Honduras concludes project on safeguarding intangible cultural heritage in relation to disaster risk reduction

The Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History (IHAH), with the support of UNESCO, has carried out a pilot project for the implementation of a methodology for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage in relation to disaster risk reduction. This initiative has allowed putting into practice a set of operational principles and modalities for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage in emergencies, adopted in 2019 by the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Honduras, together with the Philippines, was one of the two countries selected worldwide to carry out this pilot project. In Honduras, the Lenca communities of Yamaranguila, El Pelón and Cofradía, located in the department of Intibucá, were selected for its implementation. The project included a capacity-building phase on the integration of the perspective of disaster risk reduction in the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage, followed by a practical phase, which consisted of a community-based inventory of living heritage elements related to risk management.
The disaster risk reduction perspective was addressed through a series of virtual workshops held between June and July 2021. These workshops were attended by representatives of institutions related to the research and safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage of Honduras, such as the Executive Directorate of Culture and Arts and the IHAH, as well as institutions responsible for emergency management, such as the Permanent Contingency Commission (COPECO) and the Municipal Emergency Committee of Yamaranguila, together with representatives of the communities concerned.
The community inventory took place in September 2021 and identified multiple elements of intangible cultural heritage related to traditional knowledge or strategies on disaster risk reduction, or that were significantly affected by recurrent, constant, or imminent threats of natural or anthropogenic origin. The inventory includes - among other elements - traditional agricultural practices, such as the elaboration of living fences, sowing techniques and observation of the environment, which contribute to disaster prevention through mitigation and risk reduction actions due to meteorological factors.
Also, social practices have been identified that reflect, from the cosmovision of the local community, the relationship of reciprocity between people and nature, while promoting social cohesion and providing psychological relief in contexts of disasters caused by natural phenomena such as landslides and floods. Similarly, the inventory includes knowledge of traditional medicine that, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, have been valuable alternatives for the treatment of respiratory conditions and symptoms associated with COVID-19.
Following this inventory process, a restitution workshop was held for the participating communities in order to present and validate the obtained results with them. An inter-institutional workshop on the methodology implemented was also organized for the institutions involved in the process. The project also included the production of a documentary on cultural manifestations related to disaster risk reduction, as well as a database on the intangible cultural heritage of Honduras.
The main objective of this pilot project has been to promote the need to generate risk management plans that consider culture from two perspectives: as a fragile element that must be safeguarded and, at the same time, as a factor that allows sustaining disaster risk reduction strategies with inputs drawn from the intangible cultural heritage of local communities.
The 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage establishes that living heritage is composed of oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe, and knowledge and skills linked to traditional crafts, among other elements that the bearer community identifies as an important part of its cultural identity. These are important elements for strengthening the social fabric and for achieving the Goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
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