Sustaining Inclusive Collective Action That Links across Economic and Ecological Scales in Upper Watersheds (SCALES)

Published on 5 August 2010

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Start Date: 1 September 2004 | End Date: 30 June 2008


The CPWF’s SCALES project addresses the challenges of achieving and maintaining collective action in watersheds. The multiple, overlapping scales, and the ecological, economic, social and political asymmetries that typically characterize tropical watersheds substantially make it difficult to achieve cooperation around watershed management at anything but very local scale. Yet, high scale coordination and cooperation is essential to adequately address watershed problems.



The goal of this project was to make explicit the relationships between collective action, scale and poverty in a watershed context, and use the knowledge to develop solutions overcoming barriers and fostering equitable and sustainable management of watershed resources.



The identified relationships between poverty, scale and collective action in watersheds are extremely complex, both conceptually and empirically. There are some opportunities for improving welfare through better water management but many more potential trade-offs exist between poverty and the environment. Improving communication among different stakeholder improves cooperation around water management, according to experimental results. Upstream communities have an important role to play in initiating watershed dialogue because downstream people, both in the games and in reality, appear to have a deep distrust of upstream residents that limits their willingness to initiate cooperation, though not to reciprocate if upstream people make the first move. Action research in Colombia confirmed the potential of communication to improve collaboration, and demonstrates that it is possible to level the playing field and empower communities to engage with authorities around issues of resource management and rural development.



The project produced 8 scientific papers, 7 presentations and new methodology for economic experiments and a guide for implementing a multi-stakeholder training, negotiation and meeting process, (i.e. innovative methodology, the Conversatorio de Accion Ciudadana, CAC)





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