Interview with Mr. Patricio Cisneros, Prefecto of Santa Elena, New member nrg4SD
13th February 2017
1.Santa Elena recently adhered to nrg4SD as full member. What were the reasons for such decision?
The nrg4SD works in the same thematic fields that Santa Elena has been working in the last five years, in particular climate change and sustainable development. The Government of Santa Elena fosters actions that help the communities that live in the dry forest, where rainfall is extremely low and water availability very scarce. Such actions aim at achieving an inclusive preservation. Due to all the aforementioned, we strongly believe that becoming part of an organization that fosters the exchange of experiences will definitely help us to successfully achieve our goals, which consist in improving life quality of our citizens with productive and sustainable projects and preserving our eco-systems.
2. We would like you to share with nrg4SD members some of the best practices or flagship initiatives of Santa Elena in the fields of biodiversity, sustainable development or climate change.
Poverty is a shade over a large part of the rural population of Santa Elena province. Therefore, to erase poverty is one of our main aims. Communities living in the inland do not have access to water for irrigation purposes and lack of the necessary means to stay in the territory. Climate change has worsened such per se difficult situation and as a consequence emigration to large urban centres has become massive. Therefore, production initiatives taking advantage of the characteristics of the dry forest are more necessary than ever to maintain rural communities in their territories, build resilience and improve means of subsisting.
The Government of Santa Elena implements three principles in environmental management: first, sustainability and sustainable development; second, adaptation to changes, flexibility when drafting policies and echoing of each action developed; third, innovation and attitude. Such principles guide our working model and help us to achieve our environmental objectives at the same time we consider the existing legal framework and environmental risks, as well as social, economic and competitive pressures. In practice, such results are achieved by closely collaborating with all the Units involved in each of the projects and activities of the Government of Santa Elena.
The Government of Santa Elena aims at fostering the development of its territory within the respect of environmental laws and the preservation of natural resources, namely genetic resources closely related to biodiversity, water resources, soil and biodiversity. In that framework the Government of Santa Elena promotes different projects that include an environmental and productive perspective addressed to those less favoured communities in order to decrease their poverty and increase their resilience and means of life. As a result, emigration is refrained, as well as problems arising from big urban settlements.
3. Santa Elena became a new RegionsAdapt member in autumn 2016. How does Santa Elena work to ensure optimal adaptation actions in the province?
Santa Elena has 300.000 inhabitants and is located aside the coast, where prolonged draughts forced rural people to move into large urban settlements. The Government of Santa Elena is committed to ensure life of quality and means of life to rural communities in order to empower them and avoid their emigration. In order to achieve that, we have launched the Palo Santo project, a pilot developed since March 2016 to extract and sell the oil of palo santo (autochthonous bush of the dry forest, bursera graveolens) and demonstrate that rural communities can develop a socio-economic and environmental action in their territories. The project is developed through sustainable forestry in an area of 10.249 hectares, from which 2.670 are addressed to the inclusive preservation of the forest. Besides, the project also fosters farmers’ capacitation in cattle management in order to reduce farming impact on the dry forest.
Another project developed by our Government consists in the production of honey from the dry forest. In that project we have managed to improve the production of honey by increasing the number of hives and to develop reforestation efforts with honey species by the implementation of agro-forest systems and the development of solidarity and popular economy organizations.
4. How do you believe RegionsAdapt can help Santa Elena to better adapt to climate change?
RegionsAdapt is an extraordinary platform for regions to share their best practices and challenges. In that sense, it is vital to share knowledge on funding that may help regions to develop their projects and initiatives. In our case, the Palo Santo pilot project received European Union funding and enables 800 families to improve their life quality, in particular, those families will increase 25% to 30% their current annual incomes of 4,000 dollars.
5. What is the role of regional governments in adaptation policies?
We do not need to prove how climate change affects our territories, this is something evident in all the world. In our region, climate change is responsible of transforming agricultural and farming lands with large forests into a desert in a 50 years timing. El Niño phenomenon followed by long lasting drought periods caused such change. We, as regional authorities, are responsible for enabling our people adaptation to such changes and to improve their quality of life, especially looking after future generations.