Transforming ‘But’ into ‘Yes’

Farm owners and water users weren’t seeing eye to eye. So, Mónica changed the conversation.

Rare Fellow Mónica Rivera is honest about who she is: she admits she’s stubborn, loud, and insatiably hungry for knowledge. In Colombia’s Valle del Cauca region, where unsustainable land use and unpredictable weather threaten access to water for millions of people, Mónica’s curiosity, will, and powerful voice were exactly what communities needed.

“Give me a lever, and I will move the world,” she said. “This is the lever: The community. Solidarity. Commitment to the process.”

In Valle del Cauca, water shortages were at an all-time high. Mónica, a staff member of the regional water authority, felt compelled to do something about it. Mónica and Rare worked together to run campaigns, educating community members about the forest-water cycle and the negative effects that destroying cloud forests and páramo vegetation have on water flowing downstream.

But trust was low—trust between upstream landowners and downstream water users and trust between the community and the government. The campaigns needed to do more than build awareness—they needed to build trust followed by action. Mónica committed herself to engage with and better understand the local peoples’ needs. She could often be spotted riding her motorbike back and forth between farmers upstream and communities downstream, with the campaign’s mascot – a life-size sloth – hugging her back. Mónica focused on trust, friendship, and a little of her trademark tenacity to change the conversation and help upstream landowners and downstream water users see eye to eye.

Changing the Conversation

Mónica found that more frequent and honest conversations led to learning and action. Her work brought community members together with the regional environmental authority. The increased trust led to water sharing agreements designed to benefit all communities: farmers received support to help them transition to sustainable practices; water users benefited from cleaner water.

In the end, Mónica also realized that the campaigns changed her. “I’ve become a more expressive human being, a better negotiator, and a strategist in identifying the potential ‘but’ in a conversation and transforming it into a yes.”

By changing the conversation, Mónica is igniting change for people and nature—but she can’t do it alone. Will you help ignite change? Give now.

Change is what Rare does best.

Now, we must work to elevate community behavior change to the scale of our global environmental challenges. Will you join us?

Help us ignite The change

Ignite Change Now