Peruvian City Pledges to Ramp Up Freshwater Conservation Efforts

CI’s conservation activities in Peru have really been taking off lately. Last week we announced the verification of our first forest carbon offset project in the Alto Mayo Protected Forest. Today, CI-Peru’s Carmen Noriega reports from a recent World Water Day event in the nearby city of Nueva Cajamarca.
The night before, thunder and lightning woke everybody up. Nature couldn’t have thought of anything better than rain to remind us just how important water is.
I was in Nueva Cajamarca, in Rioja province in Peru’s San Martin region, to support the launch of CI’s campaign for the conservation of the Yuracyacu subwatershed. Together with a team from the municipality of Nueva Cajamarca, CI-Peru Campaign Coordinator Rina Gamarra had planned a city parade and a small ceremony to kick off a new project to promote a “payment for water services” scheme in the area of the Yuracyacu River.
This process began last year, when Rare awarded CI-Peru with a small fund to implement a social marketing campaign that seeks to raise awareness among local riverside populations about the important role of forests in guaranteeing the quantity and quality of water provided by the Yuracyacu River. Since 2009, Rare has been implementing “Pride campaigns,” which aim to inspire people to take pride in the natural assets that make their communities valuable and take action to protect them.
The Yuracyacu subwatershed is part of the Alto Mayo basin in northeastern Peru, where CI-Peru implements several projects to ensure the conservation of forests and the services they provide to local populations. Threatened by ongoing deforestation for agriculture, the Alto Mayo watershed is one of CI-Peru’s main conservation priorities because of its crucial role in supplying fresh water to major cities of the region — including Nueva Cajamarca, Moyobamba and Rioja — and for harboring many plant and animal species found nowhere else, such as the yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Oreonax flavicauda).
In September 2012, CI and the municipality of Nueva Cajamarca signed a framework cooperation agreement to implement a campaign to conserve the Yuracyacu subwatershed.
Within the next couple of years, the campaign — which is also supported by CI’s Global Conservation Fund — aims to encourage the population of Nueva Cajamarca to voluntarily contribute to a local fund, which will be managed by the municipality. This fund will help the residents who live in the upper part of the sub-basin improve agricultural practices and implement other conservation activities, which will help maintain the water source for everyone. If this project in Nueva Cajamarca is successful, it will later be replicated in other subwatersheds in the Alto Mayo basin.
On the morning of March 22nd, rain was still falling when we arrived at the parade site. Edita Alva, manager of the municipality’s environmental division, was already working with her team, giving a final touch to the schedule for the day. CI’s environmental volunteers were finishing some banners for the parade, while others were rehearsing a dance to “Rio Yuracyacu,” the campaign theme song to be presented after the parade.
Soon the rain stopped, and the parade began. Led by Deputy Mayor José Adam Vargas, 500 people representing eight schools, CI, Rare and other local institutions marched along the town’s main avenue, catching the attention of pedestrians and drivers. Many of the students had made their costumes and banners out of recycled materials, hoping to win prizes that would be given out for the most creative schools.
Some children dressed as monkeys were fighting others dressed as illegal hunters, while kindergarten students dressed like water droplets shared important messages about conserving the river and the forests.
The parade finished in the Children’s Park, where Vargas officially launched the campaign.
“We cannot talk about life and water separately,” he said. “This is the beginning of many activities to raise awareness and promote the protection of our river and forests.”
In the spirit of celebration, a group of volunteers presented the song “Rio Yuracyacu,” the official theme of the campaign. They danced to the music together with Chorito, the yellow-tailed woolly monkey mascot, who represents a native species of the Yuracyacu subwatershed that was elected by the population of Nueva Cajamarca as the flagship species for conservation in the city. (Listen to the song.)
At the end of the ceremony, the municipality of Nueva Cajamarca handed out the awards for the three schools that had shown the most creativity in their costumes, floats and messages in the parade. The prizes — a video camera, a laptop computer and a printer — were received by I.E. Manuel Fidencio Hidalgo, I.E. 00614 and I.E. San Juan Bautista.
By noon, the event was concluded, but the campaign had just begun. Many activities are yet to come, including workshops and fairs in different schools, a radio soap opera and flash mobs.
CI’s goal is that by June 2014, the municipality will be able to establish the conservation fund, based on the voluntary contribution of the population of Nueva Cajamarca, which will allow conservation activities to begin in the upper part of the Yuracyacu subwatershed. This is a long-term commitment, and we all are very excited about what is yet to come.
Carmen Noriega is the communications coordinator for CI-Peru.