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I. Diagnosis


With the general objective of preparing a Hydraulic Resources Development Plan for Loja Province, the government of Ecuador asked the Organization of American States to conduct this study as part of the Technical Cooperation Program for the 1990-91 biennium. The Plan, within the general parameters of economic development, environmental conservation, and improvement of the living standard, had the following specific objectives.

Review the province's hydraulic systems, identify their level of development, and establish priorities for execution of the projects in each system.

· Define within the Plan several of the province's existing hydraulic development projects as the basis for an investment program.

· Identify new alternatives and complementary projects.

· Define terms of reference and draw up action programs for execution of the projects selected.

· Train technical personnel in planning, hydraulic development, and preparation of projects for development, management, and conservation of renewable natural resources, and environmental management.


The Loja Province, situated at about 4 degrees south latitude, is bounded on the south by Peru, on the west by El Oro Province, on the north by El Azuay, and on the east by Zamora-Chinchipe. With an area of 10,790 km2, it has a population of 390 thousand inhabitants, according to the 1990 census. These figures represent about 4% of Ecuador's area and population. 60% of the people reside in rural zones, living mainly by farming and ranching. The major population centers and capitals of neighboring provinces are linked by paved highways.

The province is organized into 15 cantons whose major settlements generally lack an adequate system for safe drinking water. Smaller villages use untreated water. There are 16 small and medium-scale irrigation projects under construction and in operation.

Within Loja there are four hydrographic systems: in the north, the Jubones River, in the east, the Santiago River which is part of the Amazon Basin, and in the northwest, the Puyango-Tumbes, which all together cover 35 % of the area. The remaining 65 % is occupied by the Chira-Catamayo system. In recent years binational projects have been prepared for Puyango-Tumbes and Chira-Catamayo, in an effort to provide irrigation for extensive zones both inside and outside of Ecuador as well as the generation of hydroelectric power.


The most unusual climate feature in Loja Province, which distinguishes it from the rest of the country, is the abrupt and chaotic relief and the process of desertification which is advancing from the south.

The province is subjected to the Intertropical Front that results from interaction of El Niño and Humboldt Currents, the trade winds, and the mountain and coastal orography. Local peaks act as barriers to the humid air of the above-mentioned fronts, causing sharp thermal contrast in a short distance. Thus the valleys of the Catamayo and the upper left bank of the Jubones River are marked by semi-arid tropical climates because of the climatic factors associated with the relief.

The average annual temperature ranges from 13°C in Saraguro, in the north, to 24°C in Macará, in the far south. Although the average annual rainfall in the province is 950 mm, this figure varies over the length and width of the zone from 40% to 250%. As a result of all these factors, the region studied presents a series of micro-climates.

Analysis of the monthly rainfall shows five zones that follow the pattern of the Andes range. The first three, coming up from the coast, have rainy periods that end in May and begin between January and October depending on the distance from the coast. The two most easterly zones have rainfall throughout the year.

The province's evapotranspiration pattern suggests that the second half of the year (especially October and November) is the best time for growing crops and development of natural vegetation (shrubs and trees), in view of the moisture in the air and the soil. In other words, few locations are apt for farming without irrigation during the period from July to December, which sometimes is extended to January.

Data from 15 meteorological stations indicate that there are that many zones that are more or less homogenous in terms of climate and soil. To these must be added the paramo. These data make it possible to identify water surplus and deficit, and the general requirements for irrigation.

Consolidation of 25 sets of data, over 25 years, of monthly rainfall and river flow from a network of seven hydrometric stations resulted in a stochastic model relating rainfall and runoff. This made it possible to obtain reasonably reliable flow estimates (with 70% probability of recurrence) in areas that could benefit from irrigation projects. For the same stations, flood hydrograms with 50-year return periods were prepared, using the model of the U.S. Soil Conservation Service.

In the course of the study water quality in 11 places was sampled on two occasions. There were high concentrations of mercury (>5 ppm in 7 places) and coliform bacteria. The bacteria count exceeded limits tolerated even for irrigation.


