Zapotec Community Actions Building Healthy Watersheds and Sustainable Livelihoods in Oaxaca, Mexaco
Hernandez Castaneda, Marco Raul
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Natural Resources
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Watershed management in poor countries has been a top-bottom process. It is usually imposed without input from either local inhabitants or interest groups. By contrast, the Global Environmental Management Education Center’s (GEM) Local Capacity Building for Healthy Watersheds Model is a community-based, citizen-empowering, participatory approach. Under a GEM grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) via its Training, Internships, Exchanges and Scholarships (TIES) program, this GEM model was used to help indigenous Zapotec communities in the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca, Mexico build capacity in water monitoring and microenterprise development for sustainable livelihoods and healthy watersheds. This work featured two sections: Phase I Assessment and Phase II Implementation. The assessment of priority community needs and training to establish water quality and quantity monitoring for characterizing the upper reaches of the Rio Grande watershed was completed in Phase I activities during 2005-2007. Training workshops to plan and implement solutions to community priority needs were conducted in 2007-2008 by the GEM Phase II team. The purpose of this thesis research is to describe the implementation activities of this GEM TIES project and to evaluate the adoption of the GEM capacity building model in participating communities. Training of trainers and citizens through a participatory process as well as small microenterprise pilot projects are featured. Records of training workshop participation and post-workshop survey of participants are used as indicators of adoption of the GEM model and evaluating corresponding success. It is expected that communities will initiate new regional watershed management plans that will incorporate the principle of inclusion of local stakeholders in decision-making and action. In addition to conducting Phase II training workshops for 856 participants, the GEM TIES project Phase II team produced seven “How to” manuals and five business plans for grant applications by Zapotec entrepreneurs and cooperatives. The GEM model represents a process that was embraced and launched successfully in the region. While much work remains to complete all components of the model in an adaptive approach through future efforts by the watershed inhabitants, local capacity and a local network were developed to start the planning process. By empowering local citizens in sound and appropriate microenterprise ventures that represent economic opportunity using natural resources in a sustainable and culturally acceptable way, the applied research and training conducted through this Masters degree study responded to local priorities identified by the Zapotec communities. Over the long term, the capacity building achieved holds promise for healthy watersheds and sustainable livelihoods in the Sierra Norte.