Stories of Disaster Risk Reduction and Development

Invaluable experience and knowledge of disasters is held at local level reflecting ways local people confront diverse, context-specific, small-scale, unpublicised “everyday disasters” alongside better-publicised intensive events. Such events – often shaped by dynamically changing social, political, economic and environmental conditions – underwrite the increasing importance of sharing knowledge between local and non-local stakeholders to better understand and address existing and new challenges for a safer and sustainable future. At the same time, relatively little learning and knowledge sharing is generated amongst local-level practitioners and communities who are typically activists and have limited opportunities to reflect, think critically, capture and record learning or share it peer to peer .

Picture courtesy Yakkum Emergency Unit

Eight stories were produced by the participants in this programme, recording experiences of action and learning which we worked on together to discover how local level action and learning could lead to social change and progress. The stories are summarised below. Each has a link to the full case study:

Traditional Kiribati beliefs about environmental issues and its impacts on rural and urban communities

Ruiti Aretaake

Disaster risks and climate change are increasingly affecting the lives of Kiribati islanders. As these impacts are multifaceted, embracing environmental, social and economic issues, a partnership is required to address them, bringing together both state and non-state actors to learn and act together. This case study demonstrates both the potential and difficulties of convergence of new ideas with traditional knowledge through giving an account of the encouragement of collaboration between local stakeholders, communities and the government to reduce the impact of disaster risks and the impacts of climate change on livelihoods and lives. Traditional knowledge is seen to contribute to addressing the challenges Kiribati faces. The Kiribati “Frontline” project is an activity which has been led by the Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific Kiribati (FSPK), both stimulated and in part subsidized by the Global Network for Disaster Reduction

Ruiti Aretaake, (2019) “Traditional Kiribati beliefs about environmental issues and its impacts on rural and urban communities”, Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal, Vol. 28 Issue: 1, pp.25-32, https://doi.org/10.1108/DPM-06-2018-0182

An unformatted version of the case study from Kiribati can be downloaded here

Advancing small island resilience and inclusive development through a convergence strategy in Carles, Philippines

Jesusa Grace Molina

Various natural, socio-cultural and economic risks confront the people of Gigantes Islands in the municipality of Carles. The islands’ exposure to these hazards has aggravated poverty in the locality as demonstrated in the prevalence of unsafe livelihood activities and lack of access to health facilities. The onslaught of Supertyphoon Yolanda in 2013 has led to environmental and economic destruction, which prompted UP Visayas Foundation, Inc. (UPVFI) to implement the Rehabilitation for Island Sustainability and Empowerment (RISE) Gigantes Project, a rehabilitation initiative for the islands. The Frontline program contributed in enhancing its implementation through inclusive risk profiling. One of the actions done to promote small island resilience was the institutionalization of convergence strategy to consolidate post-disaster and development efforts of government and non-government organizations at different levels. The formation of Island Sustainable Development Alliance, Inc. (ISDA), an umbrella organization of community-based groups involved in disaster preparedness and natural resource management, has demonstrated the beauty of convergence.

Good relationships, resource mobilization and shared responsibility among stakeholders became evident as a result of collaboration. Despite challenges on consolidating the barangay[1] development councils due to varying priorities, and conflicting interests due to survival, the strategy led to significant impacts toward addressing vulnerabilities and isolation. To sustain the initiative, capacity-building and advocacy efforts are implemented continuously on the ground to promote ownership and inclusive development.


Jesusa Grace Molina
, (2019) “Advancing small island resilience and inclusive development through a convergence strategy in Carles, Philippines”, Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal, Vol. 28 Issue: 1, pp.33-41, https://doi.org/10.1108/DPM-06-2018-0190

An unformatted version of the case study from the Philippines can be downloaded here

Social and economic inequality limits disaster prevention amongst the most vulnerable in Vietnam

Guillaume Chantry & John Norton

This study in Vietnam draws on Development Workshop France (DWF)’s 30 years of experience promoting safe construction with poor families in the face of repeated typhoons and floods in Vietnam. Over this period, activities have always been founded on community collaboration and engagement, on awareness-raising using many forms of exchange and communication, and on improving the institutional and financial environment in which preventive strengthening can take place. Community and household networking to exchange information has been very important, but so too has national level advocacy for establishing construction standards in the context of disaster risk reduction against annual flood and typhoon events. DWF recognised that working with families, with local builders we have trained in safe construction techniques, and with the most local level of local government, the Commune  Peoples’ Committee, was on its own not enough: higher level government engagement is necessary to achieve a genuine wide and non-donor dependant impact. Despite considerable progress, more needs to be done to achieve this goal.

To this end, DWF has essentially been working for disaster risk reduction and more recently climate change adaptation at local and national level in Vietnam. In practice, and as an ongoing effort, DWF has worked to develop and organise a collective approach to evaluating local needs and defining action plans to reduce the impact of disasters in both the short term and long term. Since 2012 DWF has worked as well with the Ministry of Construction and its Provincial Departments to implement the National Programme of Safe housing, and to prepare new ‘National standards for Low Rise housing in flood and storm areas’.


