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THE FINANCIAL CONUNDRUM OF WATERSHED MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS: EXPERIENCES FROM THE INTER-AMERICAN DEVELOPMENT BANK

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The conceptualization of a watershed management program may be an easy or a difficult task, depending on the circumstances, the extent and nature of the group conceptualizing the program, the reach and extent of the effects and consequences, and the resources available for its implementation. It may be easy if it is conceptualized within a homogenous group of people with similar formation, background and aspirations, the effects of the program are very localized and the resources for its implementation are to come from within the same group or community. It can be difficult – sometimes very difficult – when different stakeholders are involved, all with conflicting interests, the effects of the proposed actions have external impacts, the designers have different backgrounds – and thus different and often conflicting concepts of “how things should be” – and they must tap external sources of financing either from national governments or from international financing organizations. Under these circumstances, just to agree conceptually on what “watershed management” is may take some effort. And assuming that an agreement is reached on what that particular watershed management project or program is going to be and which problems it will intend to solve – no easy task either – there is the added challenge of transforming it from a “sound conceptual watershed management project” into an “investment project” that could be considered for financing by national or international financing institutions. After all, a project without financing is not yet a project.

Many “good conceptual watershed management projects” are never financed because not enough attention is paid to adequately answering these questions. And even if financed through national or international loans and/or grants, their life span does not go beyond the duration of the loan or grant. With experiences drawn from Latin America, especially Central America, and with the aim of promoting discussion and an interchange of ideas and experiences, the paper illustrates the difficulties encountered during the process of converting a good conceptual project into an investment project. These difficulties arise not only with respect to “who should pay for what and how”, but also with respect to how the project and its objectives and goals fit within national and regional policies and priorities and with respect to the policies, procedures and institutional limitations of the financial entities themselves. Last but not least, the paper focuses on the conundrum of the financial sustainability of these types of projects and programs. With two examples from the region, it illustrates the lessons learned on this most – perhaps the most – crucial issue for attaining the long-term objectives of a watershed management program.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-01-01

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