Ozogoche - Guamote Irrigation Project: An attempt to strengthen the Andean economy in Ecuador

Ozogoche - Guamote Irrigation Project: An attempt to strengthen the Andean economy in Ecuador

By By Kashyapa A. S. Yapa

Several rivers are born and cross the territory of the Canton, however, for irrigation, they do not have permanent or sufficient flows, or at adequate levels. Hence, the urgency of building an irrigation system that covers an area large enough to justify the transfer of water over long distances.

Despite the four thousand meters of altitude and the early hour, on this day, the cold is not felt in the Ozogoche páramo. The clear sky shines with a luminous blue, the radiant sun paints the slopes of the mountains in gold, their majestic peaks stretch, taking off their transparent white sheets, and the enormous water mirrors, framed by the mountain range, reflect without fail any detail everything. the picturesque setting. This resplendent landscape warms the body and soul of all those who have gathered around the Ozogoche lagoons to celebrate an unprecedented event.
The authorities of two autonomous political entities, of the neighboring cantons Guamote and Alausí, populated mainly by the same people - the Quechua-speaking indigenous people, have managed to put aside border disputes or fights over scarce provincial or national resources, and met here to discuss how to share a very important natural resource for both entities, the Ozogoche páramos. Guamote intends to irrigate its dry lands with the waters that arise from this moor, however, it must channel them through lands that belong to the Alausí Canton. Although geographical barriers do not allow Alausí to irrigate with the waters of Ozogoche, its authorities aspire to promote this beautiful moor as a national and international tourist destination.

The mayor of Alausí addresses the crowd of owners of the páramo and the future beneficiaries of its waters; "... We are not opposed to our brothers from neighboring Canton taking advantage of this water, because development, true progress, transcends artificial borders. We propose a compromise; that they benefit from the waters, but preserving this beautiful landscape of the lagoons and their surroundings ... "The Guamoteños obtained the approval of the Alausí authorities to start the irrigation project, however, how can this commitment be respected? Because the preliminary design of the project, prepared by the technicians, included the construction of a regulating reservoir before the water intake, which would flood the entire Ozogoche páramo! It will be necessary to reconsider this and other technical aspects of the project, taking into account the socio-political-environmental reality of the region and, is the Guamote political organization prepared to take on this challenge?

The Guamote Canton and its people

Since the cantonization of Guamote in 1948, its tiny population of mestizos, which does not exceed 5% of the total, controlled power in the canton, which was spread over a dozen immense haciendas, occupying the frozen and dry Ecuadorian central highlands (between 2800 to 4200 meters above sea level.) Since the 80s, its native population began to recover their ancestral lands, however, the political-economic neo-slavery practiced by the central and local governments kept them strongly oppressed. The demands for political rights did not wait, and in 1992, Guamote burst onto the national scene, electing an indigenous person as its mayor. Four years later, along with the resurgence of the indigenous political movement at the national level, the indigenous people of Guamote consolidated their political power by capturing a majority in the cantonal council. Looking for spaces outside the municipal bureaucracy to attend to the just and damned claims of indigenous communities, its leaders created the country's first Cantonal Indigenous Parliament, in Guamote, which allows community leaders a voice to define the priorities of public works municipal authorities and an oversight of their executions. At the same time, they created the Local Development Committee, an executing unit that brings together all local NGOs, to plan and implement comprehensive development projects with a cantonal scope. In the Local Government of Guamote, now, these three instances share the responsibility of ensuring the well-being of its 32,000 inhabitants, who still carry a tireless struggle, simply to ensure the survival of their families.

Its population bases its survival on agricultural production. However, the lack of rainfall in much of the Guamote canton does not allow for sufficiently profitable agricultural work. Its crops are dry land, where you can make only one harvest per year. Its productive plots continue to decrease, in size due to the increase in population pressure, and in quality due to environmental deterioration. Its only mobile wealth, the herds of cattle and sheep, can only be fed in the fragile moors, due to the lack of pasture in the lower part. The páramos, which are over 3,800 meters high and which were previously communal property, are now undergoing individual distribution processes for agricultural purposes, as they are the only places with sufficient humidity and virgin soil. Overgrazing and agriculture rapidly degrade the water-holding capacity of the páramo, making water availability even more scarce, not only for irrigation, but also for human consumption.

