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Climate-proof disaster risk reduction for Indigenous communities in Guatemala

The Partners for Resilience work to reduce the risks of droughts and landslides in vulnerable communities in 5 departments in Guatemala. In addition to securing the communities´ livelihoods, improve their natural resources management and protect them from natural disasters, we also build their capacity to influence decisions that affect them, and involve them in platforms to exchange experiences. Furthermore, by working with different levels of government, we connect national policies with local experiences and influence municipal budget allocation.

Action Description:

Where we work

Guatemala is prone to natural disasters such as tropical storms, hurricanes and earthquakes. The 2009 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction classifies Guatemala as one of the world’s top ten countries that is vulnerable to natural disasters. The geographic location of the country between the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean ensures frequent tropical storms and hurricanes. Hurricane Mitch and Tropical Storm Agatha left the country in a devastated state in 1998 and 2010 respectively. In a changing climate, these extreme weather events will not only increase in number but also in strength.

Furthermore, climate variability is especially hitting the agricultural sector hard. The recent food crisis in Guatemala (September 2009) was due to prolonged drought in the eastern and north-western parts of the country. The phenomena of El Niño and La Niña, especially in 2010, make matters worse, bringing along incessant rains, landslides and flooding affecting roads, bridges, crops, and causing deaths.

Additionaly, the geographical location of the highlands along the Motagua Fault on the Middle America Trench causes earthquakes, termors and volcanic activity inland of the coast. For example, the four consecutive earthquakes in September 2011 caused wide panic and another in November 2012 disturbed public life. In total, there are 37 volcanoes, 4 of which are active, making life even more unpredictable.

What we do

In the period of 2011 – 2014, the Partners for Resilience work to reduce the risks of droughts  and landslides in vulnerable Indigenous communities in 5 Departments in Guatemala: Quiche (Santa Cruz and Sacapulas), Sololá (Nahuala), Zacapa (Cabañas), Chiquimula (Concepción Las Minas and Camotan) and Izabal (El Estor).

We do this by implementing identifying the risks and find effective local measures to counter them. For example, we identify ecosystem services that are crucial for people´s livelihoods, as well as high risk, degraded or hydric recharge areas, and define how they should best be used. Looking at the different local productive uses of natural resources (including agriculture, cattle ranching and forestry) we solve the conflicts between producers and make them more sustainable, thereby increasing the resilience of all.

Other adaptation micro-projects include the construction of tree nurseries for reforestation of degraded riverbanks and aquifer recharge areas of three micro-watersheds to prevent water shortage in prolonged dry periods, and the reforestation of degraded hillsides with multiple-use species. These trees do not only prevent landslides in the rainy season, but also provide fire wood and timber, contribute to food security and help to restore the biological corridor between Biosphere Reserve Sierra de las Minas and Wildlife Refuge Bocas del Polochic.  

Furthermore, by training community members we build the capacity of their local organizations to develop their own measures to reduce risks as climate change adaptation strategy, and restore and sustainably manage their natural resources.

We promote this approach to the local, regional and national government and its institutions, so that national policies and norms are linked to the local level. Key results are the allocation of municipal budgets for disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and environmental restoration & management. By including the local organisations in this work, we give them a voice and the capacity to influence policy dialogues at the local, regional and national level.

In addition, together we work to include these local social networks into departmental and national platforms where they can exchange their experiences and learn from each other. In all these actions we promote the learning from traditional practices and complement them with scientific knowledge, and develop tools and systemized practices to be shared across the alliance and partners.

Action Partners:

In Guatemala the Partners for Resilience work through their local organiations, except for the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, that works through their office in Washington, USA.

Wetlands International works through its team in Guatemala, receiving technical support from the Panamá Office.

The Netherlands Red Cross works through with the Guatemalan Red Cross.

Cordaid´s regional representation ASPRODE works in cooperation with Caritas Zacapa.

CARE works through its local team of CARE Guatemala and the Vivamos Mejor Association in Sololá.