Small disasters, bigger implications

Santa Pascuala is a good example of a community where small-scale disasters are recurrent, blocking development and resulting in a vicious circle of poverty.

There is a narrow stream of water crossing the settlement, which is completely dry during summer. However, during wet season, the rain fills it. . If it rains heavily for more than one day, then the stream overflows, flooding the houses established around the banks. This happens once every two or three years.

The event has neither national nor regional importance, but it is not visible at local level either, although up to fifteen families are affected. Floods impact on families’ properties, aggravating their already weak economic situation. What is more, the lack of resources is the reason why these families have to settle in the flood area. The main livelihood activity in Santa Pascuala is rain-fed agriculture but nobody owns land, so people rent it every year for agricultural use. That means their main income source is seasonal and highly unstable. At the same time, there is little room for community settlement and the only space still available and cheap is the flood area. Thus, poverty is the cause and the effect of these floods, turning the situation into a chronic vicious circle. Moreover, their resilience to face floods may decrease as the families do not have money to rebuild; but also they may do it poorly, or do nothing at all as the house can be hit by another flood in the next years.

Localized but recurrent events are rarely recorded and it is hard to find any accountability for the accumulated losses of this type of events. Sometimes long-term solutions involve displacing people to safer areas, in which case it is important to pay special attention to their livelihood activities in order to keep their lives as undisturbed as possible.


by Ainara Casajús

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