Nets, Knots and Loose Strings Quito, Ecuador

The Water-Development project (Proyecto Agua-Desarrollo), involving popular participation in environmental management, was implemented in northwestern Quito between January 1993 and March 1995. The Water-Development Project was promoted by the Federation of poor Neighbourhoods of Northwestern Quito (FBPNQ Federacion de Barrios Populares del Noroccidente de Quito), the CIUDAD Research Center (Centro de Investigaciones CIUDAD), and the Research Network of Urban Services in Latin America (REDES), with funding from The International Secretariat for Water (ISA) and the United Nations Volunteer Programme.
The primary actor and administrator was the Agua Desarrollo womens committee. The Committee, formed by 20 women from the poor neighbourhoods of northwester Quito, later changed its name to the Community and Development Womens Committee. For the purposes of this article, we will refer to the Committee as the womens group.
The projects activities were guided by five principles: inter-institutional collaboration; citizen participation in housing improvement; generation of alternative urban policy to improve the living conditions of inhabitants; self-sustainability; and womens participation.
In line with these principles, the project proposed the following objectives, improve environmental conditions, sanitation services, and the overall habitat of the neighbourhoods; project the population from mudslides on the steep hillside during heavy rains and clear out clogged natural and constructed drainage canals, provide neighbourhoods with green areas; improve the sanitary conditions of housing and develop
more rational water management and train and raise, the consciousness of the community regarding the risks associated with living along the steep sides of the Pichincha mountain.
The Projects Origins, its primary Actors, and their Responsibilities
In 1992, the Federation, with CIUDADs support, initiated a Neighbourhood Development Plan (PDV) for the alternative, coherent, and ordered development of the zone as well as the empowerment of local popular organization to increase mobilization capacity and the ability to make proposals related to territorial ordering, economic and cultural development, communication, and organizational strengthening. The Water-
Development Project was but one of a number of pilot projects initiated since 1993 as part of the PDV.
A coordinating Committee was formed to implement the activities of the Water-Development Project. It included one representative from the Federation, one from the womens committee, and one from the CIUDAD Research Center. The project was not insular in nature, rather it sought to connect with and complement other projects and action, and to coordinate with governmental institutions, international agencies, universities, schools, social organizations and NGOs.
Action Taken
Training has been one of the most important activities throughout the course of the project, involving the womens group and the community in general. Training activities have included talks and presentations, and courses on the propagation of native species, first aid, project management, and basic accounting. Visits were made to the protective forest of the Mindo National Park, the Pasochoa National Park, the Pululahua geobotanical reserve, the Pacara de Rumicucho ruins, the Cotacachi Cayapas ecological reserve, the Pichincha volcano, and the Cotopaxi National Park.
Contacts were made with other organizations to share experiences around similar projects. Exchanges were held with the Womens Committee of the Cotacachi Union of Peasant Organizations; women involved in a garbage recycling and composting project in the El Carmen neighbourhood (in Quito) with the Cotacachi Union of Peasant organizations in charge of the Salinas project (which includes activities such as cheese production, forestry, mineral water, fisheries, the spinning of yarn, and other crafts).
Dissemination activities covered a series of issues which made it possible for the project (or the womens group) to interact with the communities. To mention a few:
The La Minga por la Vida Campaign promoted activities to clean out drainage canals and plant trees. This campaign involved the participation of the neighbourhoods, neighbourhood committees and schools of northwester Quito, as well as the Quito Municipal Government, the Provincial Council of Pichincha, the civil Defense Committee, NGOs, and a number of public and private institutions.
A tree-planting campaign was organized through which 8000 trees were planted in 40 neighbourhoods in the zone in 12 months. Promotional, educational and dissemination activities were implemented to help the population to see tree-planting as a strategy for lessening the risks involved in living on steep mountainside terrain.
During the Federations holiday camps, the members of the womens group prepared monitors and gave talks on the environment to 3000 children and 120 youth. On international Womens Day, the womens group organized a round table discussion and a torch march. They also organized an old times contest to promote the revival of ancestral traditions using recycled materials. A open house was held at the Federations headquarters, with a public exhibit of the activities of the Water-Development project.
Additionally, the following materials were produced: pamphlets for the project and for the A Tree for Life campaign as well as two others entitled Instructions for Emergency Situations and A Tree-Planting Guide, posters for the Minga for Life campaign and to provide follow-up to the tree-planting campaign; a video; and a series of articles and documents.
Investments have included a tank to collect water from the hillside and a channel it to a 65 m3 reserve and distribution tank (built by the project) for domestic use. Inhabitants of the Santa Isabel and San Rafeal Neighbourhoods participated in this project. The Management Committee supervised and administered the economic resources required for construction. CIUDAD provided technical assistance in the design, the selection of materials, and the physical construction of the public works project.
As part of the Neighbourhood Development Plan, a process of community participation for neighbourhood improvements was initiated in San Rafael. This participatory experience was made possible thanks to support from intermon and Third World Action, which joined into the activities of Water-Development Project to improve drainage channels and build channels and causeways to diminish the destructive effects of rain
water. Public works projects were implemented to improve recreational and green areas, and the Metropolitan Water and Sewage Company installed sewage lines.
The Water-Development Project also initiated a nursery designed to be self-financing, which supported tree-planting activities, gully management, neighbourhood improvement and training.
A family food basket program called La Ganga was also implemented. It was intended to serve an instrument for (demonstration) training for the women of the committee, to help lower the cost of basic goods in the neighbourhoods, to generate funds for the activities of the womens committee and the Environmental Secretariat of the Federation, and to create jobs among the women of the group. Unfortunately, this experience did not achieve the economic success expected, and was closed down a few months after it was initiated.