Emergency Initiative to assist communities affected by La Niña and to reduce the risk of natural disasters.

Place: bolivia, South America
Sustainable management of natural resources Sustainable management of natural resources
Total Budget: € 1.100.000,00 | Period: From May 2010 To May 2011


The initiative stems from a request of the Bolivian Government addressed to the reduction of the vulnerability of local communities in areas hit by droughts, floods and cold waves. The action promotes a synergic development of IT technologies for early warning, disaster risk management and food security.


International Centre on Environmental Monitoring - Italy

Lead applicant

CIMA Research Foundation is a non-profit research organization committed to the promotion and support of scientific research, technological development and training within the fields of Civil Protection, Disaster Risk Reduction and Biodiversity.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs - General Directorate for Development Cooperation - Italy

Initiative partner

L’organizzazione delle attività di Cooperazione allo Sviluppo, componente essenziale della politica internazionale dell'Italia, fa parte dei compiti del Ministero degli Affari Esteri (MAE), che demanda tali attività alla Direzione Generale per la Cooperazione allo Sviluppo (DGCS) che è l’organo preposto ad attuare tale politica, in attuazione della legge n.49/87. La DGCS attua le linee di cooperazione e le politiche di settore nei diversi Paesi, stabilisce rapporti con le Organizzazioni Internazionali, con l’Unione Europea e con le Organizzazioni non governative; programma, elabora ed applica gli indirizzi della politica di cooperazione e le politiche di settore tra cui sanità, ambiente e sviluppo imprenditoria locale; realizza iniziative e progetti nei Pvs; effettua interventi di emergenza e fornisce aiuti alimentari; gestisce la cooperazione finanziaria e il sostegno all’imprenditoria privata e alla bilancia dei pagamenti dei Pvs; promuove e realizza la cooperazione universitaria.

Organization for Food and Agriculture of the United Nations (Bolivia) - Bolivia

Initiative partner

Achieving food security for all is at the heart of FAO's efforts – to make sure people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. Our three main goals are: the eradication of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition; the elimination of poverty and the driving forward of economic and social progress for all; and, the sustainable management and utilization of natural resources, including land, water, air, climate and genetic resources for the benefit of present and future generations.

Development of an integrated system embedding early warning technologies and sustainable agro-pastoral practices in response to the increasing hydrometeorological risk exposure and climate change impacts. While strengthening National Civil Protection institutions implementing solid IT systems capable of providing valuable meteo-climatological information, local communities have been involved into the restoration of ancestral agro-pastoral practices. The project has empowered communities under four different contexts: • improving productivity for food security and reducing rural poverty; • restoring agro-pastoral productivity; • building resilience among communities faced with recurrent natural hazards • Protection of livelihoods of the most vulnerable communities in the Bolivian society As demonstration of the innovative nature and replicability of the action, regardless of the socio-economic context, a similar initiative has been implemented in the states dell'OECS

The action implemented in Bolivia has simplified information management of hydrometeorological events at National level, facilitating timely dissemination with local stakeholders. It has instituted a warning system at national scale fortifying the fiduciary relationship between the Central System and local communities. Moreover, information obtained from latest generation meteorological modeling have been integrated to the adoption of ancestral agro-pastoral practices such as the use of livestock hills (lomas Ganadera), to shelter the livestock during floods in the rainy seasons. These systems help into the reduction of the impact of seasonal weather on pastoral activities and provide emergency shelters for communities. In addition, the development of such a system has allowed to adopt early harvest strategies and proper storage of food (such as cassava and rice) thus improving food security in the area of intervention.

Hydrometer on Acre River Hydrometric sensor installed on the Acre River to monitor the water stage level and related flood

Bolivia is considered as one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the effects of climate change. In 2007 it has been included among the 10 most affected nations by natural disasters. Amidst the events reported by the VIceministerio de DEfensa Civil (VIDECI) in the period 2002-2011, 25 different types of adversity. 4477 events were registered at local level of which 38% floods, 18%  hailstorms and 15% droughts.
Such events represent serious setbacks on agricultural and pastoralism activities causing, from 2004 to 2010, damages amounting to 850 million dollars (data provided by Ministerio de Desarrollo Rural y Tierras – Bolivia). Such losses impact to a higher extent food security of communities and families with small size herds, in addition of increased rates of migration .

Seasonal Floods in Beni Department During seasonal flood in Beni most of the terrestrial routes are not available. People move around by boats
Floods in the department of Beni The imacts of seasonal floods on agricultural and pastoralism activities in Beni.

Improvements at national level in the field of risk management:
• Improvement of forecasting capabilities
• Enhanced network for real-time monitoring of hydrometeorological events
• Adopting operative procedures as the issuance of a nationwide alert bulletin
• Tailoring of the bulletin at a local scale in 9 departments and ministries
• Family Vegetable crops production under irrigation using agro-forestry systems in Pando
• municipal and departmental risk management units
This renewed alert system allowed to intervene, with regard to agricultural production and food security, in 9 municipalities reducing mortality of livestock and to improve farming practices. It has diffused sustainable practices and the culture of risk enabling the increase of resilience to natural disasters within communities bonded to the agro-pastoral sector. 


