Reducing Our Risk

Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Forestales, Agrícolas y Pecuarias

Entry Overview

We have worked in La Suiza micro-watershed as a learning pilot project in terms of integrated management of the entire territory, including risk reduction, public health, food security, sustainable production, conservation of natural resources and capacity building, in the context of changing climate. We have restored damaged areas and guaranteed forests’ conservation with economic incentives. We have promoted the use of short-cycles corn and bean seeds increasing yields and ensuring food security. We have also worked on production diversification, using milpa intercropped with fruit trees. To prevent water erosion we have reached community agreements to forbid agricultural burning, and built vegetative barriers and filtration dams. We have reduced by 95% diarrhea cases by managing a donation of a water treatment plant. We have invested on capacity building, reaching over 900 producers, on themes like integrated watershed management, risk reduction and disaster attention, conservation agriculture, biofertilzers, and seed selection, within others. In addition, an intercommunity group has been created with the objective of planning and managing the watershed’s natural resources in a sustainable and collective way.

General Info
Lopez Baez
Email :
Organization Address: 
4245 North Fairfax Drive
Arlington, Virginia 22203
United States
Population Impacted: 
Identify the likelihood and frequency of this hazard : 
Every year during the rainy season, there are landslides in La Suiza Watershed. This is exacerbated by extreme meteorological events and happens around every 5 years. Due to the biophysical characteristics of the watershed,82% is susceptible to landslide hazards, being the slope and the geology the determinants. In addition, 80% of the watershed’s population considers that frequency of the landslides has increased in the last 20 years.
Explain how vulnerable the community is to this hazard: 
17% of the watershed’s area is in a very high level of risk of landslides. Although it is a small area, it is very important because here are located the towns, roads and the productive assets such as the coffee plantations. Due to the damage provoked by Mitch and Stan Hurricanes two towns had to be relocated to safer areas in the watershed.
List the potential affects of this hazard: 
The most important effects of landslides caused by heavy rain are the damages to different kinds of infrastructure. Landslides damage the houses, electricity lines, water pipes. Another effect the landslides have had is the only access road to the watershed gets blocked with sediments leaving the communities isolated after storms or flooding of the river.
Identify how sensitive the community is to these affects: 
When coffee plantations are affected, the main livelihood is affected. Coffee accounts for 95-100% of family income and the single family asset. If the milpa (corn and beans traditional plantation) gets affected, then food security is diminished. Most of the populations’ diet is based on what they produce in their milpas. And if the roads are affected, then people lose the only way in or out of the watershed.
Preparedness Goal: 
Raising awareness and building capacity for integrated watershed management, governance, restoration activities and soil conservation in slopes.
Implementing Actions: 

We guided participatory development of risk community maps, considering hazards, and economic and social vulnerability. We also guided the participatory mapping of the water sources for each community. We started a community-based water quality monitoring system. Soil conservation practices, such as vegetative barriers and filtration dams, were implemented in different parts of the watersheds. We encouraged productive diversification in coffee and milpa plantations. We protected the forests with Payments for Environmental Services and restored with native plants degraded slopes. We have reached agreements within the communities to forbid the agricultural burning. We managed the donation of a water treatment plant. We promoted the creation of an intercommunity group with the objective of planning and managing the watershed’s natural resources in a sustainable and collective way.

Describe Your Solution: 

These activities come from a partnership between different organizations within the territory: Instituto Nacional de Investigación Forestal, Agrícola y Pecuaria, Fondo de Conservación el Triunfo, The Nature Cosnervancy, and with universities such as Colegio de la Frontera Sur and Colorado State University. We have worked with an integral and systemic approach, including water, soil and vegetation management that goes beyond reducing the risk from weather related disasters. A transversal aspect through the project was the creation and strengthening of social capital resulting in the development of a governance structure of the GIAT also called “Salvando al Pulmón del Triunfo, A.C.”. We invested in a better planning for land use in the watershed. The productive assets located on slopes were protected with conservation practices. The family income was improved by managing payments for ecosystem services of natural forests, and by enhancing and diversifying coffee and milpa plantations. We have ensured food security by increasing corn and bean yields, and incorporating locally raised fruits into the diet. We have guaranteed water supply in quantity and quality with the protection of water sources and the water treatment plant. We reduced 95% of diarrhea cases in the watershed, reduced firewood consumption to purify water by boiling it, and avoided accidents where kids got burned by boiling water. With the conservation practices we have retained soil, forbid agricultural burnings, protected natural forests and restored degraded areas with native plants. All this combined activities will increase the resilience of the ecosystems to heavy rains and avoid devastating landslides. Before the project started, the communities would work together after landslides blocked their only access road to their communities. Now, they are working to improve their environmental conditions, from the higher parts of the mountain and then on the foothills to finish near the riverbanks.


