Founded in 2011, the Partnership members —The Nature Conservancy (TNC), FEMSA Foundation, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the Global Environment Fund (GEF)— found a shared vision: any future actions for global challenges would require collaboration on all fronts to increase their impact. They found in Water Funds ground-breaking efforts that maintain at their core the mission to engage the private, public, scientific, academic and civil society sectors to protect vital watersheds in Latin America, for people and nature.
The model was applied for the first time in Latin America by The Nature Conservancy in Quito, Ecuador. This effort evolved into the Partnership, acknowledging the Funds as a link between rural and urban economies. As a result, its approach effectively imbeds the costs of water conservation into the market, preserving ecosystems while promoting rural development and urban resilience.
“Water Funds are an excellent example of how governments, corporations, financial institutions, international organizations, communities, and conservationists can work together to protect nature and take part in a truly sustainable prosperity. All of us at the Latin American Water Funds Partnership are incredibly honored to be credited by the Rockefeller Foundation with one of the innovations that will help develop vulnerable regions throughout the world over the next 100 years,” said Aurelio Ramos, The Nature Conservancy Conservation Program Director for Latin America.
To date, 16 Water Funds have been developed and are in various stages of implementation in Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, The Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela and others – potentially benefiting around 43 million people.
“Water Funds bring an innovative take on conservation that was much needed to succeed in protecting essential lands upstream in the long term, so that the natural flow, filtering, and regulation of water supplies are strong. We have found in them a great opportunity to create legacies in communities that will certainly help make a better future by conserving ecosystems and also encourage sustainable sources of income for local communities upstream, such as sustainable farming and agriculture, forest restoration and even ecotourism,” stated Vidal Garza Cantú, Director of FEMSA Foundation.
The Partnership is already working with approximately 5,000 families in nine countries living upstream, along with over 100 government agencies, companies and civil society organizations to help preserve and restore the health of watersheds in order to protect vital sources of water for those regions.
Water Funds are being rapidly replicated throughout Latin America. The model has also already been exported to the United States and there are also similar initiatives being carried out in Africa.
The Water Funds project was one of three winners selected from a pool of nearly 1,000 nominations for the Next Century Innovators award, held by The Rockefeller Foundation as part of its Centennial initiative to celebrate its tradition and identify today’s leading innovators whose work creates positive change for the world’s most poor and vulnerable people.