Natural hazards and disasters
Guatemala lies in a geographical region prone to a wide variety of hazards such as floods, landslides, droughts and bush fires.
One of the worst recent disasters was Tropical Storm Agatha in 2010, which caused floods and landslides at all the PfR project sites, killing 160 people and causing nearly 1 billion dollars in damage nationwide.
Climate change makes things worse: average temperatures, sea levels and the intensity of tropical storms are all expected to increase over the next century.
The effects on people
People's livelihoods -the cultivation of staple crops, mostly corn and beans – are fragile.
Most communities are situated in mountainous areas where deforestation impacts on the soil and water supply and triggers landslides, floods and droughts.
Communities of PfR sites are often cut off when hurricanes, floods and landslides occur as roads are blocked and communications impossible.
What PfR does
PfR is strengthening the organizational structure related to disaster management at the local and municipal level.
Food insecurity will be eased through improved agro-technology to protect crops, and through vegetable gardens and better forestry.
PfR is facilitating the development of watershed management plans and early-warning systems that harmonize with traditional knowledge, ecosystems and the latest predictions for the climate.
In 2013, the partner succesfully facilitated the development of an inter-institutional agenda between several relevant governmental agencies, who aim to converge their approaches in biodiversity conservation, environment and disaster management.
Partners in Guatemala are piloting the bio-rights approach in the department of Sololá. Communities in this area are completely isolated after an emergency, especially during raining season. They are engaged in the production of Maxan, a local plant that is used for local typical food. Communities are primarily dependent on this plant for their daily income, but production of the plant also reduces the forest cover, provoking erosion and affecting the hydrological system and therefore, increasing the risk of landslides.
In the bio-rights approach, local communities receive a loan to invest in sustainable income generating activities. Communities repay their loan in the form of conservation and rehabilitation of the environment, such as reforestation and refraining from unsustainable land use practices. The loan is converted into definitive payments and subsequently into community-based emergency funds, once the conservation measures prove successful and sustainable.
The approach reaches several objectives at the same time. Communities conserve their natural environment, thus reduce the risk on disasters such as landslides and by investing in alternative livelihood options, people diversify and decrease their dependency on solely one crop. Finally, at the moment that an emergency occurs, the communities are sufficiently equipped and self-reliant during the first hours after the emergency.
El Quiché, Sololá, Chiquimula, Zacapa, Izabal districts
Guatemalan Red Cross, CARE, Vivamos Mejor, Caritas Zacapa, Wetlands International with technical support of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre