Saving the Environment in Exchange for Clean Water; How Bolivia is Pioneering a Scalable Solution for Climate Change.
Environmental initiatives are noble in cause and effect. However, attracting people to the cause is oftentimes difficult. Especially for those in lower socioeconomic conditions, how is a moral high horse much incentive when children don’t have access to clean drinking water?
Bolivia is offering a reciprocal and scalable solution to this problem. Home to some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the world, it has been a longstanding problem to encourage residents and governments to seriously address this issue. The way in which they are doing so is by encouraging farmers and residents to protect their natural surroundings in exchange for clean water for their communities.
The Reciprocal Water Agreements, in Spanish known by the acronym ARA (Acuerdo Recíproco por Agua), provide clean drinking water, resources for fruit trees and other renewable sources of revenue and food. They do this in exchange for protecting and conserving the natural environment in their territory. City dwellers and farmers may utilize and benefit from the natural environment, as pollutants at the headwaters of rivers affect both. Citizens in the city pool resources that are then distributed to farmers upstream, affecting the people downstream. This intervention is backed by research that shows that when these initiatives are undertaken, it increases the likelihood that environmental values will then be passed on to their children. As it turns out, providing and showing that material benefit comes when protecting the environment becomes a great way to add momentum to the environmental movement.
The initiatives have been wildly successful in Bolivia and are in the process of being applied in other countries. Colombia, Peru, Mexico, and Ecuador are currently some of the notable participants. Water in Bolivia is also becoming a political issue, as the large numbers of people that benefit from this program are working together to ensure the safety of this natural resource. A local farmer, María Binda Guitérrez was approached by a limestone mining company with an environmental permit to buy her land to appropriate the water on her property. When she declined the offer, it morphed into a threat of taking it regardless. She organized the support of her fellow farmers, agricultural unions, and the mayor’s office. Together they set up blockades, filed appeals for protection, and in March of 2022, the company’s environmental permit was entirely revoked.
This story shows that when communities, the authorities, and everyday people work together to ensure a better future for everyone, not just those at the top, everybody benefits.
Working together in the interest of the mutual benefit of everyone is something that is a top priority for getting people on the side of the environmental movement. Because when everyday people work together, there is much good that can be achieved.