Community management in disaster prevention in coastal and mountain communities in Peru


The project took place in two provinces and four communities of Lima and Ayacucho, the first one located on the coast and the second in the highlands, each one with its own characteristics.

Coast: According to the results of the Family Risk Analysis, the community of Primero de Marzo and Valle Sagrado located in the district of San Juan de Lurigancho in the province of Lima (Peru), is a primarily adult and extended population (families made up of parents, children, daughters-in-law, grandchildren or others). Most of the population of the district comes from the High Andean communities displaced by the socio-political violence of the 80s and others who migrated in search of better employment opportunities. They settled in risk areas (hillsides), in precarious living conditions, and in houses built on crafted stone walls (pircas) with wooden walls and ceilings, with no technical assistance, water or sewage services. Such conditions increased the vulnerability of families to potential seismic events. It was also identified that education institutions at the infrastructure level and their location were at high risk.

Highlands: The communities of Vinchos and Arizona are located in the Vinchos district in the province of Huamanga, Ayacucho region. Families consist primarily of an adult population, as most youngsters went to study in big cities. The main economic activity of this population is agriculture, which generates an average income of less than the minimum vital income. Finally, their homes are built mainly with mud (raw pressed earth) and the water they consume is not chlorinated.  The main dangers they face include rain, hailstorms and frost that affect their homes and production land. Students in education institutions were also identified as being exposed to hazards.

The project was developed in two stages:

Stage 1: The first stage lasted an average of 4 to 5 months.

The Risk Analysis (RA) was conducted in four communities at the family level. An average of 500 families were assessed for vulnerability and danger (through surveys) in order to identify the families that were more exposed, more fragile and less resilient to a possible disaster event. For the study, the assessment items were adapted according to the characteristics of the communities located on the coast and in the mountains. For example, the exposure of the dwellings to the dangers on the coast is of greater impact due to the fact that it is the only place where the family can live and, in the mountains their greatest concern is the loss of their agricultural land, which is the livelihood of the family.

The results of the vulnerability and hazard analysis were shared with the communities to make it clear which families were most vulnerable and what actions had to be taken at the family and community levels to help reduce risk.

The actions developed in this stage were:

  • Threat analysis
  • Vulnerability analysis
  • Short, medium and long-term action plan (input for the second stage)

2nd Stage: This stage lasted between 8 to 9 continuous months.

In this stage, actions proposed in the first stage were carried out in the short term, at the family and community levels. These included:

  • Formation of a community committee and training of response brigades in case of community emergencies.
  • Formation of school brigade committees and implementation.
  • Awareness-raising meetings with teachers and parents from education institutions.
  • Technical assistance to families in the construction of stable community walls.
  • Entitlement and implementation of the student canteen.
  • Identification and signalling safe areas at community level.
  • Signalling safe areas in education institutions.
  • Student competition to protect the environment.
  • Reforestation of areas to mitigate landslides in communities.
  • Reinforcement of family living links in the communities.
  • Community drills.
  • Drills in education institutions.

The partners who financed the project and proposed the Risk Analysis methodology were Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe – Germany.

The actors involved were mainly the 4 communities and 4 education institutions, selected families, community leaders, governmental and non-governmental institutions, and the teachers from the education institutions.

The project lasted one year, ending in 2016.


