Costa Rica is exposed to a range of natural hazards including earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, floods and landslides. Between 2005–2011, the country’s agricultural and husbandry sector suffered losses of more than USD $128 million as a result of disasters.
In 2013, the agriculture and livestock sector contributed 9.4% of Costa Rica's gross domestic product (GDP) and provided employment for 12% of the working population (State of the Nation Report, 2014).
Approaching the government
We've been working closely with the government to implement policies that consider animal resilience in disaster management.
The key institutions we have partnered with have been the Animal Health Service (SENASA), the Ministry of Agriculture, and the National Emergency Council (CNE).
National Risk Management Policy 2016 - 2030
In 2015 the CNE began preparing the National Risk Management Policy for 2016 - 2030. This linked disaster risk management actions by the state, the private sector and civil society under its stewardship.
With this policy, Costa Rica is putting the commitments adopted internationally in the Sendai Framework into practice. They are being implemented through five-year strategic plans.
Animal risk management in disasters
SENASA leads animal risk management in disasters through the National Program of Animal Management in Disasters. The program was created in November 2009, with the Cinchona earthquake and legal foundations for creating SENASA as background. Costa Rica became one of the first countries in the region to institutionalise this theme in an official veterinary service.
Through the National Program on Animal Management in Disasters, SENASA has been implementing mechanisms for animal care during disasters.
These efforts have been supported by national and international organisations, including ourselves.
For Costa Rica, the most important mechanisms are creating technical capacities, planning and management tools, promoting a culture of preparedness and financing plans for emergencies.
Together with the UNA School of Veterinary Medicine, we organised emergency response training in 2007.
A year later, the initiative was transformed into the Training Program for Veterinary Emergency Response Units (VERU), based on humanitarian relief contents available at that time when response was the priority issue.
In 2014, UNA also reinforced its institutional disaster risk management program by incorporating Project VERU in its actions. Along with specific training in emergency response, work includes the formulation of preparedness plans recognising the role of animals in livelihoods.
With the aim of reducing community vulnerability, VERU has evolved over the years. In 2011 and 2012 climate change adaptation was included.
From 2013 to 2014, the project was redesigned as an online course and risk management was reinforced. In 2015 its validation was initiated in Mexico, which had already started training course instructors. The online version evolved to become PrepVet (See PrepVet case).
Veterinary emergency fund
SENASA established a fund to protect animals in disasters. The fund ensures adequate resources to implement disaster prevention, response and recovery activities.
Since 2014 the fund has supported a variety of activities. SENASA gave emergency assistance to farmers that protected thousands of animals during extreme weather situations in early 2015. These included excessive rains in Turrialba and a drought in the northern region of Guanacaste.
SENASA also intends to use the fund for risk mitigation work. For example, it will provide aquaponic systems to the drought-prone Guanacaste region. These systems allow families to grow food and animal fodder when crops wither. By ensuring continued access to fodder, livestock producers can preserve their animals’ productivity and protect their welfare.
How does the fund work?
SENASA may now allocate up to 10% of its monthly revenue to the fund. In its first year, the fund accumulated USD $1 million.
It can also receive donations from other governmental institutions, such as the Ministry of Agriculture and Civil Defense. In 2015, Civil Defense donated USD $1 million for a large-scale drought response.
SENASA can also receive donations from NGOs and the private sector. Its annual budget has not needed to increase since the fund’s creation.
- Adoption of the international framework furthers institutional modernisation and transformation in risk management.
- Modern regulatory framework is key to address current and future challenges and opportunities in animal health and veterinary public health. The SENASA law reflects requirements established in international standards to ensure good governance of veterinary services.
- Collective action strengthens the National Risk Management System, as its experience is complemented by the resources and technical capacities of other sectors. This is vital when implementing a national strategy, especially given the magnitude of the hazards to which the country is exposed. The participation of the private sector and organized civil society is thus a key element in strengthening the National Risk Management System.
- Strengthen the financing mechanism with procedures enabling more rapid use of resources.
- Continue ongoing preparation of technical and administrative staff, and constantly review and update technical and administrative emergency response procedures to ensure comprehensive risk management by SENASA.
- Strengthen work with the private sector and communities so that animals are also included in family emergency plans.