86% of the area of the province is hilly and mountainous, with slopes greater than 16%. The central and eastern zones are the most mountainous. Erosion results from interaction of a combination of factors, among which we could cite: soft and fragile substrate, steep slopes, dry climate, heavy rains, and little natural vegetation. To these we must add human depredation through over-grazing, deforestation, and improper farming methods.

The erosion process results in a growing deterioration of the quantity and quality of water production. Water absorption has been reduced, resulting in surface runoff with sudden and unpredictable flooding and consequent soil erosion.

42 % of the province shows sings of severe erosion, primarily caused by human activity. The result is rill and deep gully erosion. 55% of the territory is affected by light erosion induced by rainfall.

Indirect methods1 were used to quantify soil loss. The four hydrographic systems were divided into 15 basins and 30 sub-basins, based primarily on the location of the main hydrometric stations. The highest estimates of annual soil loss were found in the sub-basins of Quebrada Grande and Playas River, which are part of the Catamayo-Playas basin, and in the Puyango-Cazaderos River basin. The former, in the central part of the province, registered 1,940 and 1,460 m3/ha/year; the latter, in the northwestern section, recorded 1,200 m3/ha/year. Although at the end of the study there were some 550 measurements of sediment in suspension in the Catamayo and Santiago systems, the results are not yet sufficiently representative. Very preliminary estimates put soil loss at between 69,000 tons and 1,000,000 tons per year.

1 Methodology of CATIE (Center for Tropical Agricultural Research and Training) was used for the geomorphometric analysis.


Much of the water for domestic consumption is obtained directly from sources that are often highly contaminated and of limited availability. This makes it difficult to estimate the real need for water. In the rural area 34% of the people are connected to the public water supply, 20% use wells, 40% use rivers, springs, channels or irrigation ditches, and the rest get their water from trucks or other sources. In the urban area 91% of the people use the public water system, and the rest use wells, rivers, springs, channels, water trucks, or other sources.

80% of the rural population lack access to sanitary sewers of any type, but 73 % of the urban population are connected to some system and only 12% have no sanitary service whatsoever. Demand for the year 2020 is estimated to be 459 l/s for the rural sector and 1,286 l/s for the urban sector.

The IEOS (Ecuadorian Institute of Sanitation) has prepared several projects to serve a good part of the villages.

As of June 1992, the INERHI (Ecuadorian Institute for Hydraulic Resources) has granted water concessions totalling 12,176 l/s, most of which are for private sector irrigation. INERHI also has a series of projects, including 11 in operation and 5 under construction, which require a total of 12,850 l/s. About 182 l/s are committed for domestic water service. There are no concessions for water use in mining processes involving recycling. A topological map showing the location of the concessions is being drawn up.


In general, the soils have the following characteristics:

· Clay predominates on the surface (30-50%)

· pH varies between neutral and alkaline (7-8)

· The presence of organic material and nitrogen is average; phosphorous is generally low and potassium high, especially in dry tropical areas.

Nearly half of the province (45%) is covered by Class VII soils not suited for agricultural use, but they could be used for reforestation. If climatic conditions are favorable, fruit trees could be grown along with permanent crops like coffee and cacao. These soils are found in areas with slopes greater than 58%, and often associated with Class VI and VII soils. In short, soils suitable for forestry and tree crops cover 54% of the province, which is 596,700 hectares.

About 15% of the province consists of land not suited for agricultural or forest production. By contrast, 30% of the area is suited for intensive cultivation (Classes II, III, and IV). The remainder of the soils (Class VI) consists of land suited for permanent crops, pasture, and forestry. See Map A-6. Some 30% of the land is potentially irrigable, but only one-fifth of it can support irrigation without constraints.


Half of the land in the province is presently devoted to mixed activities. The most prevalent combinations, occupying one-fourth of the province, are natural pastures/annual crops, and artificial pastures/perennial crops. Following in order of importance is forest cover, 28% of the area, consisting mainly of highly intervened natural woods and shrubs, with timber more than 5 meters high. This is found in the rugged, mountainous area. 12% of the land is devoted to cultivated and natural pastures, only 5 % to simple farming.

Since 1962 there have been several attempts at forestry and reforestation with modest results to date. The principal trees used in the planting are Pinus radiata and patula, along with Eucalyptus globulos, saligna, and camaldulensis. The forests of these trees are then timbered.