The farmer does not dare to invest his few resources in the agricultural field, in activities such as fertilizing the soil, buying better quality seeds or building protections against erosion, when his crops are at the mercy of unpredictable climatic variations. An irrigation system would allow you to begin this long process of regaining the productivity of your field, confident that your investment would not be wasted.

Several rivers are born and cross the territory of the Canton, however, for irrigation, they do not have permanent or sufficient flows, or at adequate levels. Hence, the urgency of building an irrigation system that covers an area large enough to justify the transfer of water over long distances.

Aware of the need to improve the living conditions of its inhabitants, the Local Government of Guamote prepared, in a participatory manner, a Cantonal Development Plan, within which priority was given to agricultural production and environmental conservation. Therefore, the search for mechanisms to support the increase in agricultural production in the Canton, simultaneously protecting its natural resources, constitutes the main challenge for local authorities. Within this approach, they have concentrated their efforts on implementing the Ozogoche-Guamote Irrigation Project, which will directly benefit a fifth of the cantonal population.

The water of the Ozogoche river as a solution

Due to the requests of the peasant communities of the Matriz de Guamote parish, where the effects of droughts are very severe and frequent, the former INERHI (National Institute of Water Resources) began, as of 1980, a study on the possibility of irrigating this area taking advantage of the Ozogoche river. Its waters are born from the Cubillín and Magtayán Lagoons, in the Achupallas parish, in the northeast of the Alausí Canton, and the River has a stable flow in the summer season in Guamote. This study defined an irrigation project, at the Pre-feasibility level, that will supply approximately 5000 hectares in the Guamote Canton, transferring the water from the Ozogoche River through a long channel that penetrated the mountain range.

The future beneficiaries of this project were grouped, in order to fulfill their desire, under the second degree organization CODIOIGPA (Integral Development Corporation of the Guamote Palmira Indigenous Organizations), who, in 1995, with persistent struggle and decision, achieved, Through a 'financial and technical minga' of various governmental and non-governmental entities, to advance to another level, a part of the hydrology and topography studies of the project. In 2002, partial financing was available (from the budget estimated by exINERHI), with contributions from the Central Government and the Municipality, to carry out the Project Feasibility studies. These funds were channeled to the Guamote Local Development Committee (CDL), which prepared a technical team, made up mainly of inhabitants of the region, including some possible irrigation beneficiaries, and began to prepare the studies in early March 2002.

The Ozogoche-Palmira-Guamote Irrigation Project, as defined in the Feasibility Study, proposes to capture a maximum of 3000 liters per second of water from the Ozogoche River (in its rainy season) at an elevation of 3730 meters above sea level, about 1200 meters of water. down from the last lagoon. Its transfer channel surrounds the mountain range for about 80km, as far as it crosses it, and then divides into two branches to distribute its waters to the irrigation areas, the north branch is 10km and the south, 40km. Currently there are 1,582 aspiring irrigation families, grouped in 36 communities and associations, under the leadership of CODIOIGPA. The irrigation zone comprises approximately 5000 hectares of land, located between 3650 meters above sea level and 3000 meters above sea level, in the northeast areas of the Matriz and Palmira parishes and in the northwest area of ​​the Cebadas parish, in the Guamote Canton. The main commercial crops in the area are potatoes, beans, corn, barley, and cattle grass.

