Community is key: ten years of the Alliance in Peru

Thursday, September 28, 2023

The scope, scale and multi-sector nature of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance has been integral to the success of the flood resilience programme in Peru, which has now been running for a decade. However, as Practical Action’s Giorgio Madueño explains, strengthening resilience can only happen through deep engagement at the community level.

Practical Action’s journey with the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance goes back to 2013, when – along with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) – it began implementing a new flood resilience programme in select countries. Our work in Peru has focused on communities vulnerable to landslides and floods in key watersheds in the regions of Piura, Lima and Cusco.

In order to minimize the negative impact of these events, the Alliance promoted diverse strategies that address resilience in a comprehensive manner. On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Alliance in Peru, let’s look back at some of its most important interventions.

Miluska Ordoñez, DRR Specialist from Practical Action training community members in the ‘Brigadista for a Day’ event in 2018. Photo: Giorgio Madueño 

A community-first approach

Decisions on how to cope with floods are often made at the global and national levels. However, it is at the local level where the effects of these events are felt most immediately, and most intensely. This is why the Alliance has, from day one, put communities at the centre of its work, with a focus on strengthening preparedness and response capacities. Only by gathering meaningful data from the communities most affected by floods and other hazards can the most impactful actions be properly determined.

This approach has been instrumental in shaping programmes such as our ‘Brigadista for a Day’ event. Since 2015 Practical Action has, in partnership with other organizations and local governments in the Rimac river basin, improved the population’s awareness of disaster risk management. Activities include first aid training, the development of family emergency plans and the construction of rain gauges. This served as the starting point for the development of a more specialized training programme for community volunteers, based on the guidelines of the National Institute of Civil Defence (INDECI) and the guide for the development of the community emergency plan.

The project has now reached approximately 8,000 participants and has contributed to the formation of 31 ‘community brigades’ in the areas most affected by landslides and floods.

(Local) knowledge is power

Communities can tell us what they need to become more resilient to floods, and implementing partners like Practical Action can deliver this up to a point – but only by connecting local expertise with national-level actors can sustained change be realized. In Peru, Practical Action is engaged in creating opportunities for collaboration between technical entities and populations most vulnerable to disasters.

For example, for the past six years the Participatory Rainfall Monitoring Network of the Rimac basin (Red MOP) has linked flood-prone communities with the National Service of Meteorology and Hydrology (Senamhi). Using manual rain gauges, a group of volunteers makes systematic rainfall measurements and share them via WhatsApp. This information is integrated into Senamhi’s official reports, which in turn provides ongoing training to members of the network on concepts related to climate science and meteorology.

Similarly, partnerships with INDECI and local municipalities have led to the organization of events such as drills and training with a national scope, allowing for the strengthening of capacities among the country’s technical personnel.

A technician installs a LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) station next to an old river measurement ruler on a bank of the Vilcanota River, Peru. Photo: Giorgio Madueño

Impact through influence

The Alliance programme in Peru is also engaged in ensuring that the full potential of preventative action is realized at the national level. After building a reputation as a leading authority on Early Warning Systems (EWS), Practical Action’s approach has been recognized by the national government in its efforts to scale EWS for an exponentially greater impact. To date, newly installed EWS are now benefiting approximately 457,000 people by alerting them of potentially dangerous flooding. Ultimately, the expansion of EWS is expected to impact the lives of over 9.3 million people living in the Rimac watershed.

Amplifying community voices remains at the heart of our approach, including through the Resilient Leaders Network. Established with the support of Practical Action, this civil society group leverages existing local leadership from three districts, and seeks to strengthen climate resilience in the communities of the Rimac basin. Over the years the network has become a key actor in the region, channelling demands from the communities to local authorities and governmental entities, and securing commitments to action.

What’s next for Peru?

Over the course of Practical Action’s participation in the Alliance, we have witnessed how communities have grown in strength, unity and determination, supported all the way by the academic, technical and operational expertise of our key partners.

Looking ahead, we are inspired by the continued commitment of all organizations involved, both local and international. We hope that our work will expand to address climate change issues comprehensively, in pursuit of a world in which floods have no negative impact on people’s and businesses’ ability to thrive.

Read the other entries in our ten-year anniversary series:

Never stop learning: ten years of the Alliance in Mexico
Community is key: ten years of the Alliance in Nepal

To find out more about Practical Action’s work in Peru, visit the Latin America Flood Resilience Portal.

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