Mindo, Ecuador, 24 to 26 November 2015. 'There are not just a few of us working for the environment. There are many'. This is how one participant summed up his impressions of the meeting of the network of Latin American municipalities involved in the fourth phase of the Service Agency project '50 Municipal Climate Partnerships by 2015'. A few days before the UN climate conference in Paris, in Mindo (Ecuador) around 30 representatives of ten municipalities from five Latin American countries demonstrated how concrete activities at the local level can help achieve the global climate targets.
This meeting was all about intensive expert exchange. It began with a ceremonial opening that included welcome addresses by the Officer for Economic Cooperation at the German Embassy in Quito, Hubert Mükusch, Project Manager Kurt-Michael Baudach of the Service Agency Communities in One World, and the Mayoress of the host municipality San Miguel de los Bancos, Sulema Pizarro. After that the varied agenda offered participants an opportunity to present and discuss in small groups the progress they had made and the challenges they faced in developing their joint programmes of action together with their German partners. It emerged that in the eight months since the international kickoff workshop in Managua, most of the partnerships had identified the key areas for further cooperation and had already begun formulating joint objectives and measures. The mutual project visits and discussions that had since taken place during the reciprocal missions played an important part in this. Participants also discussed the lessons learned and ideas on the key topics of the climate partnerships: environmental education, solid waste management, renewable energy/energy efficiency and the certification of organic products. One highlight of the agenda was the special excursion on day two, during which the municipality of San Miguel de los Bancos presented five examples of activities for climate protection and nature conservation on its territory. The first of these involved an ambitious forestry project in which 1,400 ha of land will be recovered for the forest, and which is being funded by the Government of Ecuador. The group then visited a coffee farm which is managed according to the principles of organic farming. The hosts explained to the participants not only how the coffee is produced, but also how the post-harvest treatment process works. The presentation of a park with a forest education trail in the village captured the participants' particular interest. This was developed on the site of an illegal waste dump, and is used to provide school students with intensive environmental education. In the afternoon participants got to know the 'Mindo lindo' project for recovering forest land and environmental education. The final stop on the itinerary involved a visit to the Mindo production plant for the organic fertiliser bocashi, which is made from organic waste. Participants were particularly impressed by the simple principle, and the complete avoidance of the unpleasant smells often associated with such plants.
The specific lessons learned were supplemented by various expert presentations, and placed in a wider context. Andrés Hübenthal, former Head of Department at the Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment, spoke for instance about Ecuador's view of climate change and its activities to tackle it. Nadia Manasfi and Rubén Álava of GIZ Ecuador presented their programmes to protect the climate and biodiversity, and to strengthen the decentralisation process in Ecuador. Two representatives of the municipality of Mocache illustrated Ms Manasfi's presentation by referring to their own concrete experiences.
One important aspect of the network meeting was also discussing with the Service Agency the next steps for developing and implementing the programmes of action. Regarding opportunities to obtain funding for implementation, Kurt-Michael Baudach provided participants with information among other things on the following programmes: 'Partnership Projects for Sustainable Local Development' (Nakopa), the Programme to Support Municipal Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Projects' (FKKP), ASA Municipal and the 'Integrated Experts for Municipalities Worldwide' programme. Finally, the participants identified key factors for medium- to long-term continuation of the climate partnerships. They highlighted in particular the continuation of communication among the partners and within the municipalities, and the implementation of concrete projects.
As the conference came to an end the municipal delegates emphasised how valuable they found the mutual dialogue. It was pointed out that getting to know the lessons that others have learned enables project actors to reflect on their own projects and generate ideas for further developing them. As one participant concluded: 'We are bound as sisters and brothers not only to our German partners, but also to each other here in Latin America'.
In his concluding speech the Honorary Consul of Ecuador in Baden-Württemberg, Siegfried Rapp, said how impressed he was by the engagement of the municipalities attending, and encouraged them to pass on the manifold lessons they had learned with climate change mitigation. Finally, the Mayoress of San Miguel de los Bancos thanked the participants for coming and for their interest in climate change mitigation in her municipality