In the Pantanal region of Brazil, one of the world’s largest tropical wetlands, deforestation and replacement of native vegetation with planted exotic pastures and crops in headwater basins have contributed to stream siltation and changes in hydrologic balance, reducing water quality and quantity. Starting with a pilot municipality called Corguinho that contains key headwater basins of the Negro, Taboco and Aquidauana rivers, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) will leverage locally-trusted municipal- personnel and well-established networks and organizations to: (1) conduct municipal-scale watershed assessments and land-use planning, (2) train capacity builders to promote sustainable land-use practices, (3) set up three sustainably-managed model properties, and (4) scale up positive impacts to neighboring municipalities.
Project goal and impact
Drawing on proven approaches to promoting sustainable land use on individual properties, WCS will scale-up impacts to Corguinho’s extensive watersheds with municipal land use planning that helps protect and restore the ecological function of streams and native vegetation areas, while optimizing sustainable land use.
Preservation and rehabilitation of native vegetation cover in headwater basins will mitigate the impacts of erosion and channel siltation in headwater streams and help reconnect fragmented stream sections and native vegetation reserves. This, in turn, should increase the long-term resilience of watershed services and the capacity of rural communities, to adapt to climate change.
Poor land use practices degrade water quality and reduce stream flows, threatening rural livelihoods. Improved water quality and quantity will promote long-term economic sustainability in headwater basins and on the Pantanal floodplain. In addition, wider adoption of sustainable land use practices will lower the long-term costs of cattle production and increase pasture-stocking capacity as well as ranch profits.
To test and promote innovative sustainable land use practices, WCS will work with local landowners from diverse socioeconomic sectors to set up three sustainably-managed model properties. To facilitate transfer of project ownership to Corguinho, WCS will train municipal personnel to maintain a land-use planning database, promote sustainable land-use practices, and raise additional funds for project continuity. A sustainability outreach team, consisting of WCS staff and a variety of Corguinho stakeholders will then organize events with neighboring municipalities to highlight innovations and positive impacts from pilot-municipality land-use planning, sustainable land-use practices, and community outreach.
Participation of the communities
Government leaders, environmental officers and members of local landowner organizations from Corguinho will work with WCS staff to develop a municipal land-use plan and a spatially-explicit investment strategy for promoting sustainable land-use practices and watershed protection. Furthermore, landowners representing the three main socioeconomic sectors in Corguinho will work with WCS staff to set up and implement sustainable land-use practices on three model properties.
Operational responsibility for the project will be gradually transferred from WCS and its partners to the Corguinho municipal government, which will also become financially responsible for a majority of activities. WCS will scale up regional adoption of Corguinho’s policies promoting watershed protection, land-use planning and sustainable land-use practices by organizing events with neighboring municipalities that demonstrate a variety of benefits for the environment and rural livelihoods.