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Climate change adaptation in informal settings: Understanding and reinforcing bottom-up initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean

People living in informal urban settings in Latin America and the Caribbean are highly vulnerable to water-related risks associated with climate change. They are also effective incubators of bottom-up, grassroots-driven mechanisms of adaptation. These mechanisms are very often initiated and led by women, a particularly vulnerable group who also play a crucial role in building the social fabric that makes such adaptation possible. Extensive research exists on the causes of vulnerability; however, empirical research and on-the-ground implementation and validation are needed to understand and support the specific role of these practices to improve disaster-risk reduction strategies.

This project aims to create the conditions for the adoption of grassroots adaptation strategies, in particular those led by women, by formal institutions in small- and medium-sized cities in Latin America and the Caribbean, and for integrating these strategies into public policy. Its research aims to understand the impacts that women-led initiatives have on reducing vulnerability and enhancing resilience in these places, and on supporting the most effective bottom-up approaches.

This project will be implemented with the collaboration of Université de Montréal. Combining architecture, urban planning and geography methodologies, the project will conduct research in five cities in Colombia, Chile, Cuba, and Haiti, and training and implementation activities will be carried out in three of these. A total of 27 informally-driven adaptation micro-projects will include strategies for the preservation of water, the use of water, the development of infrastructure to guarantee access to clean/potable water, the protection of humans and the built environment from water, and income generation, food security, and livelihoods.

These projects should bring direct positive results to the people in the settlements of the three cities targeted by the implementation activities. They should also bring indirect benefits to all five cities. Successful practices will be made available to national risk agencies and national environmental agencies to allow for the analysis of their potential to be scaled up and transferred to other cities in the region.

Project ID
Project Status
End Date
48 months
IDRC Officer
Melanie Robertson
Total Funding
CA$ 1,149,100.00
South America
Institution Country
Project Leader
Gonzalo Lizarralde
Université de Montréal


Reponses to risk and climate change in informal settings in Latin America and the Caribbean : the importance of bottom-up initiatives and structured dialogue

Reponses to risk and climate change in informal settings in Latin America and the Caribbean : the importance of bottom-up initiatives and structured dialogue


Climate change action in Latin America and the Caribbean must be based on sustained dialogue and linked to a political agenda aimed at redressing social and environmental injustices. This report analyzes factors and conditions that support climate change initiatives from the bottom up, including women-led adaptation strategies. ADAPTO projects work in local/ neighborhood contexts engaging with local leaders and actors on the ground. Context and dialogue are key. Details of various projects are described as well as knowledge sharing workshops and feedback sessions. ADAPTO (2017-2021) initiatives work in the area of disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate response in informal urban settings.

Author(s): Lizarralde, Gonzalo, Herazo, Benjamin, Bornstein, Lisa, Labbé, Danielle, Gould, Kevin, López, Adriana, López, Oswaldo, Burdiles, Roberto, Araneda, Claudio, Ascui, Hernán, Olivera, Andrés, González, Gonzalo, Páez, Holmes, Díaz, Julia, González, Ana Milena, Monsalve, Elsa, Ordoñez, Nicolás, Ochoa, Marcela, Restrepo, Margarita, García, Gloria, Bouchereau, Karine

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Language: English

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