Experience of Risk Management work in the Community of Huelón, Commune of Curepto, Region of Maule, Chile


The Local Management for Disaster Risk Reduction: Towards Resilient Communities Project, was funded by the Caritas Germany and implemented in the Maule region by the Crate Foundation in coordination with Caritas Chile. It was developed in rural localities affected by the 2010 earthquake and forest fires in 2014 and 2017. The project was implemented in the communities of: Cancha de Quillay and Palmas de Toconey (commune of Pencahue); Huelón (community with successful experience) and Gualleco (commune of Curepto). These communities correspond to the inland coastal drylands, a condition that makes them even more vulnerable due to their rugged geography, severe drought, isolation and deteriorated natural resources due to extractive exploitation of the native forest in favour of pine plantations owned by foresters. It is for this reason that these areas experience the greatest risks in the face of forest fires, drought and rains with mudslides, as shown by the participative diagnoses carried out.

The project was developed from July 2015 to July 2017, and its general objective was to contribute to DRR resilience in 12 communities and 4 municipalities, favouring its articulation with the Civil Protection System. This initiative was also implemented in 2 more regions of the country.

The implementation team for this project consisted of a social worker, who coordinated the project, members of Fundación Crate’s Sustainable Development team, including an Agricultural Engineer, an Agricultural Technician and a Sociologist, who supported the different activities developed, in addition to the one in charge of the Programming Area in the follow-up of the proposed activities. For the intervention itself, the project is based on the following lines of actions:

  • Local risk diagnoses: generation of participatory diagnoses in which the community draws the risk map and identifies the socio-natural vulnerabilities of its territory and, based on the recognition of local capabilities and joint action mechanisms, carries out surveys of local emergency plans, which are materialized in community microprojects for risk reduction and vulnerabilities
  • Implementation of a micro fund for the development of community initiatives for investment in risk reduction, which are managed by the community and involve articulation with the municipality and other support networks in order to provide sustainability and expand actions.
  • Training and technical assistance: training of the technical teams of the national service and the diocese of Talca in themes for the purpose of the project, in order to favour a correct understanding and subsequent practice of the methodology to be used in the execution of the project.
  • Systematization: identification of good practices in order to consolidate the intervention, the results or impacts of the project, etc.

All these actions were coordinated with the emergency manager of each commune, in addition to support in some activities of Regional ONEMI and local agencies such as carabineros, firefighters, health workers, etc.


The community methodology for social development has been fundamental in the use and application of its instruments, which takes a gender approach and uses a model focused on tasks and popular education. It is important to mention that depending on the locality the application instruments must be modified since the level of literacy of some people is low, limiting the work. Through such flexibility, the person and/or community can develop and give an adequate opinion. In this way, the instruments used in the diagnostic stage are: - Session number 1: "Returning to Contact": Expectations about the workshop, the commitment tree is drawn and key concepts of the subject are trained, such as threats, vulnerabilities, risks. - Session 2: "Discovering the History of the Community and the Times of Greatest Risk": Construction of the calendar of events to capture the knowledge of the community and their realities from the community members themselves. - Session 3: "Recognising my sector": Resumes previous session and construction of the risk map - relations with other organisations and institutions, to know safe zones, with whom people can contact in case of emergency or to who can be helped more quickly or who needs some special requirement, where neighbours are located, which is the risk zone, etc. - Session 4: The Vulnerability Train: Construction VACO (Identification of Vulnerabilities, Threats, Capacities and Opportunities) of the Community from your own vision. All these activities are facilitated by the project coordinator and key is to capturing the knowledge of the community. Therefore, it is the people of the communities themselves who develop the project, through their active participation. Regarding the role of the local government, they have to be informed at all times of the work carried out in the territory through the Emergency Manager of the Commune, who participates in the different projects and activities and, in some cases, provides support and coordination of networks (mainly the Municipality of the Commune, Department of Health, carabineros, firefighters, etc.). Up to now, the communities have maintained this network. There is also a close link with the National Office of Emergencies of the Ministry of the Interior (ONEMI) Maule, with whom the community simulations are coordinated to put the emergency plan into practice.
The participants of the project are mainly characterised for belonging to rural sectors, isolated by their geographical condition. They belong to localities that were affected by the earthquake in 2010 and forest fires in 2014 and 2017. The participants of the project are characterised as having a mainly basic schooling and in some cases average. They are characterised as being simple, supportive, hardworking, honest and responsible. Their ages range from 23 to 86 years of age, with a large number of them being older adults. Living in small towns produces some types of frictions and conflicts that are corrected when it is necessary to work together for the community, particularly when it comes to issues that concern all of them, such as risks and the mitigation of these risks. It is mainly women who participate; however, as they already have a trajectory of work and the subject is directly related to prevention and mitigation of risks, more men have been incorporated into community work. Older adults, men and women, children and young people with physical disabilities participate mainly in the Huelón Community. All participated actively in the activities of the project expressing their opinion, suggestions and knowledge in each session workshop and implementation of the project according to their initiative.
Workshops lasted, on average, 1 hour 30 minutes approximately. This was shortened from the original plan to allow community members to have sufficient time to carry out formalities during the day and perform work and household chores. For the participants, we work to adapt the methodologies and these workspaces, sometimes based on the model of popular education, to improve knowledge and closeness to the subject matter involved. We can also mention the importance of the task-centred model, which helps us to strengthen a work in which importance is given to their knowledge and skills so that they themselves work towards their development. On the other hand, the popular education model gives an important role due to its analysis of work with people, differentiating their characteristics and their capacities to work in relation to them. It is worth mentioning that we have worked on the motivation of the people who participated in the project where the different elements that condition it were considered, such as: moods and current situation of the community. Responding to these requirements, they also incorporated spaces for conversation and sharing, which were proposed by the community itself and have contributed to deepen the intervention.


