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Water and poverty in two Colombian watersheds

Nancy Johnson
International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Nairobi, Kenya; n.johnson@cgiar.org
James Garcia
Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), Cali, Colombia; j.garcia@cgiar.org
Jorge E. Rubiano
Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), Cali, Colombia; j.rubiano@cgiar.org
Marcela Quintero
Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), Cali, Colombia; m.quintero@cgiar.org
Ruben Dario Estrada
Consorcio para el Desarrollo Sostenible de la Ecorregion Andina, Cali, Colombia; rdestrada@cgiar.org
Esther Mwangi
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Washington, DC; e.mwangi@cgiar.org
Adriana Morena
Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical, Cali, Colombia; adrimoreno9@hotmail.com
Alexandra Peralta
Department of Agriculture, Food and Resource Economics, Michigan State Univ.; peralta3@msu.edu
Sara Granados
Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical, Cali, Colombia; sgranados.fao@cable.net.co

ABSTRACT: Watersheds, especially in the developing world, are increasingly being managed for both environmental conservation and poverty alleviation. How complementary are these objectives? In the context of a watershed, the actual and potential linkages between land and water management and poverty are complex and likely to be very site specific and scale dependent. This study analyses the importance of watershed resources in the livelihoods of the poor in two watersheds in the Colombian Andes. Results of the participatory poverty assessment reveal significant decreases in poverty in both watersheds over the past 25 years, which was largely achieved by the diversification of livelihoods outside of agriculture. Water is an important resource for household welfare. However, opportunities for reducing poverty by increasing the quantity or quality of water available to the poor may be limited. While improved watershed management may have limited direct benefits in terms of poverty alleviation, there are important indirect linkages between watershed management and poverty, mainly through labour and service markets. The results suggest that at the level of the watershed the interests of the rich and the poor are not always in conflict over water. Sectoral as well as socio-economic differences define stakeholder groups in watershed management. The findings have implications for policymakers, planners and practitioners in various sectors involved in the implementation of integrated water resources management (IWRM).