Guillaume Chantry
John Norton, (2019) “Social and economic inequality limits disaster prevention amongst the most vulnerable in Vietnam”, Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal, Vol. 28 Issue: 1, pp.50-59, https://doi.org/10.1108/DPM-07-2018-0213

An unformatted version of the Vietnam case study can be downloaded here

Tackling everyday risks through climate adaptive organic farming in Indonesia

Hepi Rahmawati, Yakkum Emergency Unit, Sleman, Indonesia, and Anastasia Maylinda Titi Lestari, Department of Information and Communication, Yakkum Emergency Unit, Sleman, Indonesia

Gunungkidul district in Yogyakarta province is dominated by karst limestone areas where the land is less fertile and suffers long dry periods. With the shifting patterns of rain and dry periods as a result of global climate change, the people of Gunungkidul have to deal with extreme conditions, such as crop failure, ponds and artificial lakes drying up at an alarming rate due to high evaporation, which has led to people having to buy water for household purposes, and for farming and tending the livestock.

Participatory disaster and risks assessment and action planning were carried out to identify how communities perceive risks and identify priorities of actions. Farmers agreed to implement climate adaptive farming which combines organic farming, biological pest control and drought-resistant seedlings from local varieties. To address the wider problem on water and livestock feed scarcity, the farmers also conserve the artificial lakes and do livestock feed fermentation. The processes to adaptation  required collective actions, paradigm shift and it also constitutes trial and error processes. Acceptance to innovation is one of the major challenges. Working with “contact” farmers and “advance” farmers is the key to the community organizing strategy for innovation and adaptation.


Hepi Rahmawati
Anastasia Maylinda Titi Lestari, (2019) “Tackling everyday risks through climate adaptive organic farming”, Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal, Vol. 28 Issue: 1, pp.60-68, https://doi.org/10.1108/DPM-06-2018-0201

An unformatted version of the Indonesia case study can be downloaded here

Citizens of Delhi lead resilience action

Authors : Manu Gupta (with contributions from Shivangi Chavda, Parag Talankar)

The city of Delhi, India’s national capital is exposed to range of risks on account of its location in a river basin and proximity to an active seismic fault-line. Risks cover a number of vulnerabilities – population growth, unemployment, social in-equity, poor quality housing and public services leading to ‘everyday disasters’ that cumulatively contribute to greater loss and suffering than sudden onset events.

To address the challenge through a comprehensive approach, SEEDS mobilized a citizen’s Disaster-Watch Forum, key influential individuals in the most vulnerable East District of the city.  These individuals comprised representatives of existing local neighbourhood associations, academicians living in the area, retired government officials and youth.

The Forum engaged with local government through positive collaboration, and action. As run-up to the engagement process, a number of activities were undertaken, with SEEDS providing technical and hand-holding support. A bottom-up “pressure” was created on various line departments of the local government through a pro-active approach, where citizens took upon themselves part of the civic services. Media, especially social media, was smartly used to confront the Government when needed.

The premise of the Forum was to facilitate a dialogue between the local government and citizens to bridge the gap between policies and practices at the district level. A healthy partnership is now in place. There are regular interactions leading to improvement in service delivery, improvement in grievance redressal and mutual support activities in public programmes. Looking back, the process and investment has yielded more than the desired results. Through the citizen’s forum, we have been able to build a strong awareness and interest around risk reduction issues, even evolving to influence large developmental issues.


Manu Gupta
Parag TalankarShivangi Chavda, (2019) “Citizens of Delhi lead resilience action”, Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal, Vol. 28 Issue: 1, pp.69-75, https://doi.org/10.1108/DPM-07-2018-0228

An unformatted version of the India case study can be downloaded here

Waiting for politics at the mercy of river: case study of an  enduring community

Sarwar Bari. Department of Management, Pattan Development Organisation, Islamabad, Pakistan

During the 12 years of the organisation’s work with the people of Basti Rindan  – a remote village on the right bank of mighty river Indus in the south of  Punjab, it confronted two  major  challenges.  First,  to  convince  and  mobilise   the  community  to  protest against criminal silence of the government for not  taking any action to stop riverbank erosion as all lobbying and  advocacy  efforts had  failed. For most of the community members, riverbank erosion  was the outcome of their sins. Second, they wanted the NGO to do everything  for them and this would have undermined its own approach – acting just as a  catalyst  and let the partners  take the lead role. The lack of funding was also a  challenge but a minor one. In order to deal with these challenges, it adopted a  two-pronged approach:  minimised direct interaction with the community  while kept communication alive with few activists and second, kept raising  riverbank issue with relevant officials and media.

As we often say disasters also create opportunities for improvement and  reform. In June 2017, a nearby groyne was damaged and inundated a large area,  which caused huge losses. It transformed the already simmering anger into a  huge rage that triggered an official intervention. Within six months, three  spurs were built. On 11 November 2017, the author held another meeting  with the community. There was general agreement that protest demos  made the real impact – unleashing many factors simultaneously and  pressuring the government to act. The power of social mobilisation works!


