Listening to the volcano: Indigenous communities blend ancestral knowledge with contemporary seismology to reduce disaster risk in Colombia

Photo: Ricardo Mena with UNISDR Resilient Cities Campaign promoters from throughout Latin America pose in front of the Peace Boat.
Ricardo Mena with UNISDR Resilient Cities Campaign promoters from throughout Latin America pose in front of the Peace Boat.

On Ricardo Mena’s first humanitarian mission with the United Nations in April 1994, the only way to fly over southwestern Colombia’s Valle del Cauca was by police helicopter. Mena had been assigned to track indigenous Nasa displaced by the Páez River earthquake, but an eager police officer kept leaning over to snap poppy fields below on a camera.

After having been exploited by colonists for centuries the Nasa, who live in the foothills of the Andes, were enmeshed in a 50-year battle between the national government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who value their land as a highly strategic drug-trafficking corridor.

But the devastation Mena saw below had little to do with the drug trade. Days before, the earthquake had sent mudslides careening down the sides of the Cauca’s mountainous terrain into the Páez River below. “It was as if a tiger had scratched the earth,” said Mena. “It was right at the end of the rainy season that the earthquake happened, and it took away all the vegetation covering the mountains.”

The mulch of mud, trees and water engulfed 15 —> Read More Here

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