Tabacundo canal water conflict, Ecuador.


In Ecuador traditionally the small-scale irrigation systems have been built and operated outside of the state domain. Normally private actors such as autonomous community water boards or enterprises have led these projects. This is also the case of Tabacundo irrigation canal. It was built and maintained trough communal work projects and daily wages by indigenous peasant communities. Nevertheless, the municipal government of Pedro Moncayo had the legal concession of it. As such, it manages the water distribution giving preference to local powerful actors over impoverished peasants (initially landlords and since the 1980s flower enterprises). The result is a highly unequal distribution of water access. Since mid-90s onwards, due to the large expansion of flower plantations in this area which consume high amouns of water, peasants access was considerably reduced or stopped. Against this unjust distribution, several local grassroots organizations came together and mobilized for water rights and the Tabacundo canals management control.

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Basic Data
NameTabacundo canal water conflict, Ecuador.
SitePedro Moncayo
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Water access rights and entitlements
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific CommoditiesWater
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsTabacundo irrigation water canal is placed in the micro basin of the river La Chimba, which in turn belongs to Pisque river basin. It encompasses 65 km along the counties of Pedro Moncayo and Cayambe. Its construction was finished in 1930 and since that was managed by the municipal government of Pedro Moncayo.

Type of PopulationRural
Start Date2005
Relevant government actorsThe counties of Cayambe and Pedro Moncayo, Water Resource Council, Municipal government of Pedro Moncayo
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersCorporacion Grupo Randi Randi; Coordinadora Cantonal Pramos; Universidad Politecnica Salesiana (Cayamabe); Fundacion Heifer; Casa Campesina (Cayambe); CODECHIM (Consorcio por el Desarrollo Sustentable de la Cuenca de La Chimba).
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Forms of MobilizationLawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseApplication of existing regulations
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.In 2008 grassroots organizations under the platform named Consorcio de Desarrollo de Manejo Integral de Agua y Ambiente Pedro Moncayo-CODEMIA (Development Consortium of Integrated Management of Water and Environment) became the legal director of the canal. Currently, they manage the canal under a model of democratic participation and environment protection. Furthermore, flower plantations are forced to respect limits on how much water they can use, and to participate in canal cleaning, construction secondary canals to bring water to communities without access and other tasks such reforestation. Finally, water rights to peasants are now better guarantee.
Sources and Materials

Susan V. Poats, Alex Zapatta y Charles Cachipuendo . Estudio de caso: la acequia Tabacundo y las microcuencas de los ros pisque y la chimba en los cantones Cayambe y Pedro Moncayo, provincia del Pichincha, en el norte del Ecuador. Version preliminar. IDRC-CRDI. 2006.

Catillo Manuel. La Acequia Tabacundo 2006. In: Cuarto Encuentro Nacional. Documentos de discusion. Todos por el agua, el agua para todos. Foro de los Recursos Hidricos.

Meta Information
ContributorSara Latorre
Last update08/04/2014