In 2007, the Turrialba Volcano in Cartago, Costa Rica became active. A risk reduction pilot was implemented in communities on the skirts of the volcano from 2007 to 2009. For generations, the inhabitants of this region lived with the looming threat of the volcano.
The project began with a detailed profile of Turrialba's assets, strengths and vulnerabilities. We created risk map of the dairy industry the community depends on, and also elaborated on its own risk reduction plan. We pulled together survival plans for small eruptions, as well as plans for a catastrophic eruption where immediate evacuation is the only option.
Engaging the community
The livestock risk management model, with emphasis on community education, was developed from a pedagogical perspective of community education. It aimed to integrate domestic animals into the prevention and/or evacuation plans, to protect the livelihoods of people who depend on them.
The model uses the methodology of social constructivism and looks for a language and communication methods most appropriate to stakeholders and users (dairy farmers, etc.), and practical learning models and simulations in the field. The strategy aims to identify a community with the process, and strengthen its self-confidence, organization, creativity and dialogue.
Finally, it seeks to develop the ability to create its own model of livestock risk management based on community strengths. The community would need to diagnose its situation: characteristics of animals, production, specific value for the community, threats, vulnerabilities, historical record of emergencies, basic infrastructure, strengths, livestock inventories. It would also need to create a risk map and risk reduction plan, including: needs, roles and functions, cost / benefit analysis, actions, simulations/drills, prioritization and scheduling.
Stages of the process
We took the following steps to create awareness and emergency plans for the Turrialba case:
- Identification by the community, enabled by facilitators, of the main risks, strengths and weaknesses.
- Formulation of reduction, mitigation and preparedness measures including their animals.
- Development of a risk map and emergency plans.
- Development of activities of reflection, social integration, communication and artistic expression such as debates, competitions and plays, in order to develop and contextualise the issue of risk in animals.
- Deliver community activities focused on producers and dairies, to facilitate the permeability of the community.
- Deliver field drills designed for integration and better learning of livestock producers (dairy farmers).
- Building of a platform for loading cattle to be used in any evacuations (for more about the cattle loading platform, see our resources).
This whole community participated in this long-term process. It included the development of a risk reduction plan for herds, the people involved in that activity and their means of primary subsistence, knowledge-creation tools, animal management patterns and action models that will generate a change in the public’s perception of that risk, to finally prepare the producers and community through a response drill for an eruption of ash and gases.
It also included a community education component, which involved everyone in the area. The model and the capacities of the community were tested during a volcanic eruption in 2015. This eruption was the worst during 14 years of continued eruptive activity.
Fortunately, no animal losses were reported, since the producers of dairy cattle evacuated on time and took necessary prevention measures to protect their assets. We took an advisor role during this emergency, and assisted SENASA (Animal Health Services) and Red Cross with their relief efforts.
Coordination roles for the National Emergency Commission (CNE) and SENASA should've been better defined, to ensure as little confusion as possible.
Communities' processes did not consider experience from previous emergencies. Training should be renewed and repeated where needed, so knowledge is kept up to date.
The most important aspect of a volcanic threat contingency plan is to monitor communities at risk, and ensure they're participating in post-disaster recovery.
Early evacuation of people, their animals and their production assets requires a joint strategy. Recovery programmes should enable producers to adapt and recover effectively.
The model of the cattle loading platform is available to be replicated.