Protecting landscapes and places of special natural or cultural value

Policy Toolbox for Community Development and Democracy in Argentina

TED X Buenos Aires 2011. Paisaje y Progreso. Luis Castelli.

Current Situation

From the dramatic mountain landscapes and icebergs of Patagonia to the immense forests of northern Argentina to the spectacular rocky Atlantic coastline with vistas of whales and penguins in Peninsula Valdés and Monte Leon, Argentina is blessed with natural scenic panoramas, which, if properly protected, can be an engine for the sustainable development of local communities. The current economic crisis, however, has put immense pressure on government officials - especially those at local level - to approve economic activities that may threaten the long-term sustainable use and protection of these national treasures and consequently the future of those communities that are located outside of the traditional economic circuits.

Poor decision-making in connection with recent infrastructure and major development projects in and around Argentina's diverse landscapes and places of special natural or cultural value threatens to systematically destroy these unique resources. For example:

  1. Iguazù National Park is aiming to quadruple the number of visitors. Without a study of the future load-bearing capacity of the park or any discussion of acceptable growth limits, this increase in visitors will significantly degrade the park. Increased helicopter traffic is already seriously disturbing the jungle fauna, negatively affecting the experience of being in the middle of the forest enjoying the unique waterfalls of this park.
  2. A high-voltage line has been installed in Esteros del Iberà, Province of Corrientes, the second largest wetland in South America degrading the scenic value and the ecotourism potential of the area. A planned underground diversion from the Yacyretà hydroelectric dam in this same region could cause irreversible damage to the extraordinary flora and faunal diversity that is found here.

As a result of these decisions, Argentina is losing important natural patrimony. Over the long run, the economic potential of these resources from tourism, biological function, and cultural and aesthetic values is far greater than the financial gains from unsustainable or ill-planned short-term uses.

Today, Argentina's landscapes offer the promise of sustainable development through eco-tourism and other sustainable economic activities - to poor residents of a wide range of rural communities around the country, especially including indigenous ethnic groups.

The eco-tourism industry and related economic activities can provide the local people with the opportunity to produce goods and services in connection with hotel, restaurant, transportation, travel and artisan activities.

Maimará - Quebrada de Humahuaca


The Project


With eco-tourism growing by 25 per cent annually, there is great potential to spur local and national economies and generate incentives for the conservation of these unique and precious resources. The resources that provide the basis for Argentina's comparative advantage for tourism are fragile. These resources include glaciers, forests, coastal ecosystems, cloud forests, and wildlife. Over-development and improper management of places resulting in the destruction of their natural beauty would reduce competitive potential. Furthermore, the perception on the part of potential customers that the country is not making serious efforts to protect the natural environment would tend to eliminate it from consideration by the fastest growing and most affluent segment of the tourism market. FuNaFu is implementing a two-year project to improve public decisions concerning the development of unique landscapes and places of special natural or cultural value in Argentina. By improving the public decision-making process, our project seeks to reduce the potential threats mentioned earlier.

Glaciar Perito Moreno



The overarching goal of our project is to protect unique landscapes and special places with archaeological, biological, cultural, and aesthetic value. In doing so, the project will help promote and secure the sustainable development of small communities located outside of the economic centres where investment dollars are typically concentrated. At the same time, the project will strengthen governmental institutions and processes and, consequently, respect for and participation in democratic processes.

To accomplish these objectives, FuNaFu, in partnership with the Environmental Law Institute based in Washington, D.C. and INCAE based in Costa Rica, will:

Develop the economic, legal and social tools for better understanding and
analysis of the implications of decisions affecting natural and cultural patrimony and their long-term impact on natural and cultural resources and small communities;

Improve decision-making processes
by ensuring transparency, creativity, predictability, consideration of multiple alternatives and variables, and solid analysis involving experts in different fields as well as encouraging public participation; and

Educate and inform community officials and citizens
about the tools for improved decision-making and analysis.

Our project team will develop a handbook presenting tools for better understanding and analysing the implications of decisions, as well as the options for improving decision-making processes. Our team will also ground test the handbook recommendations and strengthen local capacity by working on pilot projects with two communities. The experience and lessons learned from the pilot project will be documented and incorporated into the handbook. The handbook will then be widely disseminated in Argentina and made available to other countries in the region confronting similar challenges.


Work Plan

To protect Argentina's unique landscapes and places of special natural and cultural value, the project team will undertake an integrated program of activities aimed at (i) developing the economic, legal and social tools for better decision-making, (ii) improving decision-making processes, and (iii) educating and building the capacity of community officials and citizens to use these tools and improve governmental processes.

In the first phase of the project, the project team will carry out a legal and economic research initiative to identify specific tools for improving decision-making and options for improving decision-making processes. The results of the research will be presented in the form a draft guidebook for citizens, community officials, provincial authorities, and representatives of relevant national agencies such as the Parks Administration and other resource management agencies.

In the second phase of the project, the project team will ground test the recommendations in the draft guidebook and help build local capacity for better decision-making by carrying out two pilot projects. These pilot projects will focus on threatened landscapes in two different ecological regions of Argentina. The project team will provide technical assistance to local community officials and citizens in applying the tools for better decision-making and improving the decision-making processes relating to the threatened landscapes. The lessons learned from the pilot projects will be incorporated into the handbook recommendations.

In the final phase of the project, the project team will carry out a number of activities to disseminate information about the project, the guidebook, and the pilot projects. The project will be presented in newspapers, magazines, newsletters, professional journals, and through other forms of media reaching local government officials and citizens in Argentina and other countries in the region facing similar challenges. Printed copies of the guidebook will be made available through appropriate associations and networks. Electronic versions of the handbook will be made available through the relevant web sites.

Laguna Llancanelo


Results and Evaluation Plan


This project will result in the creation of a handbook with legal, policy, and economic tools that can be used by officials at different levels of government in Argentina and abroad to improve decision-making processes. The project will also create a web site that will provide access to the information in the handbook. Through the pilot projects, our team will ground test the handbook tools as well as train key policymakers and citizens in their use. The training programs will build local capacity to implement, and political support, for these tools. Our outreach efforts will expand the availability of the handbook and promote the use of these tools in other regions. Over the long-term, these efforts will help secure protection and sustainable development of important natural landscapes and places of special natural and cultural value throughout Argentina as well as political support for democratic decision-making processes.


The Team

  1. FuNaFu is a national non-profit membership organization increasing awareness of the value of places of natural and cultural interest and the sustainable development of these places through planning, private conservation and ecotourism. To achieve its mission, FuNaFu develops legal, institutional, and economic tools and through educational programs builds the capacity of stakeholders to use these tools. As president of FuNaFu, Luis Castelli wrote and edited "Argentina Naturaleza para el Futuro", a book about the value of landscapes and the current threats to these resources.
  2. INCAE is a private, non-profit, multinational, higher-education organization devoted to teaching and research endeavours in the fields of business and economics aimed at training and instructing, from a worldwide perspective, individuals capable of successfully holding top management positions in Latin America.

INCAE is presently focused on three key activities:

  1. Masters programs in areas critical for Latin American development.
  2. Executive training programs and seminars.
  3. Research projects on competitiveness in the region. INCAE has an applied approach combining the best practice and the world frontier of knowledge with the realities in Latin America
  4. ELI , the Environmental Law Institute , works with a diverse constituency of stakeholders to develop pragmatic solutions to pressing environmental problems in the U.S. and abroad through its research and training efforts.

This Project is financed by Tinker Foundation