Water, soil and environmental conservation

Published: 06 June 2017
Last edited: 22 March 2019

Unregulated land use change in the upper watershed had been especially damaging on steep hillsides and deforestation reduced the capacity of the soils to retain water. The resulting erosion strongly increased the risk of floods and mudslides. WANI and partners supported the design of numerous community pilot projects which addressed water, soil and environmental conservation. Women made up 90% of these groups, empowering them to take a more proactive role in the development of their communities. The pilot projects were the basis for bringing people together to organize themselves into micro-watershed committees. Examples include:

  • Forest nurseries for reforestation and promotion of agroforestry on farms;
  • Facilitating development and networking of community enterprises and cooperatives working in, for example, beekeeping, fish farming, forest butterfly farm ecotourism;
  • Community gardens, organic farming and soil conservation projects;
  • Construction of septic systems to improve sanitation and raise water quality in the Suchiate River;
  • Protection of springs for domestic water supply and installation of piped distribution;
  • Establishment of a demonstration and training centre in Chiapas for integrated management of watersheds.


Co-management building
Management planning
Scale of implementation
Phase of solution
Inception phase

Enabling factors

The micro-watershed model was central to the achievement of building the adaptive capacity of the watershed and local livelihoods through empowerment of community-owned institutions.

Lessons learned

This restoration of ecosystem services in the upper watershed has achieved results for water supply, farm livelihoods and disaster resilience. Through taking an ecosystems approach to IWRM, which focuses on environmental restoration for livelihood security, these small scale initiatives have energised the communities to self-organise and has enhanced their development opportunities. Community-level participation in transboundary water resources management is achievable and adds value to conventional transboundary approaches. Planning and implementation of IWRM can be successfully shared between communities across boundaries.