Monday, February 1, 2010

Update from Cusco: Flooding and Arariwa borrowers

A number of concerned Kiva lenders have written in following last week's news of torrential rains and flooding in the Cusco region of Peru, where Kiva field partner AsociaciĆ³n Arariwa is based. The region is currently experiencing the heaviest rainfall it has seen in the past 15 years. While most of the international news coverage has focused on tourists stranded near the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu, the effect on the local populations has been far more devastating.

Most houses in Cusco are built of clay and straw adobe bricks; many of these homes were destroyed or severely damaged when they were unable to withstand the heavy rains and flooding. A number of the communities surrounding the city of Cusco, like Lucre, Huacarpay, Oropesa and Anta were severely affected. Many residents lost their homes, animals, crops and/or possessions. The Peruvian government and local organizations have provided temporary tent shelters for homeless families. However, the rainy season will likely continue for another 1-2 months, delaying any reconstruction effort significantly. At present, most local discussion of the situation has centered on fulfilling immediate needs by providing emergency supplies rather than on mounting an effort to rebuild the homes that were destroyed.

It is not yet clear how many Arariwa borrowers have been affected by the heavy rains. A significant impact is expected, however, since most of Arariwa’s clients live in the Cusco region and many are residents of the communities that were hardest hit by the floods. One loan officer I spoke with estimated that of the clients he has been able to contact thus far, about 40% have seen their homes or their livelihoods significantly affected. Arariwa is currently organizing a relief effort to distribute basic emergency supplies like food, clothing and blankets to some of these communities. Some of the affected borrowers are Kiva clients; however, at this point it is too soon to know any precise numbers. We hope to start publishing journal updates detailing the flood’s impact on specific clients soon.

On a personal note, as a resident of Cusco I would like to say that I have been impressed and moved by locally organized relief efforts and the degree of solidarity being shown with flood victims. University students have launched door-knocking campaigns to collect emergency provisions and blankets and have traveled to hard-to-reach communities to deliver the supplies and help residents salvage their remaining possessions. Many Arariwa staff members are voluntarily giving a portion of their salary to support the relief effort. Nearly every plaza in the city of Cusco has been converted into the center of operations for a group collecting donations and funds to send to one of the affected communities.

We will continue to inform Kiva lenders of the situation on the ground as additional information becomes available. In the meantime, for more information or to find out how you can help, please contact AsociaciĆ³n Arariwa’s Kiva Coordinador, Raquel Villafuerte, at