OOSKAnews Voices is a series of guest columns written by senior participants in different parts of the international water community. In this article, Adrian Sym, Chief Executive of the pioneering Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) describes, with focus on the agri-export sector in Peru's Ica Valley, how a robust and credible standard for water sustainability is a framework behind which diverse stakeholders can unite and, with strong leadership, can help to plot a pathway through complex and contentious situations.
José Luis Camino runs Sun Fruits Export, a successful agro-exporting business in Ica Valley, Peru. As a major grower of table grapes, tangerines, avocados and blueberries, José Luis knows that year-round sunshine and favourable soil conditions are vital, but the most precious resource of all is the water that flows from the Andes Mountains into the Ica river and the region’s groundwater reserves.
As a globally consistent and stakeholder-endorsed framework, the AWS Standard helps to plot a pathway through such complex situations. Certification to the AWS Standard provides recognition for sites whose stewardship is "best in class".
This type of constructive engagement is precisely the kind recommended by Swedwatch. It builds the trust and confidence needed to ignite local leadership and to break the negative cycle of blame. In a location that is so connected to international value chains, constructive engagement must also extend to international stakeholders.
AWS is engaging with supermarkets, importers, investors and NGOs to ensure their support for the work on the ground in Ica, and other sourcing hotspots in Latin America and beyond. Just as trust and confidence are needed locally, they are also essential for ensuring international stakeholders understand how they can best support water stewardship efforts. Shared learning helps to expand the scope of international interest and increase positive local impacts.
Water stewardship is no panacea, and the sustainability of water for the agri-export sector in Ica will need constant attention. But the experiences in Ica and elsewhere show that a robust and credible standard is a framework behind which diverse stakeholders can unite and, with strong leadership, can help to plot a pathway through complex and contentious situations.
The six growers in Ica who have publicly committed to pursue AWS certification are: Agrícola Chapi, Agrícola Valle del Sol S.A.C., Campos del Sur, Safco Perú, Sun Fruits Export, y Vanguard Perú.
AWS would like to acknowledge our partners who are supporting work in Latin America: Edeka, WWF-Germany, DEG (Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH) and FMO (Netherlands Development Finance Company).
The AWS International Water Stewardship Standard (AWS Standard) is a globally applicable framework for major water users to understand their water use and impacts, and to work collaboratively and transparently for sustainable water management within a catchment context. The Standard is intended to drive social, environmental and economic benefits at the scale of a catchment.