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Strengthening Community Resilience Through Disaster Risk Management Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 5445 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Disasters pose serious threats to development as it holds back country’s progress and its achievement towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) while highlighting, particularly among poor countries, the prevailing poverty situation.

Despite billions of budget spent by the government and assistance from the international development organizations for development programs and projects, interference of disasters could put these efforts into nothing; as disasters could result to enormous physical, economic and psycho-social damages and decades of development could be wiped out in a minute. Disasters destroy infrastructures, such as roads, bridges, communication satellites, buildings, schools and houses. It can also damage livelihood and agriculture; from pest infestations to droughts, extreme rains and floods, which could wreak havoc on the entire community livelihood. Moreover, as disaster happens, it displaces people and exposes them to diseases and injuries which could further lead them to hardship, starvation and deprivation. In general disaster can lead to loss of public and private resources and investments, disruption on the production of goods and provision of services, loss of employment for formal and non-formal economy, interruption of development programs and switching of crucial resources to other short-term needs such as recovery and emergency response programs, and health concerns (UNDP-DMTP, 1994).

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These problems on natural disasters are further compounded by the issues of climate change. “Disaster risks and climate change are threats to human well-being and adversely reinforce each other. Disaster risk is an intrinsic characteristic of human society, arising from the combination of natural and human factors and subject to exacerbation or reduction by human agency” (O’Brien, 2008:7). The effects of climate change can increase disaster risks, by changing the magnitude and frequency of extreme events. The changes in the average climatic conditions and climate variability, affect the underlying risk factors, and generate new threats, which could create more serious consequences to human and the environment (Tearfund, 2008). The increasing global average temperature, occurrence of extreme weather events, changes in precipitation and sea level rises would, likewise, adversely affect human health, agriculture, forests, water resources, and coastal areas. Direct impacts are: less food production, increase range of infectious diseases including vector-borne and water-related diseases, decline in fresh water resources; and indirect impacts such as increase in prices of goods and services. These ultimately increase poverty. The poor, vulnerable and at risk communities are mostly affected for they have few options (DAP, 2010).

Disaster is indeed a development concern; however despite this recognition, we argue that many disasters are rooted mainly from many development failures (UN-ISDR, 2010). The lack of appropriate development planning where disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation are loosely or weakly integrated into the local and national agenda is seen as a weakness to development. And the inadequateness of top-down and one-way approach in dealing with disaster management, is considered ineffective stance in providing rightful and productive solutions among problems encountered at the community level, frequently, resulting to failure in addressing local needs, untapped potential local resources and capacities, consequently, increasing peoples vulnerabilities (Victoria, 2003).

Nevertheless, with the shifting paradigm from emergency management to disaster risk management, and the growing recognition on community participation, this shed another area where parallel effort from the national, local and community levels can be harmonized and replicated. And in line with community participation, the Community Based Disaster Risk Management (CBDRM) emerged to address the needs of vulnerable communities and to improve their disaster resiliency. It is an approach that emphasizes active involvement of communities; while strongly locates “people at the heart of the decision making and implementation of disaster risk management activities” (ADPC-CBDRM-11, 2003).

Purpose and Objectives

The paper aims to determine how Community-Based Disaster Risk Management (CBDRM) increases community resiliencies and contributes towards climate change adaptation.

The objectives of this study are to explain the features, processes and actors of the CBDRM and how it contributes to community resiliency; identify the strengths and weaknesses of the approach within the frame of community participation and participatory development; to cite best practices of CBDRM applications, and to provide recommendations for future policy and research studies.

Methodology and Limitations

The paper explores the effectiveness and potential of CBDRM to address impact of climate change variability. The arguments rendered are mainly based on deskwork and cursory research that is limited to literature review from available case studies, articles and publications from various local, national and international sources.

The paper is divided into four parts. First, we link disaster risk management with climate change adaptation by identifying their commonalities and differences. Second, we closely examine what CBDRM is, its feature, processes and actors involved. Third, we determine what would be the possible limitations or challenges in applying community participation in disaster management. Fourth, we give practical examples by listing down several good practices of CBDRM being implemented in different countries. And fifth, we provide conclusions and recommendations.

Linking Disaster Risk Management and Climate Change Adaptation

As noted, disasters have enormous impact on human development while changes in climate will further extend the challenges brought by disasters. With the increasing concerns on its impact, this has “emphasized the urgent move from disaster response to preventive measures mainly aimed at reducing the likelihood that a natural hazard translates into a disaster”. The shift to disaster risk management (DRM) from emergency management, “implies addressing underlying social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities to reduce the probability of a disaster occurring”. Moreover, DRM “tries to address hazard risks as an integral part of development. DRM is based on a continuous assessment of vulnerabilities and risks and involves many actors and stakeholders, such as governments, technical experts and local communities”. (Sperling, F., et.al., 2005: 11).

