Gramalote A street in Gramolote, Columbia, is blocked by debris after a landslide struck the town in December of 2010. ©Storicus, 2010.

Nearly seven years after a landslide destroyed the small town of Gramalote in northern Columbia, residents are returning home. Not to the same home, but to one created for them through a long process of resettlement.

The undertaking to relocate nearly 3,500 Gramaloteros was fraught in many ways—there were extreme delays in finding a relocation site, bureaucratic shifts in organizing agencies, and disagreements between those guiding the project and municipal government. In April, however, the project was about 80 percent complete and some displaced families were able to take up residence in the new town.

As they did, Anthony Oliver-Smith of the University of Florida and Carlos Arenas of Displacement Solutions were able to travel to the new location and meet with families as they were situating themselves in their new location. The researchers—who were awarded one of the Natural Hazards Center’s National Science Foundation-funded Quick Response Grants to travel to the new community—wanted to know what the nature of community participation would be as residents transitioned to the new settlement and how the organization and delivery of the new homes would affect the social organization of the community in that phase.

While the research is very preliminary, the situation in Gramalote will be able to inform other resettlement projects, which are likely to proliferate as climate-related impacts force entire communities to relocate. Early conclusions from the research indicate that much can be done to assist community members in adjusting to the social and economic stresses of relocation, to reconstitute previous social networks, and to provide for an intact municipal structure before repopulation begins.

Read the full report of the initial findings in:

QR266: Post-Disaster Resettlement—The Transition to the New Community in Gramalote, Colombia