Risk management at high altitudes
The northwestern Atitlán highlands of southwestern Guatemala encompass five river catchment areas delineated by the natural borders of the overall catchment area of the Nahualate River. The social situation of the local population is precarious: 70% of people live in poverty, 35% of them in extreme poverty, making the region one of the poorest in the country. The climatic conditions are likewise very difficult. In recent years, the effects of climate change and recurrent natural disasters have made the lives of the local population even harder.
Such populations are highly vulnerable to natural disasters. An understanding of disaster preparedness and how to manage risk can greatly increase their resilience when disasters occur.
Managed in close cooperation with the local authorities and population, this Swiss Re Foundation-funded project by Vivamos Mejor aimed to mitigate the negative effects of natural disasters by pooling knowledge and experience in risk management and to reduce the natural risks in the region through reforestation and sustainable forest use.
This project followed up on a previous project in Atlitán funded by Swiss Re, which found strong interest in and need for a risk management project in the area. Accordingly, in this initiative 27 communities from the first project received professional follow-up support and further risk prevention training. Risk and first aid committees were set up and reinforced in an additional 21 communities, which benefitted from the others’ experiences.
To ensure that local bodies continue to apply the acquired knowledge after Vivamos Mejor left the region, skills were cultivated on a long-term basis through workshops and similar forms of participative education. Throughout the project, community members actively participated in planning and implementation to help establish and reinforce local capacities.
The project addressed reforestation and the sustainable use of natural resources with a focus on the prevention of soil degradation and erosion. By its end, the participating communities were able to carry on the related activities independently.