Local risk planning for resilience


Since 2012, Centro Humboldt has been working in coordination with the Mayor’s Office of Bluefields, located on the Southern Caribbean Coast of the country, particularly on issues related to strengthening the capacities of the local structures of the National Disaster Prevention and Response System, with the El Bluff Community being one of the sites selected to work with the Community Committee for Disaster Prevention and Response (COCOPRED, in Spanish), given that its geographical conditions and economic activities represent a high level of risk.

In November 2014, Centro Humboldt began the implementation of the Project Facilitating Climate Change Positioning and Methodologies in the Southern Caribbean Coastal Autonomous Region, within the framework of the Local Governance Program promoted by Global Communities with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

As its name suggests, the project implemented by Centro Humboldt was aimed at developing a useful methodology to help build climate-resilient communities. As a first step, an alliance was formed with a local university named Bluefields Indian & Caribbean University (BICU) and a local NGO (BlueEnergy). The main objective was to share knowledge with local actors and develop a methodology for the implementation of local climate change adaptation plans, flexible enough to be adjusted and replicated in other territories. In this case, the methodology developed by Centro Humboldt was validated in El Bluff Community, but replicated within the municipality by partners in communities of different ethnicities and world views: Ramas, Garífunas, Creoles and neighbourhoods located in the urban sector of the city.

Although this project was completed in November 2016, the Local Planning component was completed in November 2015 with the approval of the Local Climate Change Adaptation Plan of El Bluff community. To facilitate the local planning process, 5 stages were defined: coordination and preparation, assessment, canvassing, proposal and approval.

The preparation stage was aimed at establishing a channel of dialogue and communication with local authorities and actors; establishing a Monitoring Committee, which had the role of ensuring the planning of the process; defining which actors would participate, review, adjust and validate the methodology and toolbox; and defining roles and responsibilities of all the people and sectors involved in the whole process. Prior to continuing to the next stage, during the initial coordination, the work of gathering, reviewing, processing and analysing available community information, was important as a preamble to the visit to recognise the risk areas within the community and the development of the base map. The Monitoring Committee was involved in all stages of the process.

The second stage was the assessment, in which a community resource self-mapping system was developed, identifying and prioritising threats, identifying risk areas and applying a participatory assessment of vulnerabilities and capacities. Then, the main livelihoods of the community and the dynamics of how they develop over time and the variations they have suffered in recent years were selected. As an integral part of this stage, the ancestral knowledge of the population was recovered, taking into account that this is a multi-ethnic and multicultural community.

During the canvassing, the third stage of the process, Centro Humboldt used a Regional Climate Model to generate future projections of the community’s temperature and precipitation conditions. This information was presented to the local actors to guide their objective image in the medium and long term. Using the information gathered in the diagnostic stage, they worked on a zoning proposal based on land use planning and began to identify actions aimed at achieving their resilience, taking into account some issues, such as: What do I have to adapt to? What do I have to adapt? Why? How? And what limitations and opportunities do we have? With this information, the next stage, the proposal, was taken forward.

At the proposal stage, a matrix of action plans was developed, establishing intervention strategies for the protection of families and the sustainable development of the community. This matrix was very simple and contained prioritised programmatic axes by sector and livelihood, in addition to having clear objectives and proposals for adaptation measures, as well as timelines, stakeholders, roles and external support required.

Once this stage was completed, we moved on to the last: approval. At this point, the people who participated in the process of developing the plan, led by the Monitoring Committee, had the responsibility to review and validate the document collectively drafted. Then, the Monitoring Committee convened a community assembly to present the final product, which was approved and then presented to the highest authority in the municipality: the Municipal Council. The objective of this action was to influence the authorities to incorporate into the Annual Municipal Investment Plan (PIAM, in Spanish) some of the actions prioritised in the local adaptation plan.


