A Community in the Venezuelan Andes

Community Resilience and Preparedness in coping with Impacts of Climate Change and natural Disasters - the Case of a Community in the Venezuelan Andes.

Hilda Zara was awarded her fellowship in 2007. This is her Proposal for the study.

Summary

In the last six years the Venezuelan population has been affected by floods and landslides as a consequence of unexpected extreme rainfall, associated with climate change. The combination of these weather phenomena with the existing economic and social vulnerability of communities resulted in a social catastrophe. In February 2005, torrential rains had a serious impact on different regions of the country. In particular, one of the rural regions struck by reviewed floods was the Valle de Mocoties in Merida State, located in the Venezuelan Andes.

The constant threat of weather change and the effect of floods and landslides in this sector have severe social and economic implications in these communities, as well as an impact on personal lives. Often in these difficult circumstances, communities may respond by drawing on their local knowledge, capabilities and resources. Understanding how social relations and dynamics are being affected by climate change and how the community responds, is the first step to developing successful strategies for coping with climate change.

This project will contribute to the understanding of psychosocial impact of climate change in the rural community of El Valle de Mocoties (Merida-Venezuela). Recognizing people’s needs in terms of personal security, information, education and community’s ways of coping, their beliefs about coping, the perceived control of the situation, received-perceived social support and their preparation for the future will be important inputs to attain the psychosocial consequences of climate change.

To understand this from the point of view of the community, the project will be developed working closely with the participants in the field for six weeks. During this period, I will be actively involved with the community collecting information, systematizing it, analysing the results and discussing them with community members. This continuous process will obtain information about the personal and communitarian experience of the rural community, but also will be an opportunity for them to recognize their own problems and resources in order to identify further actions for coping with climate change.

The data source will include at the first stage participant observation. It will require exposure to the day-to-day of the community to achieve a systematic description of events and behaviours in the social setting. This information will provide the context for developing guides to interview in depth some members of the community (leaders, members of organisations, people hardly affected by the climate change). These interviews will clarify and extend the information gleaned during the observation phase. Finally, in order to contrast information and share the results with the community, small groups (between 9 and 10 participants) will give their impressions and perceptions about their current situation and climate change under the supervision of one moderator (Focus Groups).

This project is counting on the participation of “Siembraviva Sociedad Civil”, a local organisation that has being working in the Venezuelan Andes since 1989. This organisation has made important contributions to the local development of Venezuelan indigenous and rural communities, promoting educative programmes in ecology. The educational proposal of “Siembraviva Sociedad Civil” is based on the respect of the cultural traditions and environmental knowledge of the community and this principle is absolutely consistent with the aim of this project.

Aims

This project aims to identify the psychosocial impact of climate change in El Valle de Mocoties Community and the ways in which the communities are coping with the consequences of these changes.

Objectives

  • Identify how the community perceives the impact of climate change is affecting their personal lives (subjective well-being) and social relations
  • Understand the different intentional actions that individuals and organisations, based on their own capabilities, have been taking to respond and influence the consequences of climate change at present (Resilience)
  • Explore existing and potential assets, capabilities and communitarian practices, which would enable communities to be prepared and to recover from the impact of climate change
  • Recognize current community psychosocial needs related with climate change impact: informational support, security support, instrumental support, educational-training support and organized communitarian participation
  • Identify communitarian strategies, process, resources and participants (individuals, groups, families, private organisation and government) to be prepared in case of negative changes in climate

Following her fieldwork, Hilda attended the 2007 seminar and produced a short report for this site to demonstrate the outcomes of her work. The report is her own work and may not reflect the views of the Trust.

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