Managing water, combating climate change in Ecuador

Sergio Guzmán, 80 years old, is a farmer from Victoria del Portete, Ecuador, a parish of 5,000 that is surrounded by high mountains and filled with rivers and pastures. Sergio learned how to manage a farm at 14, but after lifetime of working this land, he’s recently seen the growing scarcity of water on the region.

“When I was 18 or 20, it used to rain a lot a lot and the rivers would flood. But now we’ve seen rain only once this year,” he says.

Farmers like Sergio have witnessed first-hand the effects of climate change—extreme weather like extensive droughts, heavy rains and prolonged heat are all more common, and the levels of the Irquis River have gradually decreased.


  • 28,983 people from the most vulnerable watersheds of the country have benefitted.
  • A drinking water system and 149 sprinkler, spray, and mixed irrigation systems were set up in rural gardens.
  • The project planted 506,440 native plants and reforested 440 hectares of land.
  • 50 reservoirs and mini-reservoirs, 96 ponds, 33 wetlands and 32 weathering pits were built.
  • 116 agro-ecological farms and 134 orchards were set up to improve food security of communities.

To help communities address the effects of increasingly erratic weather, UNDP, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Ministry of Environment of Ecuador (MAE), have implemented the “Adapting to Climate Change through Effective Water Governance (PACC)” project, usinga multi-angle approach to build resilience and improve the local quality of life.

Since 2008, the project has focused on Ecuador’s most vulnerable watersheds: Chone, Portoviejo, Babahoyo, Advertise, Jubones and Catamayo. It has applied climate change adaptation measures to agriculture, improved water reservoir structures, made irrigation systems more sophisticated and integrated the management of community irrigation systems.

The UNDP representative in Ecuador, Diego Zorrilla, emphasized that, "the PACC Project was institutionalized in the Ministry of Environment so that it could be replicated in other parts of the country."

36 community projects and agro-forestry practices were implemented, and traditional knowledge and practices were used to improve the reliability of water resources.

One important ancestral practice is found in the home gardens (las ajas), spaces where the Shuar women of the Amazon manage crop cultivation. They protect and restore the soil by removing non-native plants and livestock from the area. This leads to a resurgence of native seeds and plants and both improves biodiversity and protects the region’s cultural heritage. Another traditional technology is albarradas (horseshoe-shaped dams), artificial lagoons that capture rainwater for irrigation and create areas in which fish and ducks can breed.

To improve food security of communities, 116 agro-ecological farms and 134 orchards were created, as was a drinking water system and 149 sprinkler, spray and mixed irrigation systems to be used in rural gardens. The project planted 506,440 native plants and reforested 440 hectares of land. It also built 50 reservoirs and mini-reservoirs, 96 ponds, 33 wetlands and 32 weathering pits.

The project worked to strengthen local institutions and stakeholders—the new regulatory framework for Ecuador’s water resources established a Watershed Council for communities. In 12 communities in Azuay Province women have been actively involved in decision-making, a crucial development given that many of the region’s men have left the area to work as migrants.

One of these women, Gladys Sagbay, said that before the project, "there were no jobs. Whereas now, we have water to plant our gardens and sell our products. The land is my sustenance.”

The project’s activities have benefitted some 4,455 families, numbering 28,983 people in eight provinces and 116 communities.