What Flows from a Protected Watershed?

In honor of Earth Day, we are thrilled to share that earlier this month the government of Nicaragua officially recognized the “Reserva Silvestre, El Cua,” established by our local partner organization the Association of Rural Development Workers- Ben Linder (ATDER-BL), as one unified forest reserve.

The reserve was built piece by piece over the last 15 years. “We have always wanted to have one title that would unify the parcels that we bought one by one from different families.” shared Rebecca Leaf, president and founding member of ATDER-BL, in an announcement on Facebook.

Two decades in the making this collaboration with ATDER-BL, Green Empowerment and the people of El Bote exemplifies how an integrated approach to development can address both rural poverty and environmental degradation – creating solutions for each that are stronger and more sustainable because of the other.  The project includes three main branches.

  1. A 900kW hydroelectric plant, inaugurated in 2007 and still running strong, that brings clean energy to the bustling town of El Cua, ten neighboring villages, and interconnects with the national grid.  The service area includes El Bote where the plant and reserve are located.  Before system installation the people of El Bote had no access to electricity, using instead candles, kerosene lanterns, and (for the few that could afford it) diesel generators.
  2. A bio-reserve!  Electricity flow from a hydroelectric plant depends directly on a healthy water supply and therefore a healthy watershed.  Creating the reserve was necessary to ensure long term sustainability of the electrical system and had deep ecological merits in its own right.  El Bote is located in the buffer zone for the Bosawas, Reserva Biosfera, home to more than 7,000 species of plants, 600 species of amphibians and reptiles, 700 types of birds, and many animals on the endangered species list.
  3. Sustained training and support for local farmers to implement agroforestry practices that both yield higher income for their families and help protect the local watershed.  Over the last 20 years techniques adopted by the people of El Bote and surrounding communities have included cultivating shade grown coffee and other high value crops, live fencing, animal husbandry techniques, tree planting, riverbank reinforcement and more.  

A 2014 case study of the project noted that the interdependence of  “a basic household need (electricity), and the natural resource that provides it (water), helps transform the concept of ecosystem services from nebulous to concrete and tangible, mobilizing local residents to actively participate in watershed conservation efforts and protect upstream forests.”  Through communicating this relationship to the people of El Bote and giving them the tools they needed to care for their local watershed, huge gains were made both for the people themselves and for our global environment.

We are so happy that this recognition from the Nicaraguan Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources will help ATDER-BL continue to grow and strengthen the reserve and their work with the people of El Bote.

Want to read more about this incredible project?

Click here to read the full 2014 case study!

Click here to read an article about the development of ATDER-BL and their roots in El Bote.

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