The Importance of Resilient Cities: What Central America Can Teach Us

An article published by the Thomson Reuters Foundation takes a look at resiliency in Central America.

The article states: “An interdisciplinary approach to risk and disaster management, which involves different levels of State and civil society organizations, particularly those committed to this issue and those working on sustainable development and climate change, is required for a city to become resilient. As risk management expert, Joaquín Toro, explains, this approach allows communities to know the losses to which they are exposed and to use that knowledge to plan adequately, to take measures that contribute to risk reduction and to be able to respond effectively if the risks turn into disasters.

Resiliency efforts have become an important focus in Central America, particularly after Nicaragua’s earthquake and Chile’s unprecedented severe forest fire, both which occurred in the last two months.

The article focuses on the “Resilient Cities in Central America” initiative and its “Cantarranas Methodology.”

Ana Lucy Bengochea, of the Community Practitioners Platform in Honduras, is quoted in the article.

Bengochea was part of a “Resilient Cities in Central America” meeting in Honduras last year. The meeting was held in Cantarranas, and resulted in the production of a document of commitment, now called the “Cantarranas Methodology.”

According to the article, the document is focused on building resilience, seeking to create cooperation and connections between the cities of Cantarranas, Honduras, Livingston, Guatemala and Wiwili, Nicaragua, which are all involved in the Resilient Cities initiative.

The document describes phases of work based on the United Nations’ global campaign “Making Cities Resilient: My City is Getting Ready!”

First there is a risk assessment, which will determine urban development decisions. Next, there is a focus on investing in infrastructure that contributes to risk reduction. The plan also focuses on installing early warning systems and creating regular drills to prepare the people in the participating cities. Last but not least, the methodology aims to ensure the needs of the affected people are considered when rebuilding, and that both individuals and communities receive support to design and establish their own response efforts.

“We share all this in community-based workshops, addressing topics like community resilience or disaster risk reduction, raising awareness about the Hyogo Framework (another UN initiative), and the Resilient Cities Campaign. For instance, in Honduras we are trying to map vulnerability, threats and risks, using new technologies, to place shelters adequately for example. This work is done in coordination with Comision Permanente de Contingencias (COPECO, Permanent Contingencies Commission),” Bengochea said in the article.

There is also a focus on involving female entrepreneurs in these resiliency efforts.

“Because women are always involved in natural events, they are the first to respond and the ones that organize communities, it is very important that they empower themselves and learn about risk management policies,” said Bengochea.

The article states, “Different women's groups promote climate resilient development by doing sensitization work, using tools developed by the women themselves and addressing issues like economic development, adaptation and protection of biodiversity.”

“One of these tools is Seed Banks,” said Bengochea in the article. “These banks use a climate resilient development perspective to promote recovering and valuing autochthonous seeds, while also building and guaranteeing food security for families. Sustainable organic agriculture helps in protecting the soil. The goal is to contribute to a type of development that reduces risks.”

This community-based approach is perhaps a strategy that can be implemented in different areas, particularly the element of the approach that focuses on the needs of the residents, and uses their skills to benefit the entire community.

“We seek to mainstream community resilience, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in all land planning processes, and to create a public policy instrument according to the framework of the law known as A Vision for the Country and a Plan for the Nation (SEPLAN),” said Bengochea.


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