The development of the Local Adaptation Plan to Climate Change of El Bluff community was made possible thanks to the contribution obtained from the members of the Community Committee for Disaster Prevention, Mitigation and Response (COCOPRED, in Spanish), who led the process and took advantage of their skills to coordinate actions with private entrepreneurs, local fishermen cooperatives, teachers, students, housewives and technicians from the municipality. In this case, the COCOPRED, led by the Delegation of the Municipal Mayor's Office present in the community, defined the actors and sectors that would participate in the process of developing the plan and guaranteed the convening and the location for the implementation of each of the actions developed within the framework of this project. Although the initial proposal of the methodological process for the development of the local plan was elaborated by Centro Humboldt, the application of the toolkit in the community was fundamental for its revision, adjustment and validation, taking into account that this methodology would be replicated in communities of diverse ethnic groups and in urban sectors of the municipality. The level of knowledge demonstrated by the members of the team that participated in the process contributed to improving the work done by the Project Technicians. An example of this was that as part of the community self-mapping, the methodology directed to use a community topographic sheet to update the existing resources and risk areas. It was a woman member of COCOPRED who suggested using a satellite image through the Google Earth digital platform rather than the topographic sheet, since it was developed in 1988. This was really valuable, as it was technically proven that the community had undergone a change in its geography, due to the influence of erosion in coastal areas, in addition to the anthropogenic activities generated mainly to increase the draft capacity of Bluefields Bay and the sedimentation processes in coastal areas as a consequence of the deforestation of the community's high areas, which allowed the unprotected soil cover to be eroded and subsequently deposited in the lower areas of the basin (coast line). This also gave guidelines to answer one of the questions that the community expressed about why the areas where they have ancestrally obtained the fishing resource have been modified, and thanks to the analysis of the satellite image it was discovered that in recent years there has been an alteration in the dynamics of the marine currents, directly affecting the marine ecosystems and their habitats, the main livelihood of the Bluffeñas families. On the other hand, the participation of the teachers of the three existing schools of the community provided an opportunity to incorporate into the process actions aimed at working with children and adolescents, with whom, in addition to the process of developing the local adaptation plan, awareness activities were developed among the community population with the aim of fostering a real commitment to improving their environment. To this end, workshops were promoted to produce murals, blankets and theatre plays and marches, and walks were held to sites at risk, since although everyone knew their community, no one had visited these sites with a critical eye. The most important thing about developing a planning tool at the local level is not having a document, but the implementation of the actions contemplated in it. Therefore, members of COCOPRED, had the initiative to lead the dialogue with the Municipal Mayor's Office and the Councillors representing the community in the Municipal Council, with the aim to incorporate the actions contemplated in the Plan into the Municipal Investment Plan 2016. From 2017 onwards, a Community Adaptation Panel was established in El Bluff, which is made up of several of the people who participated in the process of developing the local adaptation plan. Its purpose is to manage resources for the implementation of the local adaptation plan with the various authorities existing in the municipality (Municipal Government, Territorial Government and Regional Government), as well as with organisations, cooperation agencies and private companies.
During the process of developing the Local Plan, the majority of the participants were women, since the high unemployment rate in the community had forced men (householders) to look for alternative employment opportunities outside the community, either on cruise ships or on fishing boats. This was a determining factor for the women (mothers of families) to take on the challenge not only of leading the process, but also of initiating advocacy and lobbying with their municipal authorities and other relevant actors, in order to implement and realise the objective image they built of their community. One way to ensure the active participation of women in the forums for discussion was for the community itself to provide support in the care of their children, and to adjust the project budget to include their food during the workshops and exchange forums. In addition, it was necessary to adjust the timetables of these exchange forums since women usually had to finish the household chores in order to have the time to participate. Within the people who participated in the process there were also some young people, people of sexual diversity (men and women), people with disabilities (adults and children) and some elderly people. In Nicaragua, one of the marginalised groups is the indigenous and Afro-descendant communities. El Bluff is a multi-ethnic community and, despite its high level of vulnerability, the Mayor's Office of Bluefields had it amongst the last on its list of priorities, as it had always prioritised serving the needs of urban neighbourhoods. However, the project has strengthened community advocacy work through COCOPRED and now the Community Adaptation Panel, and its level of participation in town hall and council sessions has increased significantly.
One of the major concerns revolved around the instability generated by the fact that at the national level there is a political orientation of the ruling party, which limits municipalities to working together with civil society organisations. The Central Government has created political figures within the communities and it is from this level that the decision is made as to who should be in charge of these structures and, many times the determining factor in the election of these people is due to political affinity and not to the competencies or true leadership that they may have within the community. The above suggested, in the first instance, to have a closer approach with the Technical Teams of the municipality, who then led the way to present the project initiative to the Municipal Council and discussed the need to carry out the exercise, obtaining their approval to start the process and ensuring the continuous and permanent presence of their Technical Teams throughout the process. At all times, Centro Humboldt showed its interest in respecting the institutional framework of the Central and Municipal Government, which is why it was very helpful to establish the Monitoring Committee, since a mechanism for communication and monitoring of the process was established in order to support its functioning. Work plans with defined roles were prepared and sessions were periodically held to evaluate progress in the process and adjust times and methodologies. The importance of the community being present at the forefront of the process of developing the plan, was that they were left with the capacities built to defend the perspectives and approaches embodied in the document and they were the ones who so far have shown a real interest in strengthening their level of organisation, knowing that this is the only thing that would guarantee the sustainability of the work they had done. After the approval of the local adaptation plan, a group was created on a digital platform (Whatsapp), which was used to maintain fluid communication between leaders within the various local structures, as well as to use it as a tool for advocacy since, through it, they promoted what was happening in the community and the progress achieved with their efforts. This information, in turn, was shared with members of the Nicaraguan Climate Change Alliance and the Local Climate Monitoring Network, both facilitated by Centro Humboldt. One of the indicators they have established to measure the level of effectiveness of their management is the number of actions incorporated into the municipality's annual investment plans that contribute to community resilience. To this end, they have proposed to participate at least 3 times a year in public forums provided by the Mayor's Office to discuss investment priorities within the municipality, in addition to lobbying their Councillors (currently 3 within the community) to make concrete proposals for action, as community representatives within the Municipal Council.


