GRIDEH: The Experience of the Risk Management Network in Huancavelica

Foto: ITDG

Foto: © ITDG

This article discusses the experience of the Risk Management Network in Huancavelica (GRIDEH), established by the efforts of several civil society organizations working closely with the local people. It focuses on the work done by Practical Solutions-ITDG in Aurahuá district, Huancavelica department, and how this work relates to the priorities set forth by the Hyogo Framework for Action regarding local and regional disaster risk reduction.

Huancavelica and the district of Aurahuá

Huancavelica is a region located in the Peruvian highlands of the Andes Mountains. It was the cradle of great pre-Hispanic cultures and brought enormous wealth to the colonial administration thanks to quicksilver mining, until the mines declined in the 18th century. However, according to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the National Institute of Statistics and Information Technology (INEI), Huancavelica is now the poorest department in Peru.

Huancavelica is divided into seven provinces, including Castrovirreyna in the central west area of the department, where the district of Aurahuá is located and where Practical Solutions-ITDG has been working since 2008. Aurahuá is in the Andean highlands of the San Juan River basin, which feeds into the Pacific Ocean in the province of Chincha, department of Ica. It covers 360.97 km2 and has a population of 2,353, most of which live in caseríos (dispersed rural settlements). According to the UNDP’s District Human Development Index (DHDI), life expectancy at birth is 66 years, literacy is 85.7% and per capita income is 144.6 soles (approximately US$48). These indicators were used by UNDP in assigning the district of Aurahuá a DHDI score of 0.5372, ranking it number 1,111 out of 1,831 districts in the country. Regarding the average per capita income, Aurahuá ranks 1,722; that is, in the lowest decile for the country.

Historically, Aurahuá was on the “Mercury Trail,” and occupied a strategic place within the colonial economy. Currently, the primary economic activity is agriculture, based on micro-scale farming systems (less than 3 scattered hectares) with low yields and productivity, and is geared primarily to on-farm consumption.

Risk management comes to Aurahuá

Peru has many remote communities or settlements that are hard to reach, partly because of poor roads and mountainous terrain, but primarily because of the neglect of the national authorities. This situation is compounded by a number of factors, including poverty, unsafe houses and limited access to health care1, which make these communities highly vulnerable to disasters.

A disaster risk management approach was developed in response to this situation, to provide a “planned, consensus-based, participatory and integrated process for reducing risk conditions in a community, region or country, closely linked to the pursuit of sustainable development.” This approach is based on the realization that disasters are not natural and, in order to prevent them, it is necessary to build capacity and reduce vulnerability, while addressing underlying risk factors.

The Aurahuá district is a good example of a community with a high level of vulnerability to disasters. For this reason, since 2008, Practical Solutions-ITDG has been implementing the project titled “Capacity Building for Community-Based Risk Management in Peru and Bolivia” with funding from Lutheran World Relief.

Since its inception, the project has sought to get local people involved to the greatest possible extent. Training was provided on the risk management approach and the Aurahuá Disaster Risk Management Plan was developed with broad-based local participation. The residents of Aurahuá identified the most frequent hazards, such as drought and frost, followed by earthquakes and different kinds of landslides, known locally as huaycos. The level of organization and local knowledge of signs used to forecast the weather, such as rainbow sightings and bird behavior, were some of the important local capacities identified. In addition, a series of proposals were submitted for capacity building on risk reduction.

During its work with the community, the project developed ties with other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Aurahuá and in the province of Huancavelica. The next step involved providing the population with further information on issues such as land- use planning, environmental management and climate change to help them participate in the Concerted Development Plan for the district, and in participatory local and provincial budgeting processes. This was followed by working with public authorities in the region to raise their awareness about risk management, as well as to get their commitment to the work taking place in the community. The experience in Aurahuá has begun to be replicated in the neighboring district of Chupamarca, which already has its own disaster risk management plan.

Aurahuá and the Hyogo Framework for Action

The work done by Practical Solutions-ITDG in Aurahuá district is aimed at fulfilling the priorities of the “Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters,” established during the World Conference on Disaster Reduction (WCDR) in Kobe, Japan in 2005. Our approach is in line with the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA), and includes disaster risk reduction at the core of sustainable development.

The project implemented in Aurahuá is primarily linked to Priorities 1 and 3 of the Hyogo Framework. In the first case, by working with community actors and municipal authorities, the project seeks to make risk management a priority in district development plans and replicate this experience to influence regional and national authorities. In the second case, the project seeks to strengthen networks for information sharing, determining measures and helping the local population internalize disaster risk management.

GRIDE in Huancavelica

As the thinking about disasters and how to prevent them evolved, it became obvious that it was important to create networks that include civil society representatives, specialists and authorities, among others, who can discuss and produce knowledge on disaster risk and build public awareness on the issue.

Thus, in 1998, the Piura Risk Management Group was created. This initiative was strengthened based on the Kobe Conference (2005) and the HFA itself. As a follow-up to this initial action in Peru, networks called Risk Management Promotion Groups (known by their Spanish acronym, GRIDES) have been established in San Martín, Lambayeque, Cajamarca and Ancash. In addition, northeastern and southern macro-regional GRIDES were created.

During the second half of 2008, different organizations in the region of Huancavelica came together to create a risk management network that they called GRIDEH, or GRIDE Huancavelica. Due to the region’s geography, they decided to establish two nodes: one in Huancavelica, located in the province of the same name and made up of the following NGOs: CEPES, ITDG, INDESCO, SEPAR, AMUZCEH, CEDINCO, San Javier and CARITAS. This network also included the Mesa de Concertación de Lucha Contra la Pobreza (Joint Board to Fight Poverty). The second node, the San Juan River basin, located in the province of Castrovirreyna, was composed of INDESCO, San Javier, EDUCA, ITDG, AMDINCH and CARITAS. GRIDEH’s overall goal is, “to contribute to the promotion and implementation of a risk management approach in the region of Huancavelica,” through the development of local capacity, dissemination of information, and political and social advocacy for institutionalizing risk management.

This year, the San Juan River basin node held an activity in Tantará district, where it shared the experience in Aurahuá and submitted a proposal about how to integrate risk management into the updated consensus-based development plans and participatory budgets. Later, both nodes met in Chincha province and signed an agreement to work together on projects that include risk management and climate change adaptation strategies.

GRIDEH’s prospects for the future

The people of Aurahuá and Huancavelica have rapidly developed a sense of ownership of the risk management approach, which confirms their commitment to the creation and functioning of GRIDEH. Undoubtedly, their recurring and recent experiences with disasters have influenced this process. In addition, people feel a stronger need to organize in order to deal with common hazards and problems in places where the government’s presence is weak.

GRIDEH has the opportunity to become a leader in the development planning process, understanding that risk management should be addressed as a crosscutting issue. Likewise, GRIDEH needs to produce more knowledge on those risks that people face and measures for addressing them. The network also needs to build up expertise and a stronger organization. This will enable it to have an influence at the political level; that is, to help authorities at different levels to consider disaster risk management a component of their public policy. Thus, GRIDEH is working to become a strong actor that plays a leading role in keeping future events from turning into disasters.

For further information, please contact:
Yuri Gómez, Roberto López and Sergio Tejada