|Fieldwork in the Cachi basin headwaters, Ayacucho (August 18th-19th, 2017)|
During July-September 2017, a number of research activities, science-policy dialogues, and capacity building activities were carried out. On the research side, several field work campaigns were carried out in the highlands of Ayacucho and Huancavelica, to assess the eco-hydrological functioning of wetland and grassland ecosystems, mapping pressures exerted by natural and anthropic processes, and socio-economic and institutional developments, assessing how they affect and are interlinked with regional and national policies, among others. For instance, one key aspect is to understand the drivers underlying overgrazing in the grasslands of the punas, and how this could affect local water and food securities. Between 14-19 August, field campaigns were conducted together with three visiting students of the University of the West of England at Bristol, UK. Their visit was part of the International Water Security Network project, which is developed in synergy with our PEER. These students will design their undergraduate theses based on the studies performed with us in Peru. A second visit was organized in September, this time with our US counterparts led by Dr. Andrea Gerlak, who secured a supplementary travel fund from PEER. The visit allowed Dr. Gerlack learn about water harvesting initiatives undertaken by peasant communities in the highlands of Ayacucho and which have been promoted by CEDAP, a local NGO with whom we started collaborations.
Partners of the University Of Ayacucho (UNSCH) completed the construction of modules for testing and teaching water treatment processes. With these, the team successfully achieved one milestone towards the construction of the experimental water treatment facility based on green infrastructure. The modules have been developed by students of the Chemical Engineering Faculty, under the leadership of Prof. Cipriano Mendoza. Relevant information has been gathered for the design of the water sensitive campus, a major project together with the UNSCH, that is currently in the pipeline. The design is led by Margarita Macera, an architect that is doing her PhD at the KU Leuven, Belgium, and who has joined the Agua-Andes team beginning this year. The team also counts on the collaboration of Dr. Adriana Zuñiga from the University of Arizona and a team of architects and urban designers. The aim is to incorporate GI in the future development of the UNSCH campus, such that it becomes a living laboratory and an ecological spot for the city of Huamanga.
|Follow-up meetings with the Agua-Andes team of the UNSCH (August 17th, 2017)|
Coordination has been advanced with the regional government of Ayacucho, to install sensors for measuring water levels in strategic points of the Cachi hydraulic system. This is done in collaboration with the Imperial College of London. Synergies were initiated with the Grupo Impulsor de los MRSE en Ayacucho, a local committee composed of NGO's, among them our partners from CEDAP, governmental institutions (regional and local governments) and the academia; whose aim is to promote the establishment of mechanisms of payment for ecosystem services and the development of GI projects (PIP verdes) and payment for ecosystem services mechanisms.
A meeting was organized by the team on the 18th of September, to design a joint work plan with the agreement that Agua-Andes, through our PEER and IWSN projects and respective partners, will provide the necessary scientific and capacity building support to the initiatives of the committee. The alliance established is important for the objectives of the PEER project, as it will help orient our research to the local needs/challenges and hence expand the impact and influence of our efforts. Furthermore, it will provide the team with more opportunities for leveraging supplementary funds.
Capacity building and outreach: In regards to capacity building, together with our collaborators from Peruvian universities, the team started the design of a master program in water treatment that will be implemented in the UNSCH. The program will be based on the research experience of Agua-Andes and will have a strong technical focus, promoting learning based on resolving local problems for water and waste water treatment in communities. A second objective is to build-up a high-level training program to benefit the largest number possible of students. This will allow to use more effectively the resources provided by USAID-PEER and other funding agencies.
| Panel presentation at Agua-Andes Congress|| |
I Congreso Peruano Agua Andes, which took place in September, was a big success. This was an unprecedented scientific event in Ayacucho with high-level presentations and an active participation of decision makers, stakeholders, scientists and students. The topics covered included water security, green infrastructure and sustainable management of ecosystem resources. There were a total of 29 keynote speakers (13 international speakers) and 18 oral presentations of research works developed by junior researchers. Furthermore, 2 round tables have been organized for participating stakeholders and decision makers, a workshop for validating the national plan for science and technology on water resources of CONCYTEC, and a presentation of modules for water treatment constructed by the students supported by the PEER project was presented.
Potential Development Impacts
Through collaboration with CONDESAN, the team developed and validated overgrazing maps for the Pilpichaca community of Huancavelica, which, together with the maps of wetlands and water bodies, will be used as input for the elaboration of larger public investment projects, oriented at preserving grasslands for alpacas and the construction of small reservoirs for harvesting rainfall. Furthermore, the methodologies developed as part of the study will be presented to the Ministry of Environment next September 20th, entity that is interested in using it for mapping the highlands of the Andes mountain range. Through the establishment of the collaboration with the comité impulsor, the PEER project will effectively contribute to the local efforts aimed at promoting the establishment of payment for ecosystem services mechanisms and the implementation of green infrastructure projects.
|Dr. Bram Willems being interviewed at the Congress by Canal 5 [Photo courtesy of Dr. Willems]|
One of the major impacts of the congress is that the term of GI has been included in the debate surrounding water security in Ayacucho. For many of the participants, which included decision makers, scientists, students and stakeholders, the term was new and the presentations done by the U.S. partners from the University of Arizona, the University of the West of England and Monash University of South Africa, were real eye-openers.
Within the congress, together with the national council for science and technology of Peru (CONCYTEC), the team organized a workshop for presentation of the National Research Plan for Water Resources. During the workshop, the team of CONCYTEC had the opportunity to receive the feedback from stakeholders, decision makers and researchers, and hence include the local agenda into this major policy tool. The plan, once approved, is anticipated to trigger several funding mechanisms for developing research relevant to water resources management. So, through PEER, a platform has been provided for further enriching a key policy tool of the GOP.
Future plans: Going forward, the team will work on processing the information of the research activities done so far.The team will continue working on the design of the Master's program in Ayacucho. For this, a workshop is planned in mid-November. A final visit to the community of Pilpichaca is planned at the end of October to present the final results of the study on overgrazing performed together with CONDESAN. A round-table on GI will be organized by Agua-Andes in the Expo Agua Peru fair: http://expoaguaperu.com/ (Dr. Willems is one of the owners of the event, which has consolidated as the major technological fair in water in Peru). In addition, Mrs. Tulia García, director of CEDAP, will be invited to present the experiences of peasant communities in Ayacucho on water harvesting initiatives using traditional knowledge. Dr. Willems is planning a visit to Tucson in February 2018. Depending on the availability of resources, it is possible that he will be joined by one of the Agua-Andes team members.