Promoting a biocultural corridor in the Matanza-Riachuelo basin for the wellbeing of nature and communities
I promote the recognition of a corridor of Life and Culture along the basin as a differential contribution to its clean-up process
I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Act for Biodiversity Challenge and that I am eligible to apply.
I am 18 years old or older.
Participatory mapping in the Ciudad Evita wetland, Matanza Riachuelo basin
Initiative's representative name
Ana Di Pangracio.
Nominating organization: Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN)
Initiative's representative date of birth
20th June, 1980
Initiative's representative gender
Headquarters location: country
Headquarters location: city
Where are you making a difference?
Matanza Riachuelo Basin (CMR, its acronym in Spanish). City of Buenos Aires and Greater Buenos Aires (the suburbs)
Website or social media url(s)
You can find FARN in social media as @farnargentina
Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan going forward)
Yearly Budget : What is your current yearly budget for the initiative?
1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.
I’m a lawyer specialized in environmental law and policy, and a biodiversity advocate. But I am also an avid naturalist and birdwatcher. Birdwatching takes me to a great variety of places. Back in 2013 I was struck by the beauty and uniqueness of the Matanza-Riachuelo basin’ wetlands. They constitute the last relicts of native grasslands and forests in the area. A natural haven within the urban matrix. They also hold remains from indigenous peoples, some of the first foreign colonies and even sediments and fossils from marine ingressions. I realized I had to contribute to putting an end to the harmful preconception most inhabitants of Buenos Aires have: the CMR can´t hold nature but only cement, pollution, neglect and death.
2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
The CMR is a 64-km plain river reaching 3 jurisdictions. It is the most polluted basin in Argentina. Its conditions impact on the health and life quality of its 6 million inhabitants, specially those in situation of vulnerability. But despite this critical situation the CMR holds natural spaces and a cultural heritage worth preserving and enhancing for providing a connection with nature, environmental education, preventing floodings and filtering waters central to the on-going clean-up process
3. Your solution: How are you working to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
In order to provide visibility, enhance and showcase biodiversity in the CMR, I am leading a series of simultaneous actions. First, the participatory mapping of its wetlands and their ecological, archaeological and historic values, as well as, conflicts and opportunities. Secondly, ecological restoration (including planting native species, extraction of exotic ones, clean-up days, interpretative posters and pathways, among others), decided on the basis of information gathered through the participatory mapping. Thirdly, building a stronger connection between primary, secondary and university students and the general community with the wetlands, engaging them in diverse hands-on activities (such as the mapping and restoration) and through environmental education and training (interpretive walks, birdwatching, open talks, etc.). Fourthly, training local groups defending CMR wetlands to make the best out of their abilities. Training to promote wetlands guardians with theoretical and practical sessions on activism skills (communications, campaigning, citizen science and IT security, environmental rights). And advocacy before competent authorities at all levels for policy development
4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?
A biocultural corridor is an innovative concept that integrates and makes the best out of existing tools, going a step further, to safeguard the resilience of ecosystems and keep cultures alive. It brings along strategic thinking, strong data and community empowerment towards the defence of biodiversity and culture. It demonstrates in practical terms that biological diversity and cultural diversity are intertwined. The natural systems sustain not only biodiversity in a broad sense (species, ecosystems and genes), but also cultures. The homeostasis of these biocultural corridors is what keeps the web of life alive. And this approach is replicable and apply to rural, peri-urban and urban areas; urban, local communities and indigenous peoples
5. Collaboration: How does your initiative seek to bring key players together to preserve biodiversity?
The initiative brings together a great variety of actors and rightsholders. Neighbours of the Ciudad Evita and Santa Catalina wetlands; neighbours and local groups from other natural spaces in the CMR; birdwatcher clubs and naturalists; photographers; museologists and archaeologists; municipal authorities; the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences of the National University of Lomas de Zamora, professors and students; research centres such as the National Research Council (CONICET) and the Darwinion Botanical Institute; the Museum of Nature and Agrobotanic; and other national NGOs such as Casa Rio working on education, art and environmental issues. Renowned actor, director and producer Boy Olmi who is the narrator of the audiovisual on the Ciudad Evita wetland.
I would like to engage more academic institutions and the basin authority (ACUMAR).A recent in-person meeting with ACUMAR´s Head of the Social Participation Division has been very promising in this line
6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far — in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?
About 700 students from all levels have been visiting the wetlands of Santa Catalina (SC) and Ciudad Evita (CE), two of the biggest CMR wetlands since 2015. The National Ombudsman visited SC. Over 200 native flora planted every year, since 2016 (SC). The native plants nursery and the Nature and Agrobotanic Museum at SC were improved. The first archaeological works ever in SC took place with promising results. The local group defending the CE wetland was strengthened and its actions are more cohesive. The Buenos Aires Legislature passed a declaration of interest on the need to protect the CE wetland. Wetlands are now being seen as an element of relevance for the on-going clean-up process of the CMR. To measure progress I employ tools such as team gatherings, setting objetives and monitoring them, scheduling and budgeting, mapping stakeholders and opportunities for advocacy, and surveying partners, collaborators and communities involved, among others.
7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?
A strategy towards achieving the full potential of this initiative would be to secure the setting of a series of key policies and decisions that would constitute the formal foundations of the biocultural corridor. One is the passing of a national law on wetlands, including the inventory of Argentine wetlands, to protect them all over the country. At the local level, a provincial law on wetlands, new urban natural reserves and effective implementation of existing ones, and the inventory of the CMR wetlands. And finally, that the National Supreme Court recognises the key role wetlands play for the basin´s clean-up process. This would imply a definitive decision from the Highest Court for the good of nature and culture in the CMR.