According to ISDR, “policy responses concerned with disaster risk management and adaptation to climate change have developed along different tracks” (Sperling, F., et.al., 2005: 12). The DRM, on one hand, is based on humanitarian assistance efforts; the specific response measures are based from accumulated experiences of exposure to disasters. The responses are localized with broader preventive measures with the aim of addressing vulnerabilities. On the other hand, response to climate change, being a global issue, has been mostly top-down process through advances in scientific research leading to international policy responses through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Responses to climate change are categorized under mitigation and adaptation which are both interdependent; mitigation tackling the cause of climate change, while adaptation tackling the effects. (Sperling, F., et.al., 2005).

DRM and adaptation to climate change have commonalities and differences.

On their commonalities, the policies and measures for both areas are concerned with risk management approach with the aim of addressing the underlying vulnerabilities. While both acknowledge that the degree of vulnerability is a function of the magnitude of physical exposure and prevalent environmental and socioeconomic conditions; thus both depend on evaluating risks, vulnerabilities and possible remedial measures characterized as being continuous process and forward looking perspective. Additionally on dealing climate change risks, the adaptation measures is based on the existing vulnerability to climate variability and extremes; hence “improving the capacity of communities, governments or regions to deal with current climate vulnerabilities is likely to improve their capacity to deal with future climatic changes” (Sperling, 2005:16).

On their differences, the time horizons for DRM is concerned more of the present or near term trends, that is 5-10 years, while climate change projections are usually 20 or even hundred more years. Another is on physical exposure; mitigating disaster is different from climate change mitigation. The former is focused on limiting the adverse impact of a particular hazard; while the latter is a function within the capacity of humans to influence their exposure to change, concluding that climate change is largely driven by anthropogenic activities. Lastly, on the scope of disaster, DRM includes not only climate related disasters such as hydro-meteorological (torrential rain, floods, droughts, storms) but also geo-morphological (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions) hazards” (Sperling, 2005).

Supporting the claim of Sperling (2005:17), DRM and adaptation to climate change have converging agendas; this therefore offers an opportunity “to build a comprehensive risk management framework which recognizes current and future vulnerabilities as well as the compound effects of multiple disasters within a given region”.

This brings us next to a specific DRM approach where its aim is to increase community resiliency through the active participation of community members.

The Community-Based Disaster Risk Management Approach

Mainstreaming disaster risk reduction (DRR), as part of the DRM framework, into national and local development agenda is among the crucial concerns for many international organizations, national governments, civil society organizations, research groups, and local development actors. The recognition on its importance stemmed out from understanding the link between development and disaster, and disaster intensity and climate change.

Under DRR lens, disasters are seen as complex problems that demand collective actions from different sectors; hence, this locates community at the forefront of disaster management. As defined by Abarquez (2004), communities are group of people that “may share one or more things in common such as living in the same environment and similar disaster risk exposure”. Their differentiation in terms of socio-economic aspects, linkages and dynamics are several factors that contribute to their vulnerabilities. By and large, it is the communities who are directly affected by both development and disasters, for being either beneficiaries or victims of the two circumstances. They are the front liners. They understand their local opportunities and constraints and they are the most interested in understanding local affairs where survival and well-being is at stake. Hence, integrating them within disaster risk management framework entails a promising outcome.

Whereas, a growing consensus asserts that “most top-down disaster risk management and response programs fail to address specific local needs of vulnerable communities, ignore the potential of local resources and capacities, and may in some cases even increase people’s vulnerability” (Abarquez, 2004:12).

Community participation provides opportunities for the poor to air their concerns, and allowing the poor to have more control over development assistance. This ensures that “allocation of development funds is responsive to the needs of the poor, better targeting of poverty programs, more responsive government and better delivery of public goods and services, better maintained community assets, and a more informed and involved citizenry that is capable of undertaking self-initiated development activity” (Mansuri, 2003: 2). According to World Bank, in general, “community driven development aims to (i) enhance sustainability; (ii) improve efficiency and effectiveness; (iii) allow poverty reduction efforts to be taken to scale; (iv) make development more inclusive; (v) empower poor people, build social capital, and strengthen governance; and (vi) complement market and public sector activities”. (Mansuri, 2003: 2)

The CBDRM provides opportunities for the local community to evaluate their situations based on their own experiences and promotes participation and partnership. They take responsibility for all stages of the program including both planning and implementation, and in partnership with local, provincial, and national entities. As defined,

CBDRM is “a process of disaster risk management in which at risk communities are actively engaged in the identification, analysis, treatment, monitoring and evaluation of disaster risks in order to reduce their vulnerabilities and enhance their capacities. This means that the people are at the heart of decision making and implementation of disaster risk management activities”. (Abarquez, 2004:9).

