the compensation agreements made with landowners. Water users pressured the mayor and council members to reject the ordinance, which they did. As a result, the water fund’s technical staff were unable to fulfill the terms of the agreements made with landowners. The terms of compensation were changed and compensation was distributed unevenly. This produced jealousy, perceptions of corruption, and distrust of the IWM coalition among landowners. While landowners expressed a desire to pursue IWM techniques, demonstrating a level of norm internalization, they refused to work with Zamora’s coalition members. The implementation process stalled and the coalition disbanded.

The breakdown in Zamora illustrates the problem of uneven network activation among local stakeholder groups. Network activation was high among politicians, medium among landowners, but low among water users (see Fig. 6.7). While Zamora’s coalition did create a linking organization (Procuencas), it was relatively noninclusive. It linked external IWM advocates with Zamora’s municipal government, but lacked representatives of either landowners or water users. The failure to include these stakeholder groups was a crucial difference with linking institutions in the successful cases. Table 6.3 shows this through the index of qualitative variation (IQV) scores for the linking institutions in each case. IQV scores measure the diversity of network ties for a network node on a scale from 0 (a completely homogenous network with only one stakeholder group represented) to 1 (maximum diversity; all stakeholder groups are represented equally) (Agresti and Agresti 1977). Unlike in the successful cases, Zamora’s linking institution was quite homogenous, reflecting a relatively low level of network capacity building.

The negative effects of Zamora’s uneven network activation highlight how watershed stakeholders are interrelated in a way that makes necessary the simultaneous mobilization of all three stakeholder groups (local government, water users, and landowners). One reason for the uneven network construction in both Pastaza and Zamora was that IWM coalitions responded to stakeholder resistance by switching their focus from social mobilization to another component of the reform process, particularly rule making. By contrast, successful IWM coalitions responded to resistance by increasing their network activation efforts to mobilize pressure from beside.

Medium Network Construction in Zamora

Figure 6.7 Medium Network Construction in Zamora.

Table 6.3 Network Capacity Building Levels



El Chaco




Reform Success (1-15)







Network Capacity Building Level




Mixed; low with water users



IWM Network Cohesion (Avg. Degree)







IWM Network Density







Inclusiveness of Linking Organization (IQV score)







Local Stakeholder Groups Included in Coalition

Politicians, Water Users, Landowners

Politicians, Water Users, Landowners

Politicians, Water Users, Landowners





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