We have improved family incomes by protecting 730 ha of forests and being part of a Matching Fund for Payments for Environmental Services with CONAFOR. We have avoided the productive assets and the households by preventing coffee plantation landslides. We have protected the main source of family income by promoting production diversification of coffee and milpa by planting 3800 fruit trees in the plots, and started the management of the coffee rust by incorporating rust resistant species and other activities. The project also reduced the money spent on medicine by reducing intestinal infections with the water treatment plant.


Fires were controlled by reaching agreements to forbid agricultural burnings in the entire watershed. The flow of environmental services has been strengthened by protecting 730 ha of forests with PES and restoring 60 ha of degraded slopes with native plants. Soil conservation techniques have been implemented, 5.3 km of filtration dams and 11 km of vegetative barriers, keeping 355 m3 of sediments in three years in the slopes (the equivalent to 60 dump trucks of 6 m3 each). Also, adapting to change in the rain patterns, we used short-cycle seed and improving 200% maize yield and 100% bean yields.


Five agreements with the communities were reached for the implementation of the different conservation activities. We continuously strengthened the social capital of the watershed and generated the Territorial Action Intercommunity Group (GIAT, for its acronym in Spanish). We have created a new culture of resource management within the adult and young population. Also, we have helped to improve the social cohesion within each community and amongst all the communities of the watershed. The GIAT is now capable of receiving support directly from different institutions due to its legal and fiscal consolidation.

What were the negative or unintended impacts (if any) associated with implementing this solution? : 

One unintended but not negative impact was related to gender roles. Before the project, women were in charge of ensuring water availability for their households. They used to go to the river, carry the water back home and collect firewood in order to boil water and avoid infections. Now, men, in general the eldest sons, are in charge of driving to the water treatment plant and get the drinking water home.

Return on Investment: How much did it cost to implement these activities? How do your results above compare to this investment?: 

The money for implementing these activities come from different funders, however in total we have invested 5,466,578 Mexican pesos, which are 364,409US dollars. With these funds we have been able to change traditional agriculture to conservation agriculture, restored degraded areas, ensured an income from conserved forests, and provided good water quality. We have also increased social and human capital, improved child health, achieved active participation of most of the population (900 people) and raised awareness of the importance of ecosystem services in reducing disaster risks and climate change adaptation throughout the watershed. However, we have not made the financial analysis to calculate the return of investment.

What are the main factors needed to successfully replicate this solution elsewhere?: 

There are three mayor factors that determined the success of the project. First, we used an integrated and systemic approach that recognized climate change affects all aspects of human life. Said approach also recognized that all the components for development are continuously interacting amongst each other inside the territory. Second, the participation of communities in all the phases of the project was very important. We used participatory diagnosis and spatial planning, in order to assess the family needs, livelihoods and natural resources management. Through these processes, we used the watershed as the spatial unit. What was a key aspect was the development of human and social capital in order to adapt to climate change and reduce disaster risks, reaching the creation of a governance structure for the whole watershed (GIAT). Third, a cooperation mechanism between governmental institutions, non-governmental institutions and the communities that ensures the financial resource for the life of the project and more, considering that climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction are processes with medium and long term horizons. With the cooperation mechanism you can guarantee the continuation of the activities, permanent technical assistance and gain the trust from the community, always working with co-responsibility and transparency.

Contest Info
Contest Name: 
Reducing Our Risk

Contest Partners

Contest Sponsors