Given the existing natural hazards and vulnerabilities of a community, “the CBDRM process should lead to progressive improvements in public safety and community disaster resilience. And it should contribute to equitable and sustainable community development in the long term” (Abarquez, 2004:20)

As shown in the conceptual framework below, natural hazards such as hydro-meteorological, geo-morphological and climate change induced hazards can interplay with existing community vulnerabilities which in turn could pose high risks to the affected community. As a consequence of a disastrous event, people are helpless victims who rely heavily on external assistance for aid. The cost and damage assessment is done by external experts, and recommendations are usually mainly focus on material or physical aid and technical solutions. Due to lack of community plan, outside donors decide on what the needs are. The aim of existing disaster management is to reduce the immediate suffering and meet emergency needs and bring back the situation into normal.

With the application of CBDRM approach, people participate in disaster management, where people are involved in planning, decision-making, damage, needs and capacity assessment. The people perceived as active actors in rebuilding their lives and livelihood. The focus is community preparedness and strengthening the organization with the aim of reducing vulnerabilities and increase people’s capacity to better cope with disasters. With the result of safe, disaster-resilient and developed community, this ultimately contributes towards poverty reduction.

Figure : Conceptual Framework

The CBDRM Features

In summary the CBDRM features as according to Abarquez (2004) are:

Role of community is central in disaster risk management. That is, local people are capable of initiating and sustaining their own development and they are the prime movers in reducing disaster risks in their community.

Community is the key resource in disaster risk management. The communities are the main beneficiaries, the same way that they are the key resource and frontline actor in the CBDRM implementation.

The aim is disaster risk reduction. The main strategy is to enhance capacities and resources of most vulnerable groups and to reduce their vulnerability in order to avoid the occurrence of disasters in future.

Recognition of the link between disaster risk management and the development process. CBDRM should lead to general improvement in people’s quality of life and the natural environment. The approach assumes that addressing the root causes of disasters, e.g. poverty, discrimination and marginalization, poor governance and bad political and economic management, would contribute towards the overall improvement in the quality of life and environment.

Application of multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary approaches. CBDRM brings together local community and even national stakeholders for disaster risk management to expand its resource base.

CBDRM recognizes that different people have different perceptions of risk, different vulnerabilities and capacities.

The CBDRM Process

The CBDRM process entails a thorough assessment of the community’s hazard exposure and analysis of their vulnerabilities as well as capacities. The gathered information serves as the basis for activities, projects and programs to reduce disaster risks. Community involvement is required in the process of assessment, planning, and implementation to ensure that all needs and concerns felt at the local level are considered and appropriately tackled.

Using the NGO CBDRM implementation perspective, according to Luna (2007) and Abarquez (2004), generally the processes include:

Community/site selection and partnership building. Communities that are very vulnerable are selected, based on previous experiences in disaster and current threats. Other criteria include the poverty situation, interest and cooperation of the LGU officials, accessibility of the area, the peace and order situation, and the presence of local workers in the community.

Formation and training of Community Disaster Action Teams and Volunteers. Training of the local government officials and community leaders are done to enhance their capacity for disaster prevention, mitigation and response. The training is done in participatory manner in such a way that after the series of training, the participants would be able to come out with community assessment, hazards maps, and plan for disaster mitigation projects. The participatory rural appraisal techniques are used for community assessment.

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Hazard mapping. Actual on-site mapping of the community is done by the volunteers using ocular survey and global positioning system. This is a diagnostic process to identify the risks that the community faces and how people overcome those risks. The process involves hazard assessment, vulnerability assessment and capacity assessment. In doing the assessments, people’s perception of risk is considered. People themselves identify risk reduction measures that will reduce vulnerabilities and enhance capacities. These risk reduction measures are then translated into a community disaster risk management plan.

Formulation of the Local Disaster Action Plans. The community assessments and the hazard map became the basis for formulating a local disaster action plan.