Sarwar Bari
, (2019) “Waiting for politics at the mercy of river: case study of an enduring community”, Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal, Vol. 28 Issue: 1, pp.42-49, https://doi.org/10.1108/DPM-06-2018-0187

An unformatted version of the Pakistan case study can be downloaded here

Enhancing Earthquake Resilience of Communities: An Action by Women’s Groups in Nepal

Nisha Shrestha, Department of Monitoring and Evaluation, National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET), Lalitpur Metropolitan City, Nepal, With Surya Narayan Shrestha, Bhubaneswari Parajuli, Amod Mani Dixit, Bijay Krishna Upadhyay, Om Kala Khanal and Khadga Sen Oli, at the National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET), Lalitpur Metropolitan  City, Nepal

Nepal is exposed to frequent seismic events. There is increasing awareness that risk reduction needs to take account of smaller scale events as well as major ones. There is a felt need for promoting Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) action at community level, promoting existing community cohesion for use in disaster preparedness, and replication of positive experiences. Involvement of women and women’s networks has been identified as one of the effective way to motivate and mobilize communities to reduce disaster risks and enhance disaster preparedness.

NSET’s experiences of supporting and developing the capacity of women’s groups to undertake non-structural mitigation (NSM) illustrates how women’s groups can play a very significant role in risk reduction at community level.

This cases study records the experience of the women’s group of Chandragiri Municipality in Kathmandu Valley using their NSM learning in their own houses to reduce vulnerability. They started vulnerability reduction with their own kitchens and bedrooms by fastening their cupboards, frames, freezes, gas cylinders etc. This led to implementing the mitigation measures in their locality as well as outside their community. The group was trained by NSET on carrying out non-structural mitigation in 2012.

This has been a step towards achieving a safer community through safer houses and schools. It has developed understanding of the process, scientifically and systematically, and boosted their confidence with important new technical skills and new leadership roles in their community to mitigate the earthquake risk. The women’s group are now very well supported and encouraged by their family members and have been engaged in this new income-generating activity. This has also helped to improve their social recognition and the economic status.


Nisha Shrestha
Surya Narayan ShresthaBhubaneswari ParajuliAmod Mani DixitBijay Krishna UpadhyayOm Kala KhanalKhadga Sen Oli, (2019) “Enhancing earthquake resilience of communities: an action by women’s groups in Nepal”, Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal, Vol. 28 Issue: 1, pp.84-92, https://doi.org/10.1108/DPM-07-2018-0217

An unformatted version of the Nepal case study can be downloaded here

Enhancing resilience against floods in the Lower Motowoh community, Limbe, Southwest Cameroon

 Gaston Buh Wung, Geotechnology, Environmental Assessment and Disaster Risk Reduction (GEADIRR), Limbe, Cameroon, and Festus Tongwa Aka, Institute for Geological and Mining Research, Yaoundé, Cameroon and GEADIRR, Limbe, Cameroon 

Limbe City in Cameroon is dotted with unconsolidated pyroclastic cones formed by the activity of nearby Mt Cameroon. Poverty  is considerable and most of the inhabitants  are low-income earners who live in unplanned settlements in the low-lying (only 1–2 m above the sea level) areas of the city that  are seasonally flooded. The quest for cheap land results in people cutting the slopes of, and building on unconsolidated pyroclastic cones that are prone to landslides and floods. A 2015 frontline survey result showed inundation as an important  threat  to the Lower Motowo community. Other threats include coastal erosion, fire, landslide and poverty. Floods have impacted on the community over the last 20 years, with increasing intensity. Consequences range from loss of life (death), injury, loss of livelihood (houses, crops/farmland and animals), destruction of greenery, to disease and complete disruption of the community life.

Five consultative meetings were organized with the community to better understand the situation. The unanimous action adopted was to dredge the river. This needed the hiring of a caterpillar tracked digger. The cost of hiring and the work plan were agreed upon at a series of consultation meetings. Community leaders coordinated the collection of funds from community members. The river dredging action was completed in early May 2016. Follow-up shows that after many years of misery from floods, Lower Motowoh community residents did not have floods during the rains of 2016 and 2017. It was a big sigh of relief for the about 500 people who benefited from the action. Mud removed from the dredged river bed was deposited as levees on its banks thus reclaiming vast patches of land that had turned into wasteland by being flooded every year. People are currently rebuilding on the reclaimed land. Despite the fact that they had not heeded to the people’s call for help for a long time,  local government got convinced by the Frontline action results,  and sent representatives to the site during the dredging exercise. The local government has also up-scaled the river dredging action further downstream. Community members who had refused to contribute their time for the meetings and money for the digger finally did so.


Gaston Buh Wung
Festus Tongwa Aka, (2019) “Enhancing resilience against floods in the Lower Motowoh community, Limbe, Southwest Cameroon”, Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal, Vol. 28 Issue: 1, pp.76-83, https://doi.org/10.1108/DPM-06-2018-0193

An unformatted version of the Cameroon case study can be downloaded here