Project Overview

This four-year CIDA-funded project aimed to improve the protection and rehabilitation of watershed areas affected by human settlement in the São Paulo Metropolitan Area (SPMA). The project focused on the municipality of Santo André, where the project partners developed and implemented a Community-Based Watershed Management (CBWM) system.
The project enhanced an effective stewardship consciousness amongst the residents of the watershed area. In the long-term, the project's impact will lessen the enivronmental damage caused by settlements in sensitive watershed areas.

CBWM Final Report - (1.7Mb)
Location Maps
Rapid Watershed Analysis

Project Goals, Purposes, Details and Events


To make Municipal Watershed Management in Santo André more effective, participatory, and responsive to the needs of informal settlements.


  1. To introduce Community-Based Watershed Management (CBWM) methods to Watershed Protection Areas in Santo André, with applicability to other communities and municipalities.
  2. To improve the quality and availability of information necessary for municipal decision-making related to watershed management.
  3. To expand institutional linkages between Canada and Brazil.

Project Details

Santo André, with a populationof 665,000, is one of 39 municipalities in the São Paulo MetropolitanArea (SPMA). Sixty percent of the municipality is located in reserve areas thatwere created with the intent of preserving watersheds, green areas and naturalparks.Santo André has inherited the legacy of rapid and poorly managed urban growth, characterizedby environmental degradation, particularly in the region's growing informal settlements. These settlements violate municipal land use and environmental legislation.They are also unhealthy living environments with low levels of services, particularlysewage treatment and garbage collection.

The primary project partners were the Santo André municipality and the University of British Columbia's Centre for Human Settlements. The Santo André municipal council is committed to sustainable development and to a high degree of public participation in the development planning process. The municipality hopes to avoid problems arising from human settlement in environmentally sensitive areas and to integrate informal settlement areas more effectively into the urban system. This political commitment, however, requires new operational tools for environmental management that move beyond traditional top-down master planning.

CBWM used a multi-stakeholder approach to planning in Watershed Protection Areas. This represented a fundamental change in the way planning and watershed management was traditionally conducted in Brazilian cities and states. Moving away from the failed traditional reliance on a restrictive legalistic approach towards environmental management, this project focused on involving people in the development process as stewards of the environment. Incorporating socio-economic, biophysical, and institutional considerations in the planning process, there were three main elements in the process of building capacity in community-based watershed management. These dealt with (a) the ways that data is gathered and processed into information–or knowledge–that is useful in making informed decisions; (b) the way that the various stakeholders participate in ongoing watershed management; and (c) new ways of managing conflict among stakeholders and their respective preferences regarding the use of the watershed areas. 

The expected results of the project were threefold. First, to develop and implement a Community-Based Watershed Management system in Santo André, including increased stakeholder involvement. Second, to disseminate CBWM methods throughout the São Paulo Metropolitan Area, and third, to help expand institutional linkages between Canada and Brazil.

Project Events

The CBWM project promotes innovative work in the Pintassilgo Neighbourhood, an informal settlement located in the watershed area of Santo André. The Representatives Council of Pintassilgo Residents organized a Community Talents Fair. As part of the plan for community economic development, the young entrepreneurs had the opportunity to explore their talents in craftsmanship, cooking, music and theatre. The event’s evaluation by the participants was very positive: they discovered a large capacity to organize themselves to attain common goals, such as income generation and community cultural activities.
 Here, young actors from the recently formed Pintassilgo theatre group, "Pintassilgo Tomorrow" prepare for their first  performance in the community. Using a style of theatre  called "Theatre of the Oppressed", the actors depict  everyday situations from their own experiences. After  presenting the scene, the actors repeat it with one  difference: a volunteer from the audience replaces an  actor and improvises new lines for the oppressed  character, attempting to transform the unjust situation– thus preparing to act in real life. At the end of the  presentation, a facilitator engages the audience in discussions about the scene, creating a space for  critical analysis of issues such as environmental damage, gender and racial discrimination, and the  hardships experienced by socially excluded Brazilians.
As part of the CBWM project, a series of discussions were held in Pintassilgo to encourage community members to tell their own stories and reflect on the community's history. The oral history that was recorded in these activities was supplemented with photos and in-depth interviews with individuals creating a multimedia exhibit in time for the final CBWM International Seminar held in Santo André in June of 2004.
Youth participants in the Pintassilgo community discussions.