Firstly, at the institutional level, beneficiaries of the initiative were 11 municipalities, SENAMHI and the Defensa Civil. Institutions devoted disaster management which used to focus mostly onto the response phase, neglecting prevention and emergency preparedness.
Direct beneficiaries were thus 60 communities (about 7,000 rural households) which have been selected on the basis of indicators taking into account, for each community, the following elements:
• exposure and vulnerability to environmental risks,
• food security,
• socio-economic vulnerability,
• presence of other interventions
In particular 31 families of beneficiaries participated in training sessions and implementation of school gardens in the town of Santa Ana Yacuma, Beni to build a livestock hills. In Pando and La Paz, a total of 962 farm families involved with labor and local materials in the construction of 61 school and family gardens. 

Training in Italy Technicians from Civil Defense, National Meteo Hydrological service, Ministry of rural development and land have followed a three-week course in Italy on weather-related disaster prediction and management. Besides teorical and practical classes, the training session included visits to national and regional centers of Civil Protections.
Trainings in La Paz Community groups participating to trainings on the use of family green houses.
Floods in Beni Construction of lomas ganaderas. Two meters elevated land, covering over 5000m2, onto which livestock finds shelter during the raining season. The channel constructed around the loma, 2m deep, gathers 15,000 cubic meters of water which is then used for irrigation of crops during the time of drought.

A Steering Committee has been set up for project management. Representatives of FAO, the Italian Cooperation, NGOs involved in the program, and a variety of Bolivian institutions were represented in the committee. National authorities such as the Vice Minister of Civil Defense, the National Director of the Office of Environmental Risk and Mitigation of Ministry of Rural Development, municipal mayors and eventual presence of some municipal officers also formed part of this steering committee
For the implementation of the risk management part of the action, FAO has collaborated with CIMA Foundation, expert in early warning systems, civil protection and risk reduction.
Technica and administrative staff included: 1 regional emergency coordinator, 1 National coordinator for emergencies and 1 assistant, 1 administrator, 1 logistician, 1 assistant for communication and reporting, 3 field coordinators, 3 agronomists, 3 veterinarians, 5 weather stations technicians, local support staff.

Project staff diagram Staff involved in the project

The main difficulty encountered is inherent to the intense drought that has affected four departments covered by the project. This situation has been addressed by modifying the timetable of activities in support of agriculture and animal health.
The equipment necessary to monitor meteorological events in the region of intervention was inadequate. Thus  an additional item of expenditure, relating to the purchase of hydrological stations and other material for the Bolivian National Service of Meteorology and Hydrology, was added to the financial plan.
The commitment for the construction of the livestock hills was challenging in terms of working shifts and physical effort. The Indigenous population however, welcoming the initiative, provided the needed support achieving an extraordinary level of community participation. 

Effects of drought in the department of Chaco A long drought period has heavily affected four departments covered by the project. Such droughts are periodic and represent a problem in terms of loss of livestock and food stocks which have been one of the aspects covered by the project.

The recovery of ancestral practices, agro-pastoral, has allowed a conscious use of the territory, with reduced environmental impact compared to industrial methods. The construction of the hills did not cause any kind of competition with natural forested areas as sites selected lied mostly in desert areas. The channels surrounding the hills were designed in order to store up to 15,000 cubic meters of water which is then used for irrigation of crops during the time of drought.
The project also implemented non-structural measures for disaster reduction developing preparedness and readiness strategies, compared to structural interventions, have very low impacts on the environment. Additionally, Early warning system is highly recommended as part of the adaptation strategy to climate change, because, regardless of the uncertainty about the dynamics of the process, has no contraindications providing always a win-win solution (no-regret measure). 

Effects of flood Thanks to the early warning system implemented in the project, many families were evacuated in advance, limiting the impacts

The measures envisaged to strengthen resilience to climate change and natural disasters have generated a high level of ownership of the project by the Bolivian government. The government pledged to maintain the results beyond the end of the project with targeted actions of continuity.
After the recent floods occurred in March 2014, the Bolivian Government, given the efficiency of the lomas ganaderas has required to the Italian Cooperation in Bolivia through the technical support of FAO to build other 10 lomas.
The transferability and duplicability of forecasting system and its IT infrastructure is demonstrable by the implementation of a similar project into 10 States in the Caribbean Region (Enhancing Resilience to reduce vulnerability in the Caribbean project).


In order to disseminate the aims and activities of the project, a variety of offline (eg, publications, flyers, presentations, conferences, posters, press articles, DVDs, reports, training sessions) and online media (eg, social networks, including facebook and YouTube) were used.
In addition, training manual on use of the hydrometeorological systems has been developed and distributed at departmental level targeting technicians responsible for early warning systems and the Disaster Risk Management Departmental, municipal and community Units.  Communication protocols and their dissemination to national Early Warning Systems were prepared and processed by the VIDECI. 

Climate risk prevention Successful experiences of disaster risk management in the agro-pastoral sector for climate change adaptation. Field actions implemented in Bolivia by FAO in cooperation with Ministry of Land and Rural development and Vice-Ministry of Civil Defense.
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