Japan, Mexico and El Salvador all have earthquakes as a common geographical challenge. Now they also share a common tool to address this challenge – “Taishin,” the Japanese word for “quake resistant.” These three countries have shared experience and knowledge to improve their resilience to earthquakes.

Knowledge sharing between Japan, Mexico and El Salvador helped El Salvador rebuild smarter and stronger after two earthquakes in 2001 killed over 1000 people. The earthquakes inflicted over $16 billion of damage to the Central American, equal to roughly 12 percent of the national GDP that year.

Working with El Salvador, Japan and Mexico helped identify an area that would have high impact on improving the country’s quake-resistance – improving building materials for lower income housing, as these households suffered the most severe damage in the earthquake.

Two years later, the Taishin Project came into operation. The Bureau of Housing at the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development of El Salvador supervised and served as counselor. The National University of El Salvador and the Central American University José Simeón Cañas performed experiments on the earthquake resistance strength of building materials. El Salvador’s Foundation for Development and Dissemination of Housing was in charge of building the model housing.

Through financial support from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, the Project also helped build a large structure laboratory and train hundreds of technical experts. Mexico assisted this through providing expertise and sharing lessons learned from the country’s experience in making their country and buildings more earthquake ready.

After 10 years, four low-cost building techniques were in use and the two universities that participated in El Salvador have established a Master´s Programme for Earthquake Engineering and knowledge sharing.

Perhaps most importantly, El Salvador itself has started to play the role of a pivotal country in the field of the “Taishin” technique through its triangular initiative, having already assisted Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Haiti.

The Taishin Project is a good example of how the Busan principles of country-owned development and inclusive development partnerships can produce results on the ground. Through triangular support from Japan and Mexico, El Salvador took charge of improving building practices and making sure building professionals and engineers were trained with the skills to build earthquake ready buildings.

The project has also had a positive impact in managing the housing sector of El Salvador, with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development taking the initiative to create the Department of Standard Formulation and Investigation and the El Salvador Construction Institute, as part of ongoing efforts to modernise the national construction industry.

The second phase of “Taishin” is now underway, which aims to mainstream the quake-resistant low-cost housing methods into national technical standards for future scaling-up.’

Read more about the Taishin project.