In the project area there are several natural life zones according to L. R. Holdridge. Unfortunately they have been seriously depleted by human intervention. See Map A-5.

Eleven life zones have been identified. The dominant ones include, in the first instance, The Dry Forest Low Mountain Zone at an elevation of 2 to 3,000 m, which represents 21% of the land studied. Primary vegetation has been completely altered. There are now very few clumps of trees and much subsistence farming. Next in importance is the Dry Forest Piedmont Zone, between 100 and 2,000 m in elevation, which covers 17% of the area. Most of the people in this zone practice subsistence agriculture for six to eight months of the year in the higher mountain elevations, having been displaced from the valleys below 800 m. Natural vegetation is very limited and nonexistent in some cases. The land is eroded. There is overgrazing by goats, mules, and cattle. People have destroyed the native forest to open up land for cultivation. The same thing occurs in the Humid Forest Low Mountain Zone between 1,800 and 2,000 m, which occupies 14% of the area. This is a very productive zone, where forest cover has been destroyed and river basins are very lacking in moisture during the dry season.

After agrarian reform in Loja Province, there was major forest destruction to expand the ranching area and compensate for pastures that were denied to the peasants. This resulted in the loss of species that could be used for forest cultivation.

Between 1954 and 1990 pastureland increased from 189 thousand to 422 thousand ha. During the same period there was in increase in the number of livestock (cattle, hogs, goats, sheep and horses), so the density increased from 0.4 to 0.5 head per hectare. Ranges with natural forage show signs of erosion from heavy use by the animals. In farms larger than 5 ha pastures have been increased at the expense of a reduction in cropland. In the dry zone of the province, trees and shrubs have an important role as fodder.

Destruction of native animal species is imminent because of the takeover of their habitat. Birds are disappearing, along with the species that nourish them. Mammals such as tapirs, wildcats, and deer are disappearing because of hunting and agricultural use of toxic substances.

In 1976 the Government of Ecuador established the National System of State Protected Areas, with a series of management categories in order to restore some elements in the natural zones and maintain distinctive biodiversity of each elevation and climate zone, threatened by forest destruction. In recent years there has been a change in the policy of management of protected areas, with participation by nongovernmental organizations. There are 6 legally protected areas in the province, covering 46 thousand ha. In addition, 17 locations have been recommended for designation as Natural Areas.


The province's population grew between 1950 and 1990 at a uniform annual rate of 1.4%, which is the lowest rate in the country. As in the other provinces, most of it is concentrated in the provincial and the cantonal capitals. Even so, the urban population is outnumbered by the rural population.

48% of the economically active population is self-employed. 37% works for other people.

Difficult physical and socio-economic conditions for tillers of small and medium farms in the province have caused heavy migration toward Guayaquil, Quito, Santo Domingo, and the east. This was accentuated after 1968, when there was one of the worst droughts of the century. At that time the sub-tropical valleys of the southwestern zone were practically abandoned. The 1990 census showed a loss of 164,183 inhabitants, which represented 43% of the population.

Population projections for 2000, 2010, and 2020 are based on the hypothesis that implementation of a series of measures indicated below will reduce the population outflow by 50%, and there will be annual population growth of 1.6%. The economically active population is expected to grow by 2.9% per year, and the agricultural population is expected to increase by 1.4% per year, assuming that jobs will be generated by development projects in the areas affected by the Program for Management and Conservation of Renewable Natural Resources and the Provincial Irrigation Plan.

Illiteracy, according to the last three censuses, has been reduced from 24% to 9%, which is relatively low by comparison with the rest of the country. The death rate in 1987 was 4.24 per thousand, well below the national rate of 5.3 per thousand.

There are 484 public elementary schools in the province, distributed throughout the 15 cantons. 88% of the elementary schools are in the rural area. During the 1990-91 school year there were 113 secondary schools. There are two universities in Loja.

The province has 10 hospitals, 3 health centers, 44 auxiliary centers, 23 community health services, 44 clinics, and 44 health posts. In 1990 there were 99,772 private houses. 65% of the residences are located in rural areas. The province has several resources for tourism, but their development has been limited, due primarily to lack of access.