Huelón belongs to a rural sector. In 2014, this community identified its primary risk to be drought since, as a result of an earthquake, many connections and source of water were affected, changing the water course of the distribution hoses so that many neighbours did not get the supply. As a result, they decided to implement an initiative to improve the water network and make changes in the distribution connections, so in 2015 the community made improvements to the collection, placing roof and perimeter closures, in addition to filters to remove impurities of water. The community has drinking water service but not sewer systems and in the winter the accumulator ponds exceeded their capacity and the water began to be wasted (chlorinated water) so they decided to make another accumulator to capture this water that was wasted and link it directly to the water network. This is how they built a 100,000 litre water accumulator made of solid material. In 2016-2017 they managed to collect 1,000,000 pesos plus other resources through the rural drinking water committee of the sector and organized work of neighbours. We managed to collect an amount of 4,000,000 million pesos, with which the initiative of water accumulator with geomembrane material was implemented, which allowed them to have more water resources in the summer. All this took place in coordination with the territorial tables where the community presented its problems and sought alternatives for a definitive solution to its problem of abundant water in winter from collection (chlorinated water is wasted) and scarcity in summer. They are currently working to identify the most convenient alternative to be able to supply water resources in a more definitive way in coordination with the Municipality of Curepto. In addition, they continuously develop prevention activities in the community such as clearing and cleaning the environment in the months of greatest risk of fire, through local emergency committees and people who participated and were trained in CERT workshops developed by ONEMI.
The participation of the members in this community is relevant in spite of the distances that people have to travel to reach the meeting places, which demonstrates the level of motivation achieved. As a strategy, it is possible to assess open calls to the entire community without discriminating against gender, age group, religion, etc., so that they can be integrated into the workshop sessions. Therefore, both men and women of different ages, with a lot of motivation and interest in the different topics to be dealt with, participated in the workshops. In order to do this, strategies have been used, such as looking for schedules that are suitable for everyone, taking entertainment material for boys and girls, respecting the opinions of both men and women, using simple vocabulary and "sayings" that make you feel confident, in a relaxed atmosphere and that is as similar as possible to being at a family gathering, around a table. These spaces for conversation and developing the activities of the project, enabled many people to share greatest fears from the earthquake of 2010 and the forest fires and their capacity to overcome these fears with greater motivation and enthusiasm to move forward, to carry out actions that will benefit their community and its inhabitants to contribute to have a standard of living with basic needs covered and care and self-care between neighbours, and to have a safe and organised community. In addition, people say they feel more self-confident when they can start a conversation with their communal authorities or their local organisations. They say they know how to raise a problem and express their opinion in front of these bodies in order to solve it with the help of their organisations. They no longer expect the institutions to go to their community, but rather that they organise themselves and come with clear ideas in order to respond to the requirements of their sector. They feel empowered and understand that they are subjects of rights as well as duties and that when they are organised and united for the same purpose they can achieve many things for the benefit of their community.


It can be said that the achievements of the project in Huelon itself are mainly in that they already have a trajectory of work which makes them more autonomous in the actions to be carried out, and understand and internalise the importance of being prepared and organised for an emergency. Some of the inhabitants of the sector have been trained in CERT workshops which allows them to be prepared to face an emergency. The link with regional ONEMI has lasted and allowed for much support and collaboration in the actions carried out with the community. The constant support of the emergency manager of Curepto, who has been a great facilitator throughout this process of project development, in addition to the support provided by the municipality of the Commune, and willingness to work for the welfare of their community have also been important. It is important to highlight achievements around the capacities generated by the project and recognized by the community such as improving communication between neighbours, improving water supply, feeling more prepared to face forest fires and other risks. This, according to what they mentioned, allows them to be alert to any situation that affects them internally and to seek prompt external support. Other learning refers to the use of techniques for risk recognition and prioritisation, such as risk maps and identification of vulnerabilities, threats, capacities and opportunities. Another product associated with the project is the creation of the Local Emergency Committee (CLE), whose importance lies in the linkage of this with territorial organisations, which is related to disaster risk reduction situations. In relation to making a future perspective, it is believed that it is very important to continue strengthening the communities and hopefully replicate this experience in other communities of the region, so that they lead actions of prevention and mitigation of the risk, tend to the internal organisation of the communities, that the links become effective and that they remain in the time coordinated with the local networks. On the other hand, it is important to continue to have training spaces on disaster risk reduction issues, such as CERT workshops, training to form brigades, emergency plans, simulations, among others, since such trainings tend to lead to resilient communities that are better prepared and organised in the event of an adverse event. It is also considered necessary that the communities visit each other, making tours so that they can show what they have achieved, how they are working and how they have organised themselves, in order to contribute to the feedback and motivation of those localities that are more passive and also for the new community to observe the work and experience of three years of trajectory. This is all in addition to participating in activities such as territorial tables so that the people of the community give their views and suggestions to the relevant authorities according to the reality they live, so that the solutions are really addressing the problems. On the other hand, it is also important that all the work carried out is made known and disseminated, so that authorities in other communes know the importance of this work and replicate it in their respective communities, in order to promote capacities, strengthen leaderships, increase resilience, and generate autonomy and proactivity within each community, contributing to the reduction of disaster risk in the Maule Region. The linking and strengthening of networks is another factor that gives sustainability to this type of initiative, especially when the municipality is present as it has been in this case, and when the municipalities have made the project their own, replicating in other communities initiatives such as the Local Emergency Committee.