Plan Integration and Implementation. The plan formulated by the Disaster Action Team is forwarded to the local council for integration in comprehensive development plan. The Community Disaster Action Teams and Volunteers should lead to the implementation of the community plan and motivate the other members of the community to support the activities in the plan.

Project monitoring and evaluation by the community, local government and outside evaluators.

The CBDRM Actors

Under CBDRM local community serves as the main actor together with the participation and support from other stakeholders.

The actors in the CBDRM are composed of two layers, the “insiders” and the “outsiders”. Actors in the inner layer are the individuals, family, organizations and other stakeholders who are located within the community. The multiple stakeholders such as farmers, fishers, women, laborers, youth and other members of the community that has special concerns and needs, with their differing perceptions, and interests are important to be considered in arriving in a broad consensus on targets, strategies and methodologies in the community. The outsiders refer to those sectors and agencies which are located outside of the community. These are external NGOs, national government agencies and other international organizations (Abarquez, 2004).

This brings us to a consideration of the shortcomings and limitations of participatory development.

Limitations and Challenges of Community Participation in Disaster Management

Though we have argued that community participation in the context of disaster management is imperative, there are still several debates under the context of participatory development that could somehow influence its successful implementation, hence, should be taken into account especially during the planning phase of the CBDRM

First, the complexity of individual motivations. It is difficult to move a community towards certain direction, particularly if its members have different interests and motivations. As noted earlier, community is a complex social structure comprised of different perspectives, opinions and motivations. Conversely, motivation and willingness to participate is dictated by individual thinking and determined by own underlying interests. Their experiences on disasters could influence their behavior; however for community members who have not experienced extreme natural disaster, raising their interest in prevention and capacity building becomes more difficult as it seems abstract for them, unlike physical measures or infrastructure such as installing early warning devices and others. Similarly, exposure to external aids could influence community’s interest to participate; this is in particular to urban areas, who have become accustomed to receiving external assistance thus their reluctance to undertake risk management on their own (Solo, n.d.).

Another area under this is the personal-driven motivations with vested interests that could influence, hamper or even deviate the result of the participatory development process. And politicians or soon to be politicians find this kind of activity personally beneficial for them.

Second, participation requires effort and time. The CBDRM implementation is comprised of various activities, such as planning and capacity buildings, that require active and continuous participation from various stakeholders. While these activities involved a considerable time and effort, some community members perceive these series of participation as waste of time and/or economically unproductive activity, thus opt to focus more on their work and earn money, instead. While for the part of the organizer, participatory process such as public consultation is also time consuming. Organizing requires proper and detailed planning for scheduling of activities, identifying stakeholders, sending out invitation and confirming attendance. The quality and productivity of the activity is affected by the possible low turn-out of attendance among target participants.

Second, restricted women participation and cultural boundaries. The CBDRM puts emphasis on the different risks and vulnerabilities faced by members of the communities, such that, male perceived risks differently as compared to female, and similar with adult to children. However, some culture restricts participation and voluntarism; concrete example is on women participation. There are some cultures that confine women’s role within the boundaries of domestic activities. Despite the current effort to gender mainstream disaster reduction, with the consequent enormous household tasks directly or indirectly imposed to them, these offer women less time to interact in social activities and participate in community development actions.

Third, local power relation within the community. The dynamics that exists within the community is clearly manifested on the relationship between the rich and poor, elite and commoners, and literate and illiterate. These relationships bring us to the questions on who can really participate, who can talk and verbalize their opinions during public consultations or workshops. Often times, those who are well-informed and have time to participate dominate the discussion, while leaving behind the poor and the illiterate who has the greater degree of vulnerability. To put stress further, the UNDP states that the communities who are most vulnerable to natural events are frequently those who have a disproportionately high number of illiterate members (Solo, n.d.).

Fourth, local knowledge influenced by local power relations. CBDRM builds on the existing local knowledge to assess community risks, and serve as basis in developing plans. However, local knowledge can be influenced by local power relations, authority and gender (Mosse, 2002). Other personalities or stakeholders may impute their own interests to or influence the local knowledge which would not necessarily resolve the issues of disaster risks or lead for the greater and common interests of improving community resiliency.

Fifth, creating development fatigue among stakeholders. Since participatory development is among the most popular approaches in development, many development initiatives have embraced and integrated it within their programs and projects. Consultations and/or collaboration among stakeholders has been repeatedly being undertaken along different stages of one or more different programs and projects, this repeated process could eventually create fatigue among stakeholders, especially when despite of continuing consultations no advancement or progress is achieved.