Communities have the skills and knowledge to "survive" in high-risk places where their homes and families are located. As an institution, we contribute to improving or strengthening their capacities to promote prevention and mitigate the impact of disasters that may occur. In the communities, the skills of community members were used, such as: - Local capacities: People with knowledge of self-construction were identified in the families, where they were provided with technical assistance to improve the buildings of the stone walls (pircas) of their homes. Sometimes the families would hire a master builder for the work, who would receive technical assistance. - Contribution of resources: The families who improved the stone walls of their houses (pircas) contributed with building materials and labour. The families of the Ayacucho communities contributed with materials and labour to complement the work, such as wood for the construction of the dining rooms and kitchens in the education institutions and the plantation of the living fences. - In the implementation of the evacuation routes, the families participated in identifying the least critical points of assembly and evacuation in their community, according to their environment and experience. - Ancestral knowledge: The families located on the coast of Lima proposed, due to their experience, to reforest the community with plants that consume less water and are more resistant to heat, considering that these communities have little access to water. In the communities of Ayacucho, the proposal was similar for the implementation of live fences and reforestation of the hills, with a type of plant that helps mitigate the impact of heavy rains and frost on the production of their farms, resistant to cold weather and can be reused in the long term for other activities such as timber production. - Mutual help: In the construction of the stone walls (pircas) of their homes and reforestation of the housing areas, there were community workers to support families with certain characteristics such as single mothers with children and the elderly. - Intercultural approach and community engagement: To develop risk maps, information was required from leaders and older people living in the community, to identify the historical profile of the dangers faced by "those of us who are from here; we already know that in the rainy season we must climb up with our animals and not stay or build anything near the river (....) those who are most at risk are families who do not want to pay attention to the experience of those of us who lived more, young people who return after having studied at university no longer believe in us; we have communal traditions to counteract the hail and the frost.” (President of the Vinchos Community - 2016) Local governments’ engagement has been specific in some activities, according to their functions, such as: Regional Office of Education, Municipalities, Fire Brigade and others. Activities have been coordinated in the four communities with the presidents and their directors in charge of leading the entire process, influencing the population for active participation and the importance of getting involved in each process. This was done by providing full support to community leaders and helping them to resolve difficulties encountered in the implementation of the project.
The Risk Analysis (first phase of the project) identified families and individuals in the community who were most vulnerable to hazards. The vulnerability characteristics that were considered were: income levels do not exceed the vital minimum, only one member of the family generates income, head of household, minors and elderly of the family, level of education, type of work and others. At a community meeting considering these characteristics and level of vulnerability, families that required more attention and help in prevention actions were identified, such as: - Women who are single mothers with young children - Widows with young children - Number of elderly in a family - People with disabilities (not very visible in the community, shame still exists in the families) - People who live alone, especially adults or adolescents - And people with a terminal illness These families benefited from direct prevention actions that generated more resources, such as improvement of the walls of their homes, plantation of live fences, and reforestation. They also took part in community prevention activities, such as setting up management committees and brigades, drills and others.
The various risk prevention actions proposed were adapted to the context of each area and the needs and interests of the communities. On the coast, the communities are settled in urban areas of the city with a high level of insecurity and recognise that they live in areas (hillsides) declared at-risk by the Municipality. Among their main needs is to obtain the property title; for this purpose they have to comply with certain requirements such as signalling the safe zones, training, implementation and forming the rescue brigades committee, the improvement of the stone walls of their homes and risk plans, among others. These needs matched with the identification of actions to reduce risk through the project, where women were actively involved in the implementation of these actions because they were responsible for the children and property care and in charge of making decisions regarding their home (in many cases) while their partners or other relatives were absent because of their work. Likewise, in the education institutions of this area the priority was to improve the infrastructure considered high risk by the authorities of the education sector, and to improve the signposting of evacuation zones. This need coincided with the identification of actions to reduce risk through the project, where teachers and parents prioritised opening a door to guarantee an evacuation area. "The school had only one access, there was overcrowding at the time of entry and exit of the students and thanks to Paz y Esperanza we have another gate that serves as access and evacuation" (Director of the Monitor Huascar school). This work was a contribution from the parents and the project. In the highlands, the communities are located in rural (Andean) areas, an hour away from the big cities. They are at-risk areas due to the climate factor. One of their main needs, taking care of and protect their crops (farms) is imperative, because is the only source of support for their families. The project identified risk reduction actions that contributed to this need, such as the implementation of live fences, taking into account the intercultural approach for the implementation of this activity. The participation of women in rural and Andean areas already has defined roles. In many cases they prefer men to take charge of the implementation of the living fences (in most of the cases, depending on the state of the woman, who may be a widow or a single mother) and they dedicate themselves to activities in the schools to ensure the safety of their children. In this case women and teachers coordinated the implementation of the school canteens and kitchen. Finally, the team had to adapt and communicate in their native language (Quechua) in the development of the various activities. We believe that community leaders should be the ones monitoring changes, since they live in the area and have representation and influence before the respective authorities.


It's been important to identify actions that are linked to the priority needs of the community, especially taking into account the timing and use of resources for the development of these actions. For example, in the coastal communities, the actions of improving the stones of their houses (pircas) will be continuous, as the population considers it a priority. In the hills, prevention actions programmed by the community continue and they do not require more resources. Such ongoing activities include cleaning of irrigation channels and cleaning of the community, among others. In both areas, the various long-term actions, such as: construction of retaining walls and/or planting of hills in deforested areas, require greater investment and the intervention of the authorities. Community leaders know the advocacy and management actions to this purpose required by their respective authorities. In the different actions community resources have been identified and, as a result, commitments have been made in return, transforming the population and the family into a strategic partner.
Some prevention actions have had a greater impact. They have been linked to the needs and interests of families and the community, which have improved the safety of family members and the security of their livelihoods. These actions have been like an intervention strategy to promote that risk prevention in a high-risk area is not only about saving lives, but also about improving community development. "On our anniversary we cooked a “pollada” to celebrate for the plans and our title. This allow us to be owners, so we can get loans." (Primero de Marzo, a member of the community) Another case: "I want eucalyptus because it has several lives, it is used for firewood and wood (....) but I plant it where I don't plant other products." (Rufina Cárdenas, inhabitant of Arizona - Ayacucho) "Planting live fences with a specific variety helps protect their crops and later they can be used in other derivatives that generate income.” (Henry Mercado - systematisation of experience of the 2016 project)


Sustainability of the project will be achieved when risk reduction actions contribute to improving their quality of life and protecting their livelihoods.
Peru has a National Disaster Risk Management Policy and a National Risk Management Plan, which is mandatory at all three levels of government in the country, such as including DRM in the development plans of each municipality. Implementation of these policies is slow, and efforts are mainly focused on corrective management. Our organisation coordinates with national and local level structures in strengthening capacities and promoting some prevention and preparedness actions.
Communities have their own community structures that assume the role of risk management committees promoted by governmental and non-governmental entities. Local governments develop local capacities in some communities, especially in those located in large cities, but still scarce in distant communities. The institutional contribution is to provide workshops and technical assistance to local governments and communities in the places where they intervene.
The government allocates resources to local governments for reactive (emergency response) and corrective management, and scarce resources to promote prospective actions, especially for the most vulnerable communities. Private financing is scarce.
In the implementation of the projects, the intercultural and gender approach is applied, and the use of the community's own resources is also promoted as a strategy. There are organised local actors in the country who influence risk management policies at the national and local levels.