Artefacts of Disaster Risk Reduction

“With this magic [soccer] ball we can change the lives of many children
and teach them how to protect the environment and reduce risks.”
– Local leader in Yumbo, Colombia

In times of global warming, disaster risk reduction poses a great challenge for governments and organizations in the Global South. The challenge is even greater in informal settings: that is, in contexts where housing and economic activities emerge primarily from residents’ efforts. In slums, barrios, favelas, tugurios, comunas, and other low-income neighborhoods, residents must try to secure access to water, sanitation, shelter, and other services in parallel with, or without, government action. Two major obstacles to disaster risk reduction arise. First, climate policy designed by national governments rarely responds to the needs and expectations of citizens living or working in informal settings. Second, policy- and decision-makers tend to disregard people’s claims for social and environmental justice, and their bottom-up initiatives, perceptions, and ways of dealing with risk.

In Artefacts of Disaster Risk Reduction, our team explores how to bridge the gap between inefficient top-down policymaking and the often-neglected capacities on the ground. We coined the term “artefacts of disaster risk reduction” to refer to the set of rituals, practices, events, and spaces that make it possible for people in informal settings to work together, develop trust, and reduce or manage the multiple risks they face.

This online publication results from a four-year project called ADAPTO or Climate Change Adaptation in Informal Settings: Understanding and Reinforcing Bottom-Up Initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean (see final report here). In this action-research project, funded primarily by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), we studied the implementation of 22 bottom-up initiatives in four cities: Carahatas (Cuba), Yumbo (Colombia), Salgar (Colombia), and Concepción (Chile).

In the following sections, we explain the ADAPTO project and reflect on implementation of bottom-up initiatives in informal settings in Latin America and the Caribbean. We draw 10 key lessons from our work. The 22 local initiatives are described and explained in dedicated research reports. For each initiative, we reflect on the challenges and opportunities that emerged during the on-the-ground implementation process and stakeholder collaborations. We also highlight the main takeaways for each initiative. Finally, we provide nine policy and practice recommendations aimed at various stakeholders involved in climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, including governments, community organizations, academics, and community leaders.