Bolivian project wins 2010 International ReSource Award for Sustainable Watershed Management

19 March 2010, Zurich

A project to maintain drinking and irrigation water supplies and to conserve upper watershed forests in the Santa Cruz valleys in Bolivia has won the 8th Swiss Re International ReSource Award 2010. The project will receive prize money of USD 150 000. The award ceremony was held today at the Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue in Rüschlikon.

The purpose of the project is to capitalise five municipal water funds and to help to improve livelihoods in the region. Swiss Re’s CEO Stefan Lippe handed over the prize at the award ceremony and commented the efforts undertaken by the project responsibles from Bolivia. „It is a privilege for Swiss Re to hand over our ReSource Award, “he said. “The municipal governments in the Santa Cruz valleys have pioneered the use of mutual agreements between upstream landowners and downstream water users as a tool to conserve natural ecosystems. At the same time, the initiative has helped one another to improve local livelihoods.“

The downstream communities have increased their drinking water tariffs to capitalise municipal water funds that are then invested in protecting water producing vegetation further upstream. Many local farmers have agreed to protect forest in exchange for in-kind payments, such as beehives or fruit trees. Other communities in the region are also trying to establish their own water funds but so far have lacked the necessary seed capital.

David Bresch, Swiss Re’s Head of Sustainability & Emerging Risk Management, commented on the winning project: “Using the funds from the ReSource Award, the organisation in charge of the project, the Fundación Natura Bolivia, plans to establish and refine these in-kind compensation packages in the Santa Cruz valleys. This will help upstream landowners meet the opportunity cost of watershed conservation and at the same time enhance their incomes.” Apart from protecting water supplies and aquatic ecosystems, the project will conserve 15 000 hectares of forest in the buffer zone of Amboró National Park. Approximately 1 000 upstream residents will receive assistance through the programme, and some 5 000 downstream water users will benefit from more secure water supplies.

The 8th Swiss Re International ReSource Award ceremony concluded with a keynote speech from Ambassador Martin Dahinden, Director-General, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, followed by a panel discussion with high-ranking experts focusing on the topic of Public Private Partnership in Water Management – Strengths and Challenges.

Strengthening the capacities of rural communities of semi-arid rainfed Maharashtra, India to regenerate watersheds in the context of climate change

The runner up price of USD 30 000 was donated to the Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR) for a project located in the Akole and Sangamner Talukas (Blocks) of the Ahmednagar District of Maharashtra, India.

The project aims to sensibilise and organise the communities to harvest rainwater across the watersheds, to conserve and to utilise it effectively and to re-generate the local environment.

A second project goal is the development of an agro-meteorological based decision support systems for farmers. The system enhances agriculture production and provides farmers with real-time management advisories based on weather conditions affecting crops in their village or locality.

The project responds to climate change in a livelihood oriented way and brings the cluster of villages to work together.

About the ReSource Award

Launched in 2002, the ReSource Award is an internationally recognised prize for leadership in implementing the principles of sustainability in watershed management. With these awards, Swiss Re demonstrates its support for watershed management efforts by governmental and non-governmental parties. The programme focuses on sustainability and humanitarian projects and on supporting the communities in which the Group operates.

Notes for editors

Swiss Reinsurance Company Ltd

Swiss Re is a leading and highly diversified global reinsurer. The company operates through offices in more than 20 countries. Founded in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1863, Swiss Re offers financial services products that enable risk-taking essential to enterprise and progress. The company’s traditional reinsurance products and related services for property and casualty, as well as the life and health business are complemented by insurance-based corporate finance solutions and supplementary services for comprehensive risk management. Swiss Re is rated “A+“ by Standard & Poor’s, “A1” by Moody’s and “A” by A.M. Best.