Disaster Risk Reduction at the community level

I am going around rural communities (they are agropastoralists) looking at DRR programmes they were part of. It strikes me that there is a lot of enthusiasm from those that had the benefit of preparedness training. Talking to one village disaster risk management committee I could see clearly that it moved them to a new level of forward thinking. They now manage the pasture for their livestock well before it runs out, set up a grain bank, and plan ahead for potential food shortages at the end of the dry season.

All good. But then I spoke to people in a place where they had already lost pretty much all of their coping mechanisms. Meaning, when they had the trainings they learned about managing their options – but they didn’t have any options left to manage. Which makes a disaster risk management committee little more than a talk shop without real impact on the community.

What does this mean for those planning DRR programmes ? Most importantly, giving people skills to handle their own situation can’t just happen anytime. When the shocks have already depleted the options, they first need to be put back on a steady footing with traditional humanitarian assistance. When they have some resources back is the moment to learn how to plan better for next time.

This makes a lot of the funds available for DRR difficult to use, if they come on the back of humanitarian funds, or are even integrated in humanitarian funds. It almost forces organisations to come in with DRR work when communities have barely recovered. It looks like this makes a case for standalone DRR funding, either more from the resilience perspective, or as additional portfolios from humanitarian donors that can be timed more sensibly, when shocks are over and people back on their feet.

So, having said earlier that humanitarians have a big role to play in Resilience – a large part of it being their knowledge of what preparedness means – I think that the when is very important. Which at the end of the day points to the old realisation that separating humanitarian and development money really doesn’t make that much sense, and that humanitarians and development workers should be working together much more closely to really make things work.

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