RURITAGE: bolstering resilience in rural areas stricken by disasters

The International Day for Disaster Reduction, held each year on 13th of October, celebrates how people and communities around the world are reducing their exposure to disasters.

Katla Geopark high geographical diversity presents risks related to natural hazards

The role of intangible and tangible heritage is of great strength to increase the human ability to cope with the shock and stress of surviving hazardous events and also during the recovery process of restoring their normal life.

The 4-year EU-funded RURITAGE project, launched in June 2018 under the Horizon 2020 programme, has completed its first anniversary and is already harvesting fruits in establishing a new paradigm for the regeneration of rural areas.

Resilience is one of the 6 Systemic Innovation Areas (SIAs) through which a region’s unique potential is identified. A strategy based on heritage traits enhances the chances of a community to restore their vital conditions quicker, building resistance and flexibility not only economic-wise but also to the people’s morale when faced with the unpredictability of disasters, such as Hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes.

Situated within a majestic area of great geographical diversity and geological treasures that present high risks related to various natural hazards, Katla UNESCO Global Geopark, in Iceland, is one of RURITAGE’s Role Models. Their innate wonders populated with ice-capped active volcanoes, tuff mountains, and black volcanic beaches attract a big number of visitors yearly.

By making use of landscape storytelling, merging holistic concepts of protection, education and sustainable development, Katla created a network of governmental agencies that provide guidance and assistance to the local population, teaching prevention and safeguard strategies, as well as promoting the local culture by placing a strong emphasis on nature tourism.

Babis Fassoulas: Crete’s Rural Heritage Hub coordinator

Another Role Model of the project is the Psiloritis UNESCO Global Geopark, located on the central part of Crete, in Greece, which offers a superb landscape geodiversity, with many volcanos, a wide range of animals and plants, as well as unique cultural heritage of oral history and mythology. 

In collaboration with the Natural History Museum of the University of Crete, the Geopark provides numerous educational activities daily. The local population, especially kids, and tourists can learn good practices, based on relevant cases of previous setbacks, through training activities, programs and tools developed to prevent and prepare for hazards, such as earthquake simulator, seismometer, educational suitcase, and a tsunami generator called “Make your vibration”.