The road system includes the Pan-American Highway, which runs from North to South, and five trunk roads that link the province with the neighboring ones. It also has two airports, located 38 and 240 km from the capital.

Although Loja has some 460 MW of hydroelectric power technically exploitable, it cannot be tapped for economic reasons. The Province receives power from the Interconnected National System. According to the 1990 census, 52% of the population uses firewood as an energy source.

The census showed land tenure patterns as follows: 88% owners, 8% renters, and the rest squatters and others.

The census also indicated that, in a sample of 300 farms, 55% were less than 5 hectares, 35% were between 5 and 20 ha, and the rest were larger than 20 ha. On the farms less than 5 ha, on average 64% of the land was used for crops, 29% for grazing, and the rest for forests or other uses. On farms larger than 50 ha, 64% was devoted to pasture.

Although the average size of a farm family in Loja is 7.7 persons, the available labor force is substantially reduced by migration. On average 5 persons remain in each farm home.

During the course of the study an estimate was made of the labor force in farming by type of activity, as well as the yields of principal crops in the province in comparison with the national average. The end use of the crops was also estimated (human consumption, seed, forage, and sale), as well as the current total and marketed production of the principal crops. Finally the marketing system was analyzed. It was noted that the average annual income of economically active persons was $1,193. Only 27% of the people interviewed had direct or indirect access to credit. 71% of those interviewed received no technical assistance at all.

The social organization of farmers in Loja is very limited. In the sample taken, only 26% said they belonged to some type of organization such as a cooperative, association, commune, water or irrigation group. According to the Ministry of Industry, Trade, Integration, and Fisheries, most industry in Loja is small-scale, dealing mainly with lumber, food, beverages, and tobacco. Geological characteristics of the province suggest the primary mineral that could be mined in the future is gold.


Planning at the national level for this project is the responsibility of the National Development Council (CONADE), the Ecuadoran Institute for Hydraulic Resources (INERHI), the Ecuadoran Electrification Institute (INECEL), and the Ecuadoran Institute for Sanitation (IEOS). At the regional level, planning is the responsibility of the Loja Hydraulic Plan (PHILO), the Southern Region Development Program (PREDESUR) and INERHI. There are also ministries and other governmental agencies that have responsibility at the national level. An organizational chart was prepared to show the multiplicity of governmental organizations with overlapping functions for the management and conservation of renewable natural resources.

The legal structure of the Ecuadoran state consists of a system of legal norms ranked in order of importance. The most important is the Constitution, which supersedes all other laws. The laws directly related to the management and conservation of renewable natural resources are as follows:

· Law establishing the Ecuadoran Institute for Hydraulic Resources
· Water law
· Law for prevention and control of environmental pollution
· Forest law including conservation of natural areas and wildlife areas


Considering the potential and limitations of Loja Province reflected in this study, it is necessary to search for appropriate ways to move the province toward the desired socio-economic development. In this analysis, as a corollary of the studies undertaken, it is useful to mention briefly the basic development concepts that must be served by programs, projects, and activities that can lead in the short- and medium term to improvement of the current living conditions, especially in the rural zone. The following is a list of objectives, not necessarily in order of importance:

· To create work in farming, forestry, and forest-pasture culture

· To improve productivity in farming and ranching

· To increase and diversify production

· To halt emigration from rural areas

· To check the increase of desertification

· To stimulate ecological awareness in rural and urban areas

· To improve interagency coordination

· To improve management of renewable natural resources and forest culture

· To involve the farmer in the planning and execution of conservation and management activities

· To strengthen enforcement of environmental laws and regulations

· To prevent negative environmental impact from construction and maintenance of infrastructure projects, especially roads and highways

· To control the effects of erosion at all stages

· To improve marketing systems in rural areas To reduce the level of mercury in surface water To improve irrigation practices

· To encourage the establishment of agroindustries

· To instruct farmers in the use of agrochemicals and proper slope cultivation

To respond to these and other chronic problems in the province, it is recommended that a Provincial Irrigation Plan and a Plan for Management and Conservation of Renewable Natural Resources be executed within the established time framework.

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