en watersheds


this is a story of water and life in latin america

Moisture gathers in the spongy soils throughout Latin America’s highlands. The grasslands (called páramo) and cloud forest regulate and filter water before it emerges as a river bringing communities their water for irrigation, cooking, washing and drinking. Deforestation for farming, timber and cattle ranching degrades soil and results in increased and unpredictable seasonal floods and droughts. Imagine the benefits to people and nature if upstream landowners collectively protected the water source that sustains millions. 

a tradition of reciprocity

Meet the farmers of Los Negros, Bolivia. Rampant deforestation led to a decrease in water levels by 50 percent in the last 25 years during the dry season. When offered cash payments to preserve habitat one farmer said, “If I receive cash, I know I will spend it right away. Instead, I want these payments to create something that lasts.” A local organization, Fundación Natura Bolivia, tested an innovative agreement system that honors the Andean culture of reciprocity. Rare partnered with them and now works with communities to get the agreements adopted throughout Latin America. This is how they work:

reciprocal water agreements

Rare and its partners throughout Latin America work with local communities to sign and implement innovative agreements for upstream habitat protection, critical to sustaining regional freshwater sources. Rare’s signature Pride campaigns build community support for the agreements.

sparked by pride

The process of convincing landowners to conserve their land can take more than five years, if at all. Through Rare’s signature Pride campaigns, Rare’s partners not only teach communities about the dependence between a healthy forest, páramo and water, they generate community pride in residents’ roles as guardians of one of life’s most valuable resources. With Pride campaigns building lasting community support, conservation agreements are now being signed within two years.


Watch the Raymillacta festival parade in Peru, featuring the Pride campaign song and mascot, the marvelous spatuletail.

people and nature benefit

Bringing together Pride campaigns and reciprocal water agreements creates a culture that respects the role forests and grasslands play in protecting the livelihoods and water supply of the surrounding community. It’s a Rare approach, and it works.

Robert Yaguache: How do reciprocal water agreements work?

Robert Yaguache, a water specialist in the Andes, explains Rare’s approach to conserve habitat and protect livelihoods.

We need to involve the whole society. We are now part of something that is ours.”

Alberto Jamarillo, mayor of Chinchipe Ecuador, Pride campaign site

sheltering species

Some of the world’s most endangered species live in the watersheds of the Andes. More than 20 percent of species identified by the Alliance for Zero Extinction live in the Andean highlands, half of those without protected habitat. The reciprocal water agreements facilitated by Pride campaigns protect habitat, and create corridors, critical to multiple species’ chances of survival.

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    The population of the yellow-eared parrot has increased from 80 to 700 since its rediscovery in 1998 in Roncesvalles, Colombia . The bird’s habitat and survival are now better protected because of a Pride campaign there.

    Photo: ProAves Colombia

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    •	Jocotoco seukuran melon di Ekuador ditemukan pada tahun 1997 oleh Bob Ridgely, kebetulan salah satu pendiri Rare. Hanya ada sekitar 600 ekor burung ini yang tersisa di dunia.

    The melon-sized jocotoco in Ecuador was discovered in 1997 by Bob Ridgely, coincidentally one of Rare’s founders. There are only about 600 of these birds left in the world.

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    The tiny marvelous spatuletail in Peru, featured as a mascot in the video above, is seldom seen. Fewer than 1,000 are left in the wild.

    Photo: David Cook

  • ranitaslide788x591.jpg

    Some of the Andes’ most valuable ecological indicators and most threatened inhabitants are myriad frog species whose populations are so imperiled that numbers do not even exist in science like this little frog in Peru, Ranita De La Cordillera Yanachaga.

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    Nanay means sadness in Quechua, deriving from the extinction of many species of frogs in this family in the Ecuadorian Andes. Atelopus Nanay, Ecuador. Population unknown.

reciprocal agreement results
29 pride campaigns to protect watersheds
pride campaigns to protect watersheds
263 landowners have signed contracts to conserve habitat
landowners have signed contracts to conserve habitat
16,450 hectares now protected
hectares now protected voluntarily by local landowners