Learning to confront disasters like Hurrican Mitch: a research methodology guide
The effects of Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and the subsequent 10 years' worth of rain which fell in five days brought environmental and agricultural devastation to Central America. World Neighbors (WN) had worked for many years on the promotion of soil and water conservation; the hurricane provided an opportunity for WN to study the effectiveness of this work in combating the disastrous effects of a potentially destructive climate and this newsletter gives details their work. They decided to carry out Participatory Action Research (PAR), a level of study which not only allowed the involvement of those most greatly affected by the climate - the local people - but other participants who expanded their own knowledge through the research methods and results. The system used was a pairing of plots with similar characteristics such as location and vegetation, but which provided a sharing of data through a direct comparison of agro-ecological and conventional cultivation. Other organizations were invited to participate in the study and form teams with the farmers, and all participants attended a workshop to learn methodologies. The methods used to analyse different variables such as slope, top soil thickness, texture, organic matter, insect and animal life, vegetation, erosion, landslides, and conservation practices are detailed along with the findings and lessons learned.