Guamote assumes the challenge of modifying the Project

The red poncho of the mayor of Guamote stands out among the sea of ​​red ponchos stretched out in the Ozogoche moor, and all eyes are focused on him; "... We are immensely grateful for this magnanimous effort from the mayor of Alausí." He continues, "And we gladly accept the challenge of preserving this beauty for future generations of our nation. We will show that we are not predators of our Pachamama ..." The Ozogoche lagoons and a part of the Ozogoche Alto community are located within the limits of the Sangay National Park, declared Natural Patrimony of the Humanity by UNESCO, a major reason not to stain its magnificent landscape with artificial works. The previous technicians, who prepared the Pre-Feasibility Study, did not consider the environmental fragility of the area, and in their quest to guarantee a constant flow for the irrigation canal, they had proposed that regulating reservoir, with a maximum depth of 30m, which would have covered both lagoons, in addition to the surrounding moor plain. Rapid flow variations do not occur in the Ozogoche river, because the two large lagoons function in a way as regulating reservoirs. However, currently, with the progressive degradation of the páramo, the contribution to the lagoons in summer time has reduced so much that the river flow can vary from 7000l / s in rainy weather to about 1000l / s in summer. There, without a storage reservoir, the Project that wants to capture 3,000 l / s for irrigation will run into a deficit in certain months. But, this deficit does not significantly harm irrigation, because the summer seasons in the Ozogoche area and the irrigation season do not coincide. The Ozogoche River is strongly fed by the rains of the Oriental regime, just when the irrigation zone in Guamote is under its summer. At the end of these rains the flow of the River decreases, and simultaneously the demand for irrigation water in Guamote also decreases because the rains begin there. These last rains do not occur with the same intensity annually, and in some years, the demand for irrigation could be greater than the available flow in the Ozogoche River. A population, aware of the importance of preserving the Ozogoche páramo, can assume this risk. Also, an effort that focuses on preventing further degradation of this páramo could increase the summer flows of the River.

The Guamote indigenous political leadership and the new technical team are willing to sacrifice the reservoir, because this reduces environmental damage in Ozogoche and also significantly reduces the total budget of the Project, but what will future irrigators say? Following the Guamote Local Government's philosophy of including citizen participation in all its cantonal development actions, the technical team decided to actively incorporate, from the outset, all possible beneficiaries in the Project design process. We regularly convene assemblies of the representatives of the beneficiaries, to communicate and consult them on the possible options, before making important decisions regarding the design.

We explained, in the first assembly of the beneficiaries, the options available on the construction of the regulating reservoir and its consequences. Some leaders, who had listened to the words of the mayor of Alausí in Ozogoche, had interpreted them as opposition to the Project itself, and now they were surprised to learn the minimal risk that eliminating the reservoir implies. Almost all are aware of the deplorable conditions in which the páramos of their own communities find themselves, and were willing to contribute to the conservation of the páramo that will provide irrigation water to their plots. They unanimously approved the elimination of the reservoir, however, they had one concern: "How do we distribute irrigation water in times of deficit?"

Economy and justice in the distribution of water

Large state irrigation projects are notorious, for the theft and waste of water, and for the difficulties in raising funds even to maintain their infrastructure. To know their situations in depth, we planned, in the first days of the Study, technical visits to some nearby projects, together with the leaders of CODIOIGPA. Their stories were very different from ours. Almost always, government entities have planned, built and delivered completed projects to users, without them having any participation in the previous stages. Its problems originate there, users do not identify with the infrastructure, worse with the water that is distributed. It is considered as a foreign good, they damage it; they steal water, they do not value it and they waste it. The system of charging for irrigation also does not help to value the use of water. It is charged for the area that each user has to irrigate, regardless of the area cultivated in a certain season, or the type of crop, or their actual need for irrigation. As one user answered, "Why do I save water, if they always charge me the same?"

