Water is at the heart of everything we do — not only is it a key ingredient in our products, but it’s also a critical resource for the economic, social and environmental well-being of the communities where we live and work. That’s why in 2018, we set an ambitious water stewardship goal to bring measurable and improved water availability and quality to 100% of our communities in high-stress areas by 2025.
Achieving this goal requires action from colleagues across the business, such as the team from Backus, our local brewer in Peru, who is addressing freshwater accessibility issues in Lima, the world’s second-largest city located in a desert.
Only nine millimeters (0.35 inches) of rain falls in Lima every year. Aquafondo: The Water Fund for Lima and Callao, which was created to protect the water supply through the Chillón, Rímac and Lurín basins, estimates that climate change could cause a severe water shortage in the area within 10 to 15 years. This crisis is personal to the people of Backus; not only does the Rimac aquifer provide water for the more than 11 million residents of Lima, but it is also essential to the production of their beer and beverage products.
This year Backus reaffirmed its commitment to water stewardship with a total investment of more than 5 million USD to rehabilitate 32.5 km of amunas.
“Aquafondo presented us with the opportunity to work together to restore amunas, an ancient water-harvesting system in the area,” said Maria Atuesta Vegalara, Regional Sustainability Manager for AB InBev’s Middle Americas Zone. “Aquafondo has been a great ally and partner in this mission because they have the technical knowledge to rehabilitate these amunas and strong relationships with the local community.”
Ancestral knowledge paired with technical expertise
As early as 500 AD, people living in the mountainous areas of Peru began using ancestral structures for water harvesting. The systems use a series of channels to filter rainy-season runoff from the mountains so that people living in the lowlands can use the water during the dry season. While these systems are effective and efficient, amunas must be maintained, and unfortunately, many of them have been abandoned over the years.
“The restoration of the aquifers contributes directly to confronting the water crisis,” said Mariella Sánchez, Executive Director of Aquafondo. “It will allow the lower part of the micro-basin to have greater water availability in the dry season, positively impacting the local livestock and farming.”
To restore these amunas, Aquafondo pairs their technical expertise with the local communities’ ancestral knowledge of the terrain, and they also develop awareness workshops in places where there is not yet extensive knowledge about using the ancestral channels for water conservation.
Amunas filter rainy-season runoff from the mountains so that people living in the lowlands can use the water during the dry season. Source: Backus
Overcoming the challenges of a mountainous environment
Finding a local partner and pledging to restore the amunas was the first step in addressing the freshwater problem in Lima. The rough mountainous landscape of Peru was the next challenge to overcome.
"The greatest barrier is how remote these amunas are, as they're located so far up in the mountains," Maria explained. "Their remote location makes it very difficult to bring in construction materials and working on the channels is physically difficult because the altitude is high."
Another environmental challenge is working around the natural climate. Because travel up the mountain is dangerous or even impossible in the rainy season, rehabilitation is limited to the dry season, typically lasting from April through November.
As early as 500 AD, people living in the mountainous areas of Peru have been using amunas for water harvesting. Source: Aquafondo
What’s next for the amunas restoration
So far, 15 km has been restored, with a goal of restoring the entire 67 km network of amunas by 2025. Although the effort is well on its way, it cannot be achieved alone. In addition to Aquafondo and The Nature Conservancy, other corporations have been invited to join the project, which was recognized with a Lighthouse Award from the Brave Blue World Foundation.
This year Backus reaffirmed its commitment with a total investment of more than 5 million USD to rehabilitate 32.5 km of amunas. Over the next three years more than 400 residents from San Pedro de Casta, Huachupampa, Huanza, San Juan de Iris and Carampoma will be trained in operating and maintaining the amunas as part of a partnership with the German Development Cooperation, implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit ( GIZ) GmbH, within the framework of the develoPPP program of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
“By teaching residents how to restore the amunas themselves, this knowledge stays in the community and will benefit future generations,” said Maria. “When you think about sustainability, in the long run, the maintenance of the amunas by the communities is essential.”
To learn more about how AB InBev is helping address water challenges in our communities, see the Water Stewardship section of our 2021 Environmental, Social and Governance Report.