Assess the interests and risks that threaten the project area

During these three months in Ecuador and my first encounter with Latin America, I had to come across several challenges that helped me understand better how things work here. The way people communicate, their body language and their flexibility regarding time management are cultural aspects that needed some deep consideration in order to avoid misunderstandings when relating to Ecuadorian people. In these three months my colleague and I were focused on establishing professional links with institutions and organizations that work directly with the subject of Disaster Risk Management and Community Awareness. We had the chance to meet people highly skilled and trained ready to accept our collaboration and open to the idea of creating projects together.

Although we are still in the initial phase of need assessment and mapping the actors involved in the subject, I can tell you about a couple of activities that we had the chance to participate in that gave us an idea about the possible lines of action that we would like to direct our project towards.

A river basin threatened by landslides

In collaboration with the public company ETAPA EP, in charge of the water supply to the municipality of Cuenca, we participated in a field trip to the Machángara river basin. The Machángara provides Cuenca with 60% of its drinkable water and with 38,4 megawatts of electric energy thanks to two hydroelectric power stations located by its borders. The Machángara water is also used for field irrigation as well as for small scale pisciculture.  Apart from that, this beautiful river basin is the habitat of many plants and animals that make the place a priceless ecological niche that needs to be conserved. We had the chance to see by ourselves the human and natural value of this river basin as well as to check the main risk that threat the place: landslides. This phenomenon is quite usual and enhanced by human activity. The main threat of the landslides is the water contamination and the subsequent effects in the electricity and water supply to the city. It would also have negative consequences to the basin ecosystems. The main conclusion of the visit was the need to develop preventive measures  that diminish the likeliness of landslides and the engagement with ETAPA EP to work together in order to do it.

Another event that we had the chance to assist to was the “Audiencia de los Páramos” (“The Moors Audiency”). In this occasion the risk under discussion was the mining activity at the nearby moors and the consequences for the population and the environment. It was very informative and illustrating to hear many of the actors involved. Thus, we could make in our minds the bigger picture of interests and risks that threat the zone where we would like to implement our project.

As you can see, our activities are focused for now in gathering as much information as possible and reflect about our possible action lines, strategic collaborations and communities we want to work with. The whole process is being very educative not only work wise but also from a personal point of view. In order to be effective with a given project, I understand we need to adapt first to the particular mind setting and context. Some time for reflection and information processing is needed before we can set up our own proposals.