Watershed Management

Chinantla_4Despite varying local contexts, the need for clean and reliable freshwater remains a foremost concern of rural and indigenous peoples. Accordingly, at nearly every site where EcoLogic works, we have ongoing watershed-management, conservation, and restoration activities underway.

A watershed is any area of land where water drains from areas of higher elevation and collects below in a common body of water, for example a river, lake, or ocean. In a healthy watershed, forests and vegetation in the upper areas allow for precipitation to percolate, water is filtered, wildlife can find habitat, and soil erosion is reduced—among many other functions. Deforestation and the resulting loss of vegetation and soil erosion are significant factors that cripple and destroy watersheds and reduce or even dry up the rivers, creeks, and other tributaries that flow from them. Our watershed-related activities include physical identification, mapping and demarcation of watershed areas, reforestation, waste cleanup, patrolling, and environmental education campaigns. We are also often involved in institutional strengthening projects for the local governing bodies that act to manage and support these resources.

Watershed 1At our Towns for Corridors and Communities project site in northern Honduras, for example, we helped our local partner, Municipalities of the Central Atlantida Department (MAMUCA), use GPS and mapping technologies to identify and demarcate watershed areas and then file the appropriate petitions and paperwork to have the Honduran federal government legally recognize these areas as critical water sources. Our Communities Organizing for Watersheds project, also in northern Honduras, is a flagship example of our implementation of a spectrum of watershed management and protection activities in successful collaboration with our local partner, Association of Water Committees of the Southern Sector of the Pico Bonito National Park (AJAASSPIB), including reforestation of degraded areas and training forest guardians.

Zumilda water tankBoth of these local partners are umbrella organizations comprise local community water councils. EcoLogic provides technical assistance and support to help them grow, both in terms of number of water councils participating as well as in terms of the breadth and variety of activities they manage. Our AJAASSPIB project has achieved significant success and recognition, especially as a successful payment for ecosystems services (PES) project. Member communities voluntarily pay water fees to support watershed and water-delivery-system management. This project has recently grown to include an offshoot component that provides support for the protection and restoration of the Uchapa y Pimienta watershed in nearby Olanchito.

River_AerialAs another example, during the last four years, EcoLogic collaborated with the community of Puerto Lara, Panama, to raise and transplant native trees to regenerate an area around their principal watershed that had been severely degraded by conventional agricultural practices. All the trees used are native species, including mahogany, mountain coconut, wild cashew, and trumpet tree. Locals report an increase in freshwater availability and have begun reforesting other degraded areas in their watershed. EcoLogic is now helping them develop a waste management plan that will mitigate the impacts of human sewage and trash on their fresh and coastal water resources.