These experiences helped us to incorporate the concepts of economy, equity and social justice, fundamental pillars of the Local Government of Guamote, in the distribution of water in the Ozogoche-Guamote Irrigation Project. The future beneficiaries of the Project aspire to contribute all equally, in money and labor, for the construction and operation of the Project. Therefore, it is fair to distribute the water rights in equal flows for each user. After analyzing it in detail, in several assemblies, the beneficiaries decided to accept this mechanism for the distribution of water, which would also avoid conflicts in the distribution of water in deficit projects like ours. In the summer of Ozogoche, the right to irrigation water will be proportional to the flow that can be captured in the River. There is great variation in land tenure among the indigenous communities of Guamote, although the communal system has managed to maintain fairly uniform individual lot sizes within the same community. For this reason, and due to differences in access to other resources, some beneficiaries, at certain times, will not be able to use all the flow to which they are entitled and others will need more water. The technical team recommends, in general, an allocation of 0.6l / s per hectare of land. In order not to harm those who do not want to use all the allocated flow, and also to promote the practice of optimizing irrigation water, we have designed a tariff system, based mainly on the flow consumed, instead of the irrigated area. This scheme will reward the efficient farmer, because he can irrigate a larger area with the same flow, improving the type of irrigation and improving the soils of his plots. Furthermore, this would avoid irregular transfers of irrigation water between users. The question of how to resolve the distribution of water between those who have more and those who want more, we decided to leave it in the hands of the board of irrigators of each community, a body that should be formed with the construction of the irrigation canal.

The board of irrigators, or in turn, the communal council of each community, must be responsible for the secondary channel that derives water for its community, and also for all distribution channels and structures for the plots, from the construction phase up to maintenance. Due to the intimate interactions and mutual dependencies that prevail among the members of a commune, we think that a communal organization, more than an external one, will have greater facilities to mediate in the conflicts that the distribution of water can generate. She will also be able to consider the benefit of the entire community, and design a fair distribution of water in times of deficit or when some members have excess water.

The work will have the hand of all users

The sun, which escaped from the clouds that surrounded the mountains of Ozogoche, illuminates the smiling face of the president of CODIOIGPA, who does not hide his happiness for the great feat of obtaining, first, the funds to carry out the studies of the Project, and now , the approval of the Alausí authorities. Speaking on behalf of all the beneficiaries, he reviews the long struggle they have led to get irrigation water, "… We thank all those who have supported us in this arduous task of building better days for our children and grandchildren. We will not fail them; We will not faint until the water reaches all our lots, because of how hard this work can be. We are all willing to lend our hands so that the work is cheap, also, so that it is ours. " Not only the users, the Local Government of Guamote also wants to lower the costs of the

Draft; it hopes to direct, through its Executing Unit, the construction of the Ozogoche-Guamote Project, if it is shown that it is economically feasible. Consequently, the technical team of the Feasibility Study took on the challenge of designing the Project to be economically viable, and of designing it in such a way that it can be built using local resources.

The Pre-feasibility Study had recommended building a 4000m-long tunnel to cross the mountain range that separates the Ozogoche / Cebadas river basin and the Atapo river. The topography allows the open-air channel to be carried along the Cebadas river side as far as the mountain range can be crossed without a tunnel, however, ex-INERHI technicians had ruled out this possibility, citing the geological problems and high costs of one more channel. long. A tunnel of that length does not fit in with the predisposition of the Guamote Local Government to carry out the work with direct administration, and it forces it to look for a multinational contractor with experience in this type of work, which would make the work severely expensive. On the other hand, building the canal under the open sky makes it possible to efficiently occupy the greatest resource available to users, labor in the form of mingas. For these reasons, we proposed to the assembly of the beneficiaries to investigate the alternative of building the open canal, instead of the long tunnel, and the assembly accepted it. This alternative also allows incorporating some more communities to the Project and expanding the irrigation zone. Subsequent geological investigations confirmed our suspicions about the long tunnel: it collides with the regional Peltetec tectonic fault and its construction would carry very high risks.

The Pre-Feasibility Study had also recommended lining the main channel with a thick layer of concrete. The shortage of stone and sand material in the canal area and the difficulties of the access roads would increase the cost of such a lining, and consequently, the total cost of the work, for the new longer canal. This prompted us to investigate the possibility of lining the canal with other, locally available and cheaper materials. We built experimental sections in two watercourses, with pressed terrocement blocks, using the same earth that will be excavated in the Ozogoche canal. We installed the first section in the Guamote River to measure its resistance to erosion, and the other, in the San Vicente canal to investigate its durability. This material has already proven its resistance to erosion, and durability research needs long-term observations.