8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for society? Or different stakeholders?
It contributes to the strategic thinking as well as cohesiveness of the work of CMR communities defending its wetlands. It surveys, monitors and restores habitats, while developing ownership, empathy, guardianship, and ties with nature. It implies incorporating wetlands into the clean-up strategy of the most polluted basin in Argentina and safeguarding a biocultural corridor that goes along 2240 square kilometres, for the well-being of its inhabitants and its biodiversity. Since my NGO is part of a chartered body carrying out a civic control of the 2008 clean-up court order, outputs of this initiative can directly outreach and change the minds of key public and private decision-makers
9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?
This initiative has ensured long term seed funding (until 2027, about 7000 euros per year) from the “Wetlands without borders” Programme, a joint effort of seven organizations from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia working to defend and promote sustainable development in the Del Plata basin (CMR is a tributary river of this basin).
Fundraising is carried out within the constraints of workload.
10. Team: what is the current composition of your current team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?
The team is made up of one part time coordinator (myself). Two part-time assistants allocate some hours for actions on the territory and provide legal support. A GIS specialist and two naturalists are in charge of the mapping. The Communications and the Finance areas of my NGO also invest some time. As the initiative evolves, it would require one of the assistants to dedicate more hours weekly. The mapping and communication or advocacy might need reinforcement if the work expands
11. How did you hear about this challenge?
12. Connection to Biodiversity: How does your project directly contributes to preserving and/or restoring biodiversity? Please share data to support your answer.
It provides visibility to the CMR biodiversity, often undervalued or postponed through communications, advocacy work and educational visits to wetlands (about 700 students yearly). Scientific papers, articles and posters for congresses and educational dossiers. Three audiovisuals. A citizen project in the iNaturalist online platform. Flora and fauna inventories as to collect key base data for advocacy purposes. Within a year´s advocacy work, a declaration of interest on the need to protect the Ciudad Evita wetland by the Buenos Aires Province Legislature was achieved. Another contribution is the restoration of the native landscape, reaching about 600 hectares, extraction of exotic species, cleaning days, setting new and improving existing native plants nurseries, the construction of a bird viewpoint and interpretative trails. The restoration is done according to information obtained via participatory mapping, reflected on georeferenced maps.
13. Example: Please walk us through one or two concrete examples that show how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address.
The CMR is the most polluted basin in Argentina, home to to almost 6 million people, most of them in situation of vulnerability. Several ecosystems in the CMR are in decline, but CMR biodiversity is not valued. My solution, promoting a biocultural corridor, aims at reversing this situation. I employ strategic communications to provide visibility, enhance and showcase the relevance of biodiversity and culture in the CMR. Strenghten the knowledge and connection of communities with CMR nature, history; engaging people and students at all levels in diverse hands-on activities like interpretive walks, birdwatching, open talks, and training on activism skills. Another example is ecological restoration done with communities and diverse civil society actors and in accordance with the results of the mapping carried out together experts on geography,flora and fauna, archaeology, museology. This allows wetlands to be enhanced and can keep on contributing to the clean-up process of the basin
14. Marketplace: Who else is addressing this problem in your environment? How does your proposed project differ from these other approaches?
Biodiversity is in crisis worldwide due to human action. Several basins are polluted from which serious socioenvironmental problematics derive. Communications, environmental education, capacity building, ecological restoration and advocacy work are usually carried out to address these challenges. Biological corridors have been used for a long time as a land-based approach; multi-stakeholder and participatory strategies, and tools for showcasing cultural values are varied. But a biocultural corridor is an improved mean for addressing the challenges that nature and culture face. It is a different approach that makes the best out of several existing techniques and tools. It integrates species, ecosystems, genetic diversity, cultural, historic and community values, bringing along strategic thinking, strong data, community empowerment and cohesive action towards the defence of nature and culture. Biocultural corridors constitute a distinctive niche for biodiversity conservation
15. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?
It has been received support from: the Ecosystem Alliance (a joint initiative of Wetlands International, IUCN Netherlands and Both Ends 2011-2015); Van Tienhoven Foundation (2017); the CSO´s Institutional Empowerment Program of the City of Buenos Aires (2016); it won the Water Contest of Coca-Cola and WWF Argentina (2016). The SC wetland audiovisual was accepted in several film festivals and won a recognition in the Patagonia Film Festival 2018
16. Financial Sustainability – funding breakdown: Please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating an estimated percentage that comes from each source.
As of April 2020, the funding breakdown of this initiative is the following:
individual donations or gifts 10% (my NGO has an individual donors programme which income is distributed all along the organization´s areas of work)
foundation or NGO grants 90%
17. How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of the Act for Biodiversity Challenge? How would you invest the prize money to leverage your work?
Given the work has mainly focused so far on the lower and mid-section of the basin. I would expand the territorial scope of this initiative, particularly focusing on the upper part of the basin, the least explored part of the CMR which emerges as a very promising as urbanization has not advanced there as much as in other parts of the CMR. The georeferenced work has focused so far on biodiversity, I could advance georeferencing cultural values. I would convene a workshop on nature and culture, bringing people from the CMR, other basins and key stakeholders to further disseminate the concept of biocultural corridors and explore potential places for replication and scaling-up; and hopefully inspire people to apply this approach in other contexts and geographies. And in overall terms, the prize money could contribute to the public demand for the passing of a long-awaited National Law on Wetlands to guarantee the effective protection of wetlands all along the country, including the CMR