Building Community Resilience

“Before I was always afraid that at any moment the hillside might collapse, but now that we have the retaining walls, I am able to sleep without fear.”

– Lourdes, Resident of Mixco, Guatemala


In many regions where PCI works, shocks and stresses of all types and sizes – not just large disasters – can erode households’ coping mechanisms and capacity to thrive. In addition to preventing and rebuilding communities after a disaster, cultivating resilience is essential in keeping communities safe from everyday trends that can undermine their lives and livelihoods (e.g., disease outbreaks, small neighborhood level hazards, crime and violence, shifts in local or regional markets, and dry spells or heavy rains that can threaten harvests). PCI works with communities, local governments, private sector actors, and many others to reinforce communities’ livelihoods and coping mechanisms against a variety of everyday threats to their well-being. And when the big disasters do come, they are more prepared, and less vulnerable.  

A few examples of how PCI is supporting communities:

In Malawi, over 7,545 women and men participating in PCI’s Njira Project are implementing risk-reducing practices/actions to improve resilience to climate change.

In Guatemala, PCI is increasing income, improving agricultural productivity, improving the environmental conditions associated with health, clean water and sanitation, and helping communities identify and address shocks and stresses.

In Haiti, PCI and its partners transformed a downtown area of Port-au-Prince that was 70% destroyed by the 2010 earthquake, and not only met immediate needs, but helped communities lay a foundation for recovery and rebuilding a safer and healthier neighborhood.

Increasing Resilience to Reoccurring Climatic Shocks

In Malawi, through the Njira Project, a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)/Food for Peace (FFP) funded project, PCI in partnership with Emmanuel International, works to achieve multi-sectoral objectives. This includes increasing the resilience of vulnerable households to shocks and stresses in Balaka and Machinga districts through integrated activities that:

  • Improve the capacity of individuals, households, and institutions to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters;
  • Reinforce livelihoods and coping mechanisms against context-specific vulnerabilities; and
  • Strengthen linkages between stakeholders at the community, area, district, and national levels to improve disaster risk management.

Since the start-up of Njira in 2013, PCI has responded to several significant shocks and stresses (e.g., floods, droughts, and armyworm infestations) affecting food security in Balaka and Machinga districts, and has built the capacity of communities and government ministries in early warning systems and GIS risk mapping to inform decision making.

USAID food

Coming Back Stronger After Natural Disaster

PCI’s natural disaster resilience programs help strengthen governments, local organizations, and communities to better manage risk and respond to emergencies when they arise.

In partnership with Global Communities (formerly “CHF International”), PCI spent two years rebuilding the Port-Au-Prince neighborhood of Ravine Pintade, which was greatly damaged by the 2010 earthquake with 90% of its residents displaced from their homes. With funding from USAID/OFDA, PCI and Global Communities supported and worked alongside the residents in designing and rebuilding a healthier, safer, and more nurturing community.

The Katye project utilized a “Neighborhood” or “Settlements Approach” to combine emergency assistance with collaborative, long-term planning in an effort to address underlying vulnerabilities as well as to lay a foundation for recovery and longer-term development. The results were incredible: 35,000 cubic meters of rubble were removed; almost 2,000 people benefited directly, including 574 families who had previously lived in the settlement; and retaining walls and drainage infrastructure was built, reducing the risk of future disasters. Katye is now looked at as a model for rebuilding communities not only as a means to preventing disasters but to responding to them as well.

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Urban Upgrading and Disaster Risk Reduction

Since 2012, PCI’s Barrio Mio (“My Neighborhood”) project has been working to improve urban resilience in seven municipalities in Guatemala that are prone to disasters like landslides, flooding, earthquakes and other challenges such as violence, poverty, and food insecurity. The project enlists universities, government entities, the private sector, and communities in developing methodologies for upgrading high-risk informal areas. With support from over 40 partners on the ground, Barrio Mio has been able to:

  • Construct innovative urban water and sanitation infrastructure;
  • Reinforce housing construction to reduce vulnerability to disaster (with support from partner Build Change) and construct urban mitigation infrastructure;
  • Generate neighborhood and household level strategies to improve urban health and protection of vulnerable populations;
  • Reinforce the social and economic empowerment of women in urban areas; and
  • Improve urban planning and zoning, and generate inclusive strategies to move households to safer land and repurpose the unsafe land for community gardens or other green space for disaster mitigation.

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