These are some of the limitations and challenges that may be faced by project implementers of CBDRM. And to understand more what CBDRM is as applied to real world, the next part gives us practical examples illustrating how CBDRM could potentially increase community resiliency.

CBDRM Good Practices

Globally, CBDRM has been promoted as an approach to improve community resiliency. International development organizations and non-government organizations strongly lobby CBDRM for policy adoption and mainstreaming in the disaster management framework of national and local governments. Currently, most CBDRM projects are led by local and international NGOs, either in partnership with other civil society organizations, NGOs, international development organizations or local government. The United Nation International Strategy for Disaster Reduction compiled the good practices in CBDRM that illustrates how communities have worked together towards a common goal and benefitted from their undertaking. Below are some of the examples that are considered CBDRM good practices and linked with climate change adaptation being implemented in different countries.

Involving community members in increasing public awareness and capacity building through creating information campaigns to enhance the safety of the population at risk. The project stimulates creativeness and innovativeness from the local actors and similarly optimizes local knowledge and local resources in a way easily understandable to the local community members. This is a project implemented in Haiti in 22 settlements in coordination with their Local Civil Protection Committees (LCPCs) through the assistance from Oxfam GB.

Another is creating access among low income groups to disaster micro-insurance scheme. Taking into account that risk transfer supports sustainable economic recovery, micro-insurance could serve as a cushion to lessen impact of disaster, particularly among the poor victims whom majority have little or no access to risk transfer schemes. Micro-insurance represents an innovative approach to risk identification, pooling and transfer; wherein risk is transferred from the individual level to the community or inter-community levels. With the implementation of micro-insurance, this elicit positive feedbacks from the communities claiming that insurance in times of crisis is essential, the affordability of the scheme makes it accessible for the poor households, and which consequently result to reduced dependence from outside relief. This is the approach of the Afat Vimo scheme, a project implemented in India, which is part of the Regional Risk Transfer Initiative (RRTI), an action learning project (ALP) of the Gujaratbased All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI).

With the long drought being experienced, crop failures and the consequent food shortage, this has led a community in Indonesia to identify a mechanism to prevent food shortage. The community established a monitoring system for food security and livelihood and community early warning system largely based from their indigenous knowledge in combination with modern science. The project has three components: community awareness and indicator development to monitor food security and livelihood; community early warning system; and advocacy on appropriate agricultural system such as promotion of crops suitable for drought-prone land. The project is in partnership with local NGO aiming to increase community resilience from drought in Southeastern Indonesia.

Another project where it illustrates that local context of communities can be a dynamic force in reducing risks, is on creating flood and typhoon-resilient homes through employing a cost-effective retrofitting. The program central theme is to make families and the community active players in the process of reducing the vulnerability through the integration of storm resistant techniques in existing and future houses and buildings. It involves local and grassroots consultation and preventive action planning. The project is Development Workshop France (DWF), a program initiated in Vietnam through Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and European Commission Humanitarian aid Office (ECHO)

In order to understand local environmental situation, develop awareness and capacity to deal with, and to contribute to relevant policy formulation, one of the communities in Namibia established an inter-community platform and local-level monitoring as support for local decision making. The plat-form serves as medium for community organization and communication. Moreover, the approach strengthens capacity among the community to coordinate their own activities and preparing their development plans. The local-level monitoring, on the other hand, is used to support information exchange and decision making designed by the communities. The communities identify relevant indicators to monitor their livelihoods including key environmental elements. They discuss the results, analyze them and use them where appropriate for decision making. This provides a tool for identification of environmental changes affecting livelihoods that may be based on management actions, climate variability, policy changes or other factors. The project contributes to capacity building and institutional development among communities so they can enhance their own resource management and livelihoods and thereby enhance their capacity to manage and reduce risks related to drought and desertification and other potential disasters. This is a project implemented in Namibia, where several policy instruments have been influenced by the project and a number of derivative projects are ongoing.

The convergence of a community-level approach and city government’s participation strengthens sustainability and ownership; this is the underlying assumption in one of the CBDRM projects in the Philippines. Wherein, it mainstream community-based mitigation in the city governance through partnering with the local government in the implementation of the project. The project has five (5) components, these are: (i) CBDRM participatory risk assessment training of trainers (ToT) for the city officials, who in turn provide training to communities; reactivation of the City Disaster Coordinating Council and Barangay Disaster Coordinating Council; institutionalization of a school “Disaster Safety Day”; celebration of the Disaster Safety Day in all schools; developing and implementing a City Disaster Risk Reduction Plan. This is a CBDRM project implemented in the P


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