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Participatory watershed management in Yunnan province, China

April 20, 2022
News item image Green Watershed is a model of indigenous self-organization and participatory watershed management

Green Watershed is an environmental NGO based in China that works to maximise the potential for sustainable, integrated watershed development. Also known as the Yunnan Green Watershed Management Research and Promotion Centre, the NGO promotes participatory watershed management as a widespread practice as well as a focus of research and advocacy by civil society organizations.

Green Watershed was formed in the aftermath of the 1998 Lashihai dam project that flooded large areas of farmland in the Lashihai Watershed, inhabited by ~10,000 indigenous people, mostly representing two ethnic minorities: the Naxi , based near the Lashihai Wetland, and Lijiang at 2,400 meters above sea level, and the Yi, based in the Himalaya Mountains at 3,000 meters above sea level. The dam project resulted in the displacement of the Naxi communities, with knock-on effects and tensions with the Yi communities over land claims, and the impacts of overfishing, resulting in mudslides, soil erosion, and the depletion of fish populations.

The Green Watershed initiative sought to address these issues by working with local government to include local indigenous communities in resource management decisions, to better balance environmental protection and livelihood recovery. In response to the dam’s impact on local communities, four autonomous organizations were created for sustainable resource management: two watershed management groups, a fishing association, and a water users association. Through an indigenous self-organization and participatory watershed management model, Green Watershed focuses on actions such as agroforestry, organic farming, tree planting, recovering fishing resources, water use management, wetland restoration, and forest protection.

Green Watershed also won The Equator Prize in 2015. Organized by the Equator Initiative within the United Nations Development Programme, the Prize is awarded biennially to recognize outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

Read more about Green Watershed and the outcomes of their work in the full case study in our global online platform.