Typically, the typical channel section is designed in a trapezoidal shape, to facilitate concrete lining. However, with the terrocement a semicircular section can be lined, which would have better flow characteristics, reduce the excavation volume, and most importantly, allow efficient use of unskilled labor. Thus, we recommend continuing with the investigations and seriously considering this alternative to line the channel, in sections where the excavation in bedrock is less, and where the channel gradient does not exceed its regular value of 1 per 1000. According to the first estimates, this siding alternative would reduce the total budget by approximately 30%.

Who decides where to water?

The irrigation zone of the Project has a very irregular topography, between heights 3650 and 3000 masl, with deep ravines between hills and edges of mountain ranges. There are flat lands suitable for crops on the top of the hills and in the intermittent valleys, separated by medium to strong slopes.

In the Pre-feasibility Study, its technicians delineated as the irrigation zone, mainly, the lands in the pampas, with very gentle slopes, following the restrictions imposed by the exINERHI technical standards. However, the reality does not agree with such rigid technical criteria: the preferences of the peasants are different. "It is very risky to sow in the pampas, sometimes you lose everything because of the frosts. In addition, they are very far from our homes. We want to sow in semi-hilly areas, here, near the town center," they say. Certainly, they have a long tradition of cultivating on slopes without neglecting their soils, as for example, when there is irrigation, they dedicate their lands with steep slopes to sow pastures. Therefore, we decided to allow the users themselves to choose their best fields for irrigation, under some technical assistance. In each commune there are several sectors, separated from each other by ravines, and each community member generally owns at least one lot in each sector. The aptitude to cultivate varies a lot between sectors, due to its topography and soil, and together with local leaders, we established an order of irrigation between sectors, to facilitate the design of secondary and tertiary canals. To allow, in the future, farmers to make some changes in the preference order of their cultivation plots, we include a 25% slack in the design flows in the tertiary canals.

We also consider the need to build reservoirs to store water at night, because nighttime irrigation is not recommended in this area, due to the steep slopes of the land and the low temperatures. However, the lack of sufficiently large and flat communal land prevents the construction of large storage facilities. The construction of group or family reservoirs, of small sizes (20 to 30 cubic meters), can solve the problem, and these can be built, to a large extent, with the contributions of the beneficiaries themselves.

Minimizing environmental damage - everyone's responsibility The fragile ecosystem of the Ozogoche páramos, within the last 20 years, has deteriorated to an alarming level. The arrival of a gravel road to the lagoons, the approach of the electric power network, and the constant tourist economic expectations, created by the local and provincial authorities, have helped to greatly increase the social and economic pressure on these lands. The human population continues to increase, and consequently, the demand for agricultural land, mechanically plowed and cultivated with agrochemicals, grows. The cattle population is also increasing. The indigenous communities that surround the lagoons admit their responsibility for the destruction, "The páramos are no longer like they used to be, every year they get drier. We have to go to higher ground each time to sow and to graze. But what else? alternative do we have? "

For decades, the waters of the Ozogoche River have been used by various irrigation projects and by a state hydroelectric project. However, until now, no conservation program has been established in its upper basin, nor have viable alternatives been offered to the inhabitants living in its páramo. If current trends continue, even without the Irrigation Project for Guamote, we can see serious negative environmental consequences in the area in the near future. Therefore, from the first months, we were able to bring together the representatives of almost all the inhabitants of its páramo, the users of its water, and the governmental and non-governmental entities interested in the matter, to agree on conservation strategies. and management of this basin, including the possibilities of payment of environmental services for the use of water. As a result, we prepare a joint management plan, which establishes several productive alternatives, such as ecotourism, the introduction of less destructive and more profitable animals, or the improvement of pastures in the lower zone, which can be carried out with the participation of all stakeholders. interested parties, for the benefit of the Ozogoche páramo and its communities, who must change their role from destroyers to caretakers.

