Risk reduction through community-based monitoring: the vigías of Tungurahua, Ecuador

Jonathan Stone, Jenni Barclay, Peter Simmons, Paul D Cole, Susan C Loughlin, Patricio Ramón, Patricia Mothes

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43 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Since 2000, a network of volunteers known as vigías has been engaged in community-based volcano monitoring, which involves local citizens in the collection of scientific data, around volcán Tungurahua, Ecuador. This paper provides the first detailed description and analysis of this well-established initiative, drawing implications for volcanic risk reduction elsewhere. Based on 32 semi-structured interviews and other qualitative data collected in June and July 2013 with institutional actors and with vigías themselves, the paper documents the origins and development of the network, identifies factors that have sustained it, and analyses the ways in which it contributes to disaster risk reduction. Importantly, the case highlights how this community-based network performs multiple functions in reducing volcanic risk. The vigías network functions simultaneously as a source of observational data for scientists; as a communication channel for increasing community awareness, understanding of hazard processes and for enhancing preparedness; and as an early warning system for civil protection. Less tangible benefits with nonetheless material consequences include enhanced social capital – through the relationships and capabilities that are fostered – and improved trust between partners. Establishing trust-based relationships between citizens, the vigías, scientists and civil protection authorities is one important factor in the effectiveness and resilience of the network. Other factors discussed in the paper that have contributed to the longevity of the network include the motivations of the vigías, a clear and regular communication protocol, persistent volcanic activity, the efforts of key individuals, and examples of successful risk reduction attributable to the activities of the network. Lessons that can be learned about the potential of community-based monitoring for disaster risk reduction in other contexts are identified, including what the case tells us about the conditions that can affect the effectiveness of such initiatives and their resilience to changing circumstances.
Original languageEnglish
Article number11
JournalJournal of Applied Volcanology
Volume3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Aug 2014

Keywords

  • Disaster risk reduction
  • Community-based monitoring
  • Citizen science
  • Tungurahua
  • Participatory

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