Sarapiquí is a rural area Costa Rica which is prone to flooding. Its population is highly dependent on livestock for its livelihood
In 2014, we developed an awareness campaign for community education, aimed at livestock owners in flood-prone communities of the Sarapiquí region. The process included workshops and capacity building activities, which taught them how to organise themselves to identify risks and develop plans for the emergency care of their animals and thus their livelihoods.
The first stage of the process consisted of an in-depth baseline assessment in December 2013. We conducted 120 interviews with small and medium cattle producers (owning up to 100 cattle) living in areas prone to flooding with a 95% confidence level. Some key results from the survey included:
- 75% of the producers receive more than half of their income from livestock production (43% depend entirely on this activity) and their level of monthly income ranges from $350 to $935.
- 70% have been affected by floods, 50% suffered important losses and 30% have not been able to recuperate.
- Over 90% have not received any preparedness training in the last 3 years and 58% do not receive early warnings about floods.
- 96% of producers are very interested in receiving training about preparedness and a majority prefer these training to be conducted as workshops or face-to-face lectures.
The issues addressed in our workshops were decided based on the target audience's preferences.
Three workshops were implemented in three selected communities, and producers from neighboring counties were invited to participate. Key themes included: assessment of community strengths and weaknesses, risk assessment and risk reduction plans. These plans included prospective actions such as:
- Preparing and sharing safe areas
- Stockpiling alternative fodder
- Pastures rotation
- Clean water supply
- Drainage systems
- Preventive veterinary medicine
Over 100 producers participated in these workshops.
affected by floods
suffered important losses
have not been able to recuperate
do not receive early warnings about floods
A post-campaign assessment was conducted to determine the improvement of their preparedness levels. At the end of the workshops, over 80% producers had identified the risk reduction actions they will undertake to protect their animals and over 50% had already implemented specific actions.
Only a minority of small livestock producers are organized as part of an association, which complicates reaching them. The support local livestock producers’ association was instrumental in this project, so promoting the association of producers should be an important part of any process.
This process could be implemented by governments and/or international organisations who wish to improve the level of preparedness among rural populations.
Livestock producers should be addressed using custom-made messages and channels that are targeted to them, it is usually face-to-face. These methods can be very expensive so participants must be carefully selected to ensure sustainability.
Research can be a strong asset in community development processes, having a baseline and post assessments using the same methodology was instrumental in determining the success of the project.