The annual rainy season is coming to an end in Guatemala. Back in August – when WWF Guatemala held a two and a half day training on the Green Recovery and Reconstruction Training Toolkit (GRRT) – it seemed Guatemala was entering a severe drought that would ultimately affect food supplies and worsen living conditions for rural residents. But later in the season, Guatemala experienced heavy rains and flooding, which eventually left 28 people dead.
As part of the training, the 25 participants went to a small river behind the training site to conduct a flood risk assessment (the river has flooded frequently in the past) and identify how impacts could be modified using an environment-based approach to disaster risk reduction. It is likely that this river has flooded with the rains in Guatemala.
It is ironic that trainees were looking at a then, almost dry river when about an hour away in San Marcos an earthquake had occurred only a few weeks earlier. As one of the participants suggested, it would have been useful for the trainees to have done a real post-disaster assessment and recovery plan for San Marcos as part of the exercise.
Drought in August. Flooding in October. An earthquake in between. It is safe to say that Guatemala is a disaster-prone country.
But this is only half the story. The country has a developed disaster management system, headed by the Executive Secretariat of CONRED that provides warnings for droughts, flooding, severe weather (including hurricanes) and also periodic dangers posed by volcanoes.
The August GRRT training was intended to strengthen the country’s recovery capacities. In many countries, considerable effort by governments, NGOs, and communities is put into planning immediate disaster relief, but recovery itself usually does not get similar attention.
To build environmentally focused recovery capacity in Guatemala, the GRRT training focused on representatives from governmental institutions, municipalities, and national and international NGOs in Guatemala who could in turn train others. The training in Xela was delivered by Arabella Samayoa, an experienced trainer who had limited knowledge of the GRRT approach before the training.
By all measures, the training was a success: Arabella did an excellent job mastering the materials and participants wanted to know more about other GRRT modules that were not covered in this training.
It was clear that the environmental community in Guatemala can bring considerable capacity to reducing risk by supporting an environmentally responsible disaster response. WWF is now working to include the GRRT as part of CONRED’s training program and expand GRRT training to other Latin American and Caribbean countries.
The GRRT training materials used in Guatemala can be found on this website in both Spanish and English along with additional information.
The GRRT training in Xela was organized by WWF Guatemala under the leadership of AnaVictoria Rodriguez, with the support of Anita van Breda, WWF US Disaster Response and Risk Reduction program. Funding for the training came from the Program Climate, Nature and Communities in Guatemala, Component 3 managed by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and funded by the US Agency for International Development.