Organization: Nature and Culture International
Program Area: Sustainable Resource Management
Grant Amount: $420,000 over 36 months
Awarded: 2016
Posted: December 13, 2019

Nature and Culture International (NCI) works with communities across Ecuador and Peru to conserve landscapes that are important for ensuring a clean, abundant supply of water. With prior support from Tinker, NCI developed an innovative financial mechanism for watershed management that integrates municipalities and communities in a single conservation trust to collect and manage water-use fees. Communities use the Water Funds to apply sustainable agricultural practices, rehabilitate damaged ecosystems, and create new protected areas.

To participate in the Funds, a municipality must pass ordinances that 1) allow collection of water-use fees as a continuing source of local financing, and 2) create new protected areas. However, the pace of introducing this concept municipality-by-municipality was a bottleneck to scaling the model efficiently. With support from the Tinker Foundation and the cooperation of Ecuador’s Secretariat of Water (SENAGUA), NCI launched a Water School with Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja to provide a collective platform for training municipal representatives. By training municipal leaders as a cohort rather than individually, NCI has accelerated uptake of the model and has expanded protected areas critical for supplying water for humans and ecosystem benefits.

NCI’s experience with the Water School has been transformative and it is now working with SENAGUA and the Universidad to continue the Water School beyond this pilot phase. With UNICEF support, SENAGUA launched a full analysis of the Water School for the purpose of securing additional funding to institutionalize the program. SENAGUA and the State Bank of Ecuador are exploring the potential for making the Water School obligatory for municipal employees, which would unlock state funding for water and sanitation projects.

In 2019, the Water School was recognized by RECLA, the Network of Continuing Education in Latin America and Europe, for outstanding contributions in the category of “Sustainability in Continuing Education.”

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