The Binational Water School in the Andes
In mid-December of this year, Protos Andes, in cooperation with the national University of Loja, the National University of Jaén, and ‘Nature and Culture International Peru and Ecuador’, and with the financial and technical support of Join For Water, will conclude the implementation of the ‘Binational Water School’, which was elaborated within the framework of the project “Cuidar; derechos de agua y resiliencia” (“Care; water rights and resilience”). The initiative is a pioneer in cross-border education and social articulation for the democratic governance of binational watersheds.
Over the course of five months, 97 participants have studied four thematic modules in in-person courses at the universities of Jaén and Loja:
- The human right to water and sanitation
- The integrated management of water resources
- The normative and institutional framework of water and ecosystems in Ecuador and Perú
- Strengthening strategies of social organizations
The 97 participants – half of them are women – are representatives of community water organizations, social leaders, park rangers, and youth involved in ecological initiatives, located in the Mayo-Chinchipe watershed that spans from the south of Ecuador to the north of Perú with a surface area of around 9000 km² and a population of approximately 220.000 inhabitants.
Human right to water
Apart from the courses, the cooperating partners organized 2 binational meetings about water diplomacy and socio-environmental conflicts, in which the students had the chance to share their experiences and agree on joint lines of actions to maintain and better the protection of and the access to water in the related ecosystems. The first binational meeting was attended by the Vice Minister of Water of Ecuador and the Governor of Cajamarca, who collectively with the binational watershed stakeholders signed a declaration committing to environmental conservation and actions that secure the human right to water and sanitation in the regions.
The binational water school is endorsed by the universities of Jaén and Loja; with a duration of 140 academic hours, it aims to strengthen the capacities of inhabitants in the democratic management of the basin’s resources, but it is also an initiative that seeks to build a binational platform of actors to lead the management of the basin in terms of participation and democratic governance.
However, the involved stakeholders have even broader ambitions; the universities are designing and implementing a master’s program on the integrated management of water resources and water diplomacy, which is currently in the process of approval by the national education authorities of both countries. Furthermore, a binational investigation platform between the two universities with a clear focus on water and conservation in the Mayo-Chinchipe watershed is underway, and the cooperation is planning to launch an information platform for decision making in 2023.
Courses for women leaders and for technicians
As the binational water school forms part of a permanent strategy in the “cuidar” program about social and institutional capacity development in the binational watershed, two course series are to be implemented in 2023: one series specifically for women leaders in social organizations, and women in local government who were recently elected, and one series for technicians who are involved in local ecosystem conservation and management efforts.
In 2023, the course series of the Binational Water School will be accessible on the online platform of the National University of Loja, as a Massive Open Online Course, so as to give more people from and outside of the watershed access to quality education on the themes of water conservation, greatly expanding the positive impact of the project.
Author: Marcelo Ordóñez Rodas (CUIDAR / PROTOS ANDES)