Local and regional environmental management for the management of natural resources and provision of environmental services

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The BOSAWAS Biosphere Reserve is located in northern Nicaragua and was designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1997. At approximately 20,000 square kilometers in size, the hilly terrain is rich in largely unexplored biodiversity and comprises of about 15% of the nation’s total land area, making it the second largest rainforest in the Western Hemisphere, after the Amazon in Brazil.

The Reserve is also home to the Sumos and the Miskito, two indigenous populations of Nicaragua, who depend on the natural resources of the region for their livelihoods. But endemic poverty and a growing population has threatened the conservation of the area through overhunting of wildlife, unsustainable land-clearing for agriculture and human- wildlife conflict. The UN Joint Programme proposed a series of activities in the area of the BOSAWAS Biosphere Reserve in Nicaragua, one of the most important protected areas in Central America and part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. The purpose of the activities was to equitably enhance the local capacity, regional management and the provision of environmental services through the empowerment of local communities, watershed management and water services for the support of clean energy and sustainable production systems.


The Programme was composed of activities around five interrelated components:

  1. A basin management that focused on risk management, a conceptual framework, which at the same time incorporated each of the other components below;
  2. Equal access to potable water and sanitation;
  3. Provision of renewable energy for rural communities by means of a participatory and empowerment process for both men and women;
  4. Promotion of productive agroforestry systems which are appropriate for the ecosystems of the area and which generate income; and
  5. Research, training and communication.

The cross-cutting theme of strengthening local institutions, political participation, and gender equality was also taken into consideration during the implementation of the activities.


  • There are now 3,511 square kilometers of land in the three micro-basins of the Wawa, Kukalaya, and Waspuk Rivers which are being administered through management plans that were developed in a participatory manner and approved by the local authorities.
  • Today, 5,561 people, including 2,361 school-age children, now have access to safe, potable drinking water and sanitation, thanks to the water and sanitation works supported by the UN Joint Programme.
  • There are also 4,428 inhabitants of selected micro basins that are benefiting from renewable energy sources that have been set up by the Joint Programme.


  • Regional elections were held in the March 2012 which created uncertainties and social unrest;
  • Social protests created difficulties in the operations of the regional Programme;
  • Conflicts and tension have risen due to the distribution of indigenous land between mestizos (people of mixed heritage or descent) and the indigenous peoples, and this has caused leaders of the territory to postpone activities as parts of the Joint Programme’s activities were carried out within the indigenous communities.

Way Forward

Local authorities are responsible to do the following future activities:

  • Provide continuity to the processes developed by the Joint Programme;
  • Strengthen the different governance structures developed, such as the watershed committees, water committees, communication networks and energy committees;
  • Ensure the implementation of the management plans established under the Joint Programme.

Read more about this JP on the MDG-F website.

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