The construction of the catchment work and the canal for the Guamote irrigation project will also cause certain environmental damage to the surroundings and will bring some inconvenience to the communities that are settled along the canal. The first four kilometers of the canal are within the limits of the Sangay Park, and the technical team did their best not to tarnish its beautiful landscape. At kilometer 8 of the canal, we designed a short tunnel to penetrate a cliff, instead of going around it, which would have caused damage by the excavation of the rock to the town of Ozogoche Bajo, which is located below. To prevent the drying out of several wetlands that the canal runs through, it will be built packed within these sections. Small pedestrian bridges, installed every 250m along the canal, will facilitate the passage of grazing animals and farm workers, so that the canal is not an obstacle in the daily work of the farmers. Parallel to the canal, a 6m wide road will be built, which will facilitate access not only for the canal, but also for neighboring communities. For the rocky sections, with steep side slopes, we have designed a platform of a minimum size, where the vehicles will pass over the canal, packed with a slab. This would avoid high slope cuts, reducing the danger of landslides and decreasing the volume of rock excavation. The canal also includes a large number of overflow and drainage weirs, near the crossings of large streams, to facilitate the rapid evacuation of water, in cases of emergencies due to landslides or damage to the canal.

In the irrigation zone, the canal will bring more beneficial than harmful impacts. With the introduction of canal water, farmers can be persuaded to limit the agricultural frontier at the canal level and to take conservation measures in their páramo areas. The provision of irrigation water with a certain guarantee will allow them to invest, with greater security, their scarce resources to improve production on their plots. They admit the lack of soil conservation practices, reforestation with native plants and crop diversification, and ask for help to improve the commercialization of their products.

Comprehensive solutions for the irrigation area

The hundreds of future beneficiaries who were witnessing, together with the local authorities, the concentration in the Ozogoche páramo due to the initiation of the Feasibility Studies, anxiously awaited the words of the Project's technical director. "... We promise not to disappoint you" he reassures them, "we know that your problems are many and are not solved only with the arrival of water. We want all of you to get involved in finding a comprehensive solution. Send us your children, your grandchildren, who are preparing, who want to learn, to participate in this task, we will form a team with everyone. In the future, they will be the ones who operate and maintain the Project. So we are all learning little by little how to solve our problems. empezar con un proyecto piloto…"

Diseñamos el Proyecto Piloto para probar varias estrategias a combatir los problemas que azotan la zona de riego, y lo implementamos desde el principio del Estudio. Preparamos un programa de capacitación sobre riego para los futuros beneficiarios, y lo pusimos en práctica en las comunidades que ya poseen algunas acequias. Canalizamos algunos recursos para mejorar los pequeños sistemas de riego existente, y por este medio, logramos fortalecer la administración de los mismos. En la microcuenca del río Atapo, organizamos a varias comunidades para luchar juntos, y construir una acequia común. Las organizaciones comunales, unidas para aprovechar el agua, también están uniéndose para proteger este recurso, controlando la entrada de sus animales a los páramos y sembrando plantas nativas alrededor de sus vertientes de agua. Los comuneros aportaron con tierra, abono y mano de obra para producir plantas nativas en un vivero central que, después, se repartirán entre ellos, para ese fin y otros, como para instalar cortinas de rompe viento, delimitando linderos de sus lotes.

Las comunidades que se beneficiarán en el futuro con aguas del río Ozogoche están preparándose, desde ahora, para utilizar técnicas de conservación de suelo, para aplicar abono orgánico, preparado por ellas mismas, y también, para reintroducir diversos cultivos tradicionales en sus huertas familiares y escolares. Una nutricionista les ayuda a incorporar alimentos sanos, nutritivos y baratos a la dieta cotidiana para que se mejore la salud familiar. El Proyecto Piloto, además, proporciona asistencia técnica para mejorar la salud de los animales productivos y su alimentación. Una propuesta dirigida al Gobierno Local para reorganizar la comercialización de los productos en la feria de Guamote, también hace parte de este plan de mejoramiento del aparato productivo de la zona de riego. Recomendamos al Gobierno Local continuar con el Proyecto Piloto, con evaluaciones y adecuaciones, para preparar los futuros beneficiarios a que logren maximizar en su beneficio las aguas de Ozogoche.