The component within the project aimed at building the local planning instrument was completed in November 2015, with the approval of the Local Climate Change Adaptation Plan for the El Bluff community. However, from that date onwards, the community took valuable action to advance its objectives: 1. For the first time in history, the Municipal Council met in the El Bluff community and everyone participated in a walk to learn first-hand and guided by members of COCOPRED, the areas of highest risk within the community. 2. The community decided that the celebration of the 28th anniversary of the Autonomy (October 2015) would be aimed at promoting the work they carried out to have a local adaptation plan and organised a carnival called "For the autonomy of indigenous peoples and climate change adaptation". This action was funded by the Global Water Partnership, Nicaragua Chapter. 3. As the first activity within the Action Plan, the population census was carried out since, until the approval of the instrument there would be no updated information regarding the distribution of the population within the community. For this reason, in March 2016, the Nuevo Amanecer Institute and the Secondary Night School of the Virgen del Carmen School, were organised and, with technical support from Centro Humboldt, the media and the Municipal Mayor's Office, the community managed to carry out this action. 4. The work with the youth who participated in the Population Census resulted in the interest of forming a group of young people to support the process their parents and teachers initiated: the implementation of the Local Adaptation Plan. That is why, in May, this group of young people was formed with the name "Young people of El Bluff Forgers of the Future: Towards climate change adaptation". They prepared their own draft of the logo that would represent them, and Centro Humboldt with the Graphic Design Team supported them in the layout of the logo. 5. From this same year, the Youth Group has been invited to participate annually within the advocacy forums in the Southern Caribbean Coast Region and at national level in the United Vulnerable Nicaragua Forum for Life, thanks to the support provided by the Nicaraguan Climate Change Alliance. 6. At the end of 2016, Centro Humboldt, in partnership with the Mayor's Office, monitored the quality of water for human consumption in the community, finding contamination in 80% of the sources sampled. This information was documented through a report and formally submitted to the competent authorities so they could proceed in accordance with their protocols, competencies and capacities. 7. In the Annual Investment Plan of the Mayor's Office of Bluefields 2016, actions were included for the strengthening of COCOPRED, the promotion of tourism potential within the community, the installation of 15 ecological latrines in highly fragile areas and the improvement of the infrastructure of Virgen del Carmen School, the latter being one of the centres for shelter in emergency situations. In total, in IPA 2016, 1.1 million córdobas (35 million USD) were allocated for the implementation of actions contemplated within the Local Adaptation Plan of El Bluff community. 8. In 2017, with funding from Voces del Sur, through the Nicaraguan Climate Change Alliance, the community validated the Local Climate Change Adaptation Plan for the Joint Principles for Adaptation. 9. In October of the same year, with funding from VIKES, through a project implemented by Centro Humboldt, a workshop called "Social Communication in Risk Management: Generating a cultural change at the local level" was held. With this workshop, a group of 17 journalists from the city of Bluefields were brought in who, despite knowing the community (because of its beaches, used by local tourists during the summer), were unaware of the risks they faced and the actions they were taking to improve their conditions. As a consequence, permanent rapprochement between the community and the media was achieved, and the media became an important ally in the implementation plan. 10. In January 2018, with financial support from DIAKONIA, Centro Humboldt delivered 50 filters for the reduction of organic contaminants present in water for human consumption, which were delivered mainly to households with newborns, pregnant women, disabled people and the elderly. 11. The Mayor's Office of Bluefields has a Municipal Plan of Good Hope for the families of the Christian, socialist and solidarity municipality 2018-2021. In this instrument, actions aimed at benefiting the El Bluff community are contemplated, including construction of new streets and platforms with access ramps for people with disabilities; improvement of the park that includes benches, kiosks, children's games and free Wi-Fi; improvement of the health post in infrastructure, personnel, medicines and equipment for patient care; improvement of the baseball stadium; construction of a tourist complex in El Bluff Beach; improvement of lighting in public spaces within the community; reforestation of mangroves in the coastal areas of the community; and installation of a treatment system for solid waste and rubbish plants in various locations within the community.


Results of the application of the social audit tool called "Joint Principles for Adaptation (PCA, in Spanish) to El Bluff's Local Climate Change Adaptation Plan. Assessment with the application of the PCAs" include an average result of 2.65, which indicates that the plan includes the PCAs and has great advantages for their effective implementation, in addition to being a well formulated planning instrument where some of the following criteria were highlighted: 1. It is inclusive and participatory from formulation to implementation. 2. It resumes ancestral knowledge. 3. It took into account multi-stakeholders including local authorities. 4. It is flexible and can be adjusted to new contexts. 5. It is consistent with local and national instruments. 6. It is based on current and future evidence of climate change. 7. It recognises the different vulnerable groups. 8. It has a community-based resilience approach. The underlying results of this process include: • ANACC obtained inputs from the PLACC of El Bluff and its inhabitants to feed the Climate Change Draft Bill, which has already been submitted to the National Assembly. • ANACC made a short video that highlights the importance of PCAs to the community. • ANACC has produced a Popular Version of the PCAs and refers to El Bluff's PLACC. • ANACC has taken the people of El Bluff as an example and has developed PLACC in communities of the South Pacific of Nicaragua.