Talk, Learn and Act
From November 2013 through December 2015, Rare carried out seven Pride campaigns for sustainable watersheds across Valle del Cauca in Colombia. Rare teamed up with the valley’s regional environmental authority, Corporación Autonoma Regional del Valle del Cauca (CVC), to rally local pride for natural resources, build awareness about the importance of the valley’s forests for water conservation, and inspire the adoption of sustainable behaviors toward the Valle del Cauca watershed.
In February, Rare celebrated the graduation of Rare Fellows Adriana Ramírez, Edgar Largacha, Isabel Echeverri, Juan de Jesús Salazar, Mónica Rivera, Ramiro Palma and Wilson Fernando Parra. Each Fellow looked back at two years of work building support for sustainable watershed management through Pride campaigns in Pance, Sonso, La Paila, La Guinea-El Tanque, El Jordan-El Rincón, Bitaco and Frayle, and shared their memories and personal reflections about running their campaigns.
Now, Rare takes a deeper dive into the measured behavior change results that came out of those campaigns. Our key findings come in the form of changes in knowledge, attitude and interpersonal communication around the problems affecting watersheds and the solutions that the valley’s communities can adopt to overcome them. Based on these results, we’ve found that the Pride campaigns fostered more cohesive conversation, learning and action toward watershed protection.
Rare Pride campaigns stress the importance of building interpersonal communication, not only about the solutions that we’re advancing, but also the roots of the problems they address. Making these problems and solutions common conversation points throughout the community paves the way for sweeping change. Rare’s watershed work attempts to bring back a clean, reliable water supply to Colombian communities. In Valle del Cauca, where water shortages have recently been at an all-time high, Rare Fellows educated community members about the forest-water cycle, as well as the effect the destruction of cloud forests and páramo vegetation has on water that flows downstream. Upon completion of the Pride campaigns, Rare found that interpersonal communication on the importance of forest and streamside areas for water doubled among landowners — from 39.5 percent to 89.7 percent of survey participants — and tripled among downstream water users, climbing by 42.8 percentage points.
Rare’s solution for sustainable watershed management focuses on water resource and essential forest protection. Pride campaigns promote the adoption of reciprocal water agreements among upstream landowners and downstream water users, incentivizing landowners to adopt more sustainable behaviors in their land use, such as planting shade-grown coffee rather than clearing out forests for farming, or setting up barbed wire fencing to keep grazing cattle out of streamside vegetation. After surveying community members, Rare found that interpersonal communication about the importance of participating in alternative productive practices nearly tripled among landowners, from 29.8 percent to 83.6 percent of survey participants. Among downstream water users, interpersonal communication about the importance of participating in conservation activities in the watershed increased from 18.4 percent to 41.9 percent, from a pool of over 4,900 respondents.
When conversation about watershed conservation begins to spread within communities, Pride campaigns aim to move from awareness and dialogue to actually shifting attitudes — to bolster the belief in the importance of forest and water resource conservation going forward.
In Rare’s analysis of the seven Valle del Cauca Pride campaigns and their impact on the community, our Colombia team measured an upward shift in attitude among both upstream landowners and downstream water users toward protection of their watershed. Among landowners, Rare found that 81.6 percent of survey participants agreed that forest conservation in the watershed is important, and 87.3 percent of survey participants were willing to adopt alternative land management practices through reciprocal water agreements. Among water users, 83.2 percent of survey participants were willing to make voluntary monetary contributions toward upstream conservation actions in the watershed, up from 66.1 percent.
Together, the seven Valle del Cauca Pride campaigns secured 32 signed reciprocal water agreements, so far protecting 2495 acres and 46.38 linear km of protective streamside forest strips for conservation and/or restoration. In addition to signing these agreements, community members demonstrated active participation in Pride workshops. In two workshops Rare Fellows led in the Pance and Bitaco sub-watersheds, with 44 total participants, local stakeholders with different interests — including participants representing CVC, national parks and the productive sector — came together to identify the areas’ most critical ecosystem services. In this level of participation and action, Valle del Cauca reveals its communities’ growing capacity for major positive changes in watershed management.