CUIDÁ: vigias ambientales: risk prevention through citizen engagement

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Metropolitan Area of Aburrá Valley

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Main actors

City Government, Community / Citizen Group, Research Institutes / Universities

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Project area

Whole City/Administrative Region

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Ongoing since 2006/10

CUIDÁ volunteers are trained in implementing sustainable emergency prevention strategies in communities that are vulnerable to natural disasters.

The CUIDÁ environmental committees are comprised of volunteers who administer a program of education, monitoring and control of the environmental conditions of the Aburrá Valley. The committees initiate activities that promote environmental awareness and sustainability strategies to residents. They work collaboratively with government agencies such as the Municipal Council of Risk Management and the Risk Management Group of the Metropolitan Area of the Aburrá Valley in the evaluation of risk. 
The CUIDÁ committee’s contribute to climate change adaptation by:
  • reducing social, environmental and economic vulnerability
  • empowering theoretical capacities and self-management techniques
  • improving the security, well-being and quality of life of the communities
  • contributing to sustainable development

Sustainable Development Goals

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Metropolitan Area of Aburrá Valley, Colombia

Size and population development
The Aburrá Valley is the natural basin of the Medellín River and one of the most populated valleys of Colombia and the Andean Region. It occupies an area of ​​1157 km2, with a population of 3,821,797 inhabitants.

Population composition
The Aburrá Valley concentrates 58% of the Antioquia´s Department population.

Main functions
In 1980, the Aburrá Valley was the first Metropolitan Area created in Colombia. It was established to bring economic integration and urban development planning to the 10 municipalities. The institution is the urban environmental and metropolitan public transport authority, and coordinates the strategic planning of the territory.

Main industries / business
Medellín, the largest city in the Aburrá Valley and the capital of the department of Antioquia, is the main economic center for the region and has different government agencies and corporate offices. The department represents 12% of the Gross Domestic Product of the country. It is projected as Latin American capital of innovation.

Sources for city budget
The main income base of the 10 municipalities is the taxation for industrial, commercial and housing occupation in the territory.

Political structure
The Metropolitan Board is composed by the mayors from the 10 member municipalities, a representative of the non-profit entities, a representative of the Medellin council, one of the 9 municipal councils outside of Medellín, a representative of the Ministry of the Interior and the Director of the Metropolitan Area of ​​the Aburrá Valley. Every four years there is a popular election of mayors and local legislative bodies.

Administrative structure
The Metropolitan Area of ​​the Aburrá Valley is an administrative entity under public law, composed of 10 municipalities: Medellín, Barbosa, Girardota, Copacabana, Bello, Envigado, Itagüí, La Estrella, Sabaneta and Caldas.

The CUIDÁ: vigias ambientales (TAKE CARE: environmental lookouts) project was initiated by the Metropolitan Area of the Aburrá Valley in October 2006 to address issues around sustainable development in the risk management and climate change and to reduce the number of deaths from natural disasters.
The CUIDÁ environmental committees contribute to the realization of risk reduction strategies through community empowerment activities. Community plans for risk management, environmental supervision, social appropriation of the territory, and food safety activities as a measure to adapt to climate change have been developed.
Objectives include:
  • identification and monitoring of risk scenarios, through tours of the territory
  • protection of natural resources
  • adoption of ravine river sections
  • implementation of community strategies to respond to emergencies and disasters
The CUIDÁ environmental committee’s mission is the recognition of the environmental conditions of the Aburrá Valley, in order to advance actions of protection, prevention, recovery by monitoring critical situations that arise. The committees act in a coordinated manner with the community, the Mayor's office, care agencies, schools and other entities and people, in order to recognize and intervene in a timely manner the risks facing the Aburrá Valley.
How the CUIDÁ committees take part in the disaster risk management processes:
  • Knowledge: Training, scenarios identification, prioritization and characterization of risk scenarios and monitoring, knowing the territory, the history of its settlement, the way it has changed, the emergency situations that the community has experienced and identifying threats and vulnerabilities from this information.

  • Risk Reduction: awareness campaigns, environmental activities, food and nutrition security.

  • Risk Management: emergency community response strategy, to strengthen the disaster management process articulated to the characterization of risk scenarios and their monitoring.

The lead agency for the project is the Metropolitan Area of the Aburrá Valley with a total budget to date of 9,000,000,000 pesos (3.1 million USD). The project receives support from association agreements and inter-administrative contracts with academic institutions.

The Metropolitan Area of the Aburrá Valley has been working with CUIDÁ committees to rollout  a food security program. The establishment of organic garden plots in community areas and in some educational institutions has contributed to the reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases and improving food security for vulnerable people.
Female participation in leadership and facilitation roles is a key priority of the CUIDÁ project and specific training has been provided
General training programs on climate change have been implemented at community level and in educational institutions to empower all citizens to live a more sustainable lifestyle.
Results achieved include:
  • 81 groups have participated in the project (51 adult and 30 youth), reaching a population of 1,600 people directly and 2,760 people indirectly
  • 25 CUIDÁ groups have implemented Food Security programs
  • 66% of the adult groups and 97% of the youth groups are led by women
  • These projects depend on the support of the city administration, which due to lack of resources or non-prioritization of the project can sometimes delay contracting processes. 
  • The CUIDÁ committees are comprised on volunteers and people can leave at any time which makes planning programs complex.
  • There may be conflicts between committee members which can lead to people leaving the committee.
  • The weather can also effect  participation, as some people will not attend on very hot or cold days.
In 2017, the Municipality of Escazú (Costa Rica) commenced discussions with the Metropolitan Area of the Aburrá Valley, in order to exchange experiences in community management of risk prevention against natural disasters. The contact was made with the support of the Triangular Cooperation Program of the Government of Spain and Costa Rica, which resulted in a group of local leaders from Escazú visiting Medellín in April 2017, and in October 2017 leaders of Medellín visited Escazú. Subsequently, a cooperation agreement was signed to advance bilateral cooperation, and to encourage the exchange of experiences of management in prevention and risk mitigation including to advance the development of an Early Warning System (SIATA) in Escazú, based on technical support and experience that the Metropolitan Area of the Aburrá Valley has in this area.
The development of the exchange of experiences carried out by community leaders and professionals of the Risk Management Unit of the Metropolitan Area of the Aburrá Valley, generated a very positive impact in all tasks that are oriented towards knowledge, risk reduction, disaster management, characterization of risk scenarios, monitoring, community response strategy, leadership, environmental management, and other educational subjects.
This project allowed the project leaders to learn about good practices in other cities so that they can use this knowledge and adjust it to local plans and empower their community to recognize the signs of emergencies and the entities that provide them the necessary support during times of natural disasters. 
Some project leaders have travelled to other countries to share their experiences and this has provided motivation to members of the CUIDÁ youth groups in terms of future opportunities available. Additionally, many leaders have generated innovative proposals in order to facilitate co-operation with other countries.

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Eugenio Prieto Soto
Medellín, Colombia

Eugenio Prieto Soto

Individual | Director

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