Restoring ancient water management systems in the high Andes as an adaptation to climate change-Miraflores, Peru

Instituto de Montaña
Published: 29 November 2016
Last edited: 17 January 2023
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An  Ecosystem based Adaptation (EbA) measure was implemented by the community of Miraflores and The Mountain Institute in partnership with the Nor Yauyos Cochas Landscape Reserve and IUCN. Our adaptation solution combined traditional (indigenous), local knowledge with the latest science and comprised three components: (1) Strengthening community organizations and institutions, (2) Strengthening local capacities and knowledge and (3) Combining green and grey infrastructure. Working with conservationists, engineers and anthropologists, Miraflores community members decided to refurbish an ancient water management system designed by their ancestors and dating back as far as 700 years. This renovated system is a hybrid of grey (constructed) and green (from nature) infrastructure that makes the most of ancient engineering and modern science. We were able to restore water flow to native grasslands/pastures and improve livestock and pastureland management--a key adaptation to climate change.


South America
Scale of implementation
Grassland ecosystems
Tundra or montane grassland
Ecosystem services
Indigenous people
Local actors
Sustainable livelihoods
Traditional knowledge
Water provision and management
Erratic rainfall
Extreme heat
Glacial retreat
Increasing temperatures
Land and Forest degradation
Changes in socio-cultural context
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 6 – Clean water and sanitation
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
Target 10: Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Target 18: Traditional knowledge


Miraflores, Lima Region, Peru | Nor Yauyos-Cochas Landscape Reserve, Miraflores District, Yauyos Province, Lima Region, Peru


Key challenges in the community of Miraflores:

  • Weak communal organization
  • Low livestock productivity due to degraded pastures and lack of water
  • Overall water shortage
  • Labor shortages due to migration
  • Degraded mountain pastures and wetlands (pre-Inca artificial lagoons) due to overgrazing
  • Minimal pasture growth because livestock grazing was not rotated enough to give grasslands time to replenish


  • Direct: 80 families (approx. 400 people) in the community of Miraflores.
  • Indirect: Populations living in the middle and lower part of the watershed.

How do the building blocks interact?

The building blocks contribute to the initiative’s sustainability. The technology-based infrastructure combined with measures to strengthen technical and organizational capacities form the foundation for the measure’s sustainable implementation and maintenance.


The area that protects wetlands, lagoons and ancestral dikes in Yanacancha was expanded from 3 to 5 ha. The vegetation cover in the fenced area shows a trend of improvement from 69% to 90%. The pipeline repair increased the water supply, availability and distribution to larger areas. The community of Miraflores agreed to preserve and recover 160 ha of native pasture for eight months annually, during the dry season. The community developed its “pasture and water management plan” in a participatory manner. This plan included long-term activities and identified conservation objectives that are aligned with the objectives in the Nor Yauyos-Cochas Landscape Reserve's master plan. A space for dialogue between various groups—peasant/indigenous communities, governments and government agencies, academia and research, NGOs and the private sector—was created to foster synergies for financing and technical support for sustainably managing grassland ecosystems (with an emphasis on the pasture and water management plan).


Instituto de Montaña

Excerpt from Raúl Crispin Robladillo, park ranger:

At first, ecosystem-based adaptation was something new for us. Working in the area (Nor Yauyos-Cochas Landscape Reserve), we knew about conservation, preservation of natural resources, but we still knew little about EbA. But we became acquainted.


When this project started, it was a bit shocking to us, that the community members could contribute. And that contribution was their manpower. It was not customary. But that makes them appreciate the communal work they have done.


Since this project gives them the possibility of being able to do small fences, water transfer and pasture management, they alsobegin to see that their future activities will be related to that. Working with young people has been important. It is as if they have regained their identity, because in all the work they have done, these young people have learned from their ancestors, understanding how they worked long ago. Thus, they are aware of their history and current life plus how they think about tomorrow. That has been important because the youth play an important role in their homes and sometimes help their parents understand.


I think the organizational issue has improved. Families are already building fences, in order to improve pastures. They know very well that they cannot buy better livestock without (having enough) grass.


Previously, the plans made in the community were unrealistic, non-participatory and had nothing to do with the communities. The grassland and participatory water management plan now developed is important. The people themselves have assumed responsibility and they want it to be implemented, beginning with higher priority actions. They are already planning on ways to address the mayor, asking him to include what the citizens want into participative budgets. And it's not just one person, it's the majority of the community.


We are updating the master plan of the Landscape Reserve and this EbA project is framed within our plan. Park rangers have been trained in pasture evaluation, etc. In the future, they will continue to give technical assistance to community members, since that is framed within what we want as a Reserve. Consequently, they will already have acquired the basic knowledge to be able to replicate the course. And I think that's going to be important to be able to give continuity to all this in the communities.

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