Evaluación económica del proyecto con enfoque social

Para que el Proyecto de Riego Ozogoche sea viable económicamente, los beneficios que traerá el Proyecto deben superar la inversión en la construcción de las obras civiles y los costos anuales de la operación y mantenimiento del sistema. Los futuros beneficiarios están dispuestos a prestar su mano de obra en las etapas de la construcción y del mantenimiento para reducir los costos, y los diseños de las obras civiles también permiten aprovechar este recurso muy valioso. Los costos que utilizamos para la evaluación del Proyecto reflejan este ahorro. Aquí también se incluyen los costos del Plan de Manejo Ambiental para la zona alta de Ozogoche y del Programa de Capacitación para la zona de riego.

Los beneficios principales que traerá el Proyecto, serán el aumento de los ingresos económicos de los regantes y los ahorros que significan la disminución de la migración hacia las ciudades y la mejoría de la salud familiar por el acceso a dietas nutritivas. Sus ingresos mejorarán por las inversiones que realizarán los agricultores, con agua de riego más segura, y con la disponibilidad de asistencia técnica y capacitación. Sin embargo, de acuerdo a la vivencia Andina indígena, no siempre podemos medir los beneficios con valores financieros, sino en la mejoría de las condiciones socioeconómicas. Por lo tanto, decidimos contabilizar estos ahorros que reflejan la disminución de los gastos de las familias campesinas.

Las comparaciones de los gastos y los beneficios del proyecto de riego Ozogoche-Guamote, utilizando los diferentes escenarios como son: las dos alternativas de revestimiento y el uso de mano de obra pagada o en una forma de minga, nos permite deducir que el Proyecto es económicamente viable bajo cualquier escenario. Su viabilidad económica (reflejada por la Tasa Interna de Retorno por la inversión realizada) mejorara considerablemente bajo la alternativa en que el canal lleva un revestimiento de terrocemento, construido a través de mingas (TIR = 21.35%).

Un futuro proyectado hacia una economía diferente

Al final de la concentración en las lagunas de Ozogoche, todos los asistentes recorrimos el Río, desde su nacimiento hasta donde se instalará la bocatoma. En tramos, el agua corre apuradísima, saltando de una roca, chocando contra otra; florece espuma blanca instantáneamente pero se esconde sin ni siquiera saludarnos, o estalla la corriente, de repente, bañándonos, involuntariamente, con miles de perlas transparentes y heladas. En otros tramos, el Río se desliza suavemente, revelando, bajo el sol brillante, en su fondo algas multicolores, que bailan cabaret en homenaje a los visitantes. Para Ozogoche, famoso por sus gélidos vientos, sombríos cielos y constantes lloviznas, este es un día totalmente diferente, señalando, tal vez, el nacimiento de un futuro diferente.

Diseñamos este Proyecto de Riego apostando hacia ese futuro diferente, un futuro donde la economía sea distinta. Una economía donde no dominan los números y las fórmulas, sino una donde domina el rostro Andino. Apostamos a que un Gobierno Local, elegido, dirigido y vigilado por el pueblo, como él de Guamote, debe disponer de la capacidad para dirigir y administrar la construcción de una obra de desarrollo tan importante para su pueblo, como la del Proyecto Ozogoche. Que la necesidad urgente del suministro de agua de riego para el sufrido pueblo de Guamote debe primar sobre muchos otros usos de esa agua. Que, sin importar la escasez de recursos financieros para solventar la obra, su organización comunitaria y su disciplina cooperativa pueda movilizar otros recursos, para llevar el Proyecto a su realización.

Deseamos que el Proyecto de Riego Ozogoche sea una realidad, una realidad que refleje la recién asumida conciencia política de las comunidades indígenas y su

tradicional práctica ecológica; donde, el aprovechamiento de los recursos naturales no sea para el beneficio de unos pocos y poderosos, sino para la colectividad, especialmente para los más necesitados. Y donde, se trate a los recursos naturales no como algo que heredamos de nuestros antecesores, sino como algo que nos tienen prestado nuestros

* Kashyapa A. Yapa, Mayo 2003
Riobamba, Ecuador

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