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Community Participation In Disaster Management

2221 words (9 pages) Essay in Environmental Sciences

11/05/17 Environmental Sciences Reference this

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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 a certain direction, particularly if the 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 or structural measures that are visible and tangible such as installing early warning devices, etc. 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 by earning popularity.

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.

Third, 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.

Fourth, 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 asserts 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.).

Fifth, 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 may not necessarily resolve the issues of disaster risks or lead to greater and common interests of all of improving community resiliency. And

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 within the scope of participatory development. These limitations only follows that “bringing real community participation to risk management is a difficult task” which all actors should understand or at least recognize (Solo, n.d.:26).

And to understand more what CBDRM is as applied to real world, the next part gives us practical examples illustrating how effective implementation of CBDRM could potentially improve 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 UN ISDR compiled good practices in CBDRM that illustrates how communities have worked together towards a common goal and benefitted from their undertaking. Directly lifted from the UN ISDR study, entitled Building Disaster Resilient Communities: Good Practices and Lessons Learned (2007), below are some of the examples of CBDRM practices that link with climate change adaptation and implemented in different countries considered highly vulnerable.

Involving community members in increasing public awareness and capacity building through creating information campaigns to enhance the safety of the population at risk is cited as good practice. The project is an information campaign which stimulates creativeness and innovativeness from the local actors and similarly optimizes local talents, knowledge, and local resources in a way easily comprehensible 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. Natural hazards such as earthquakes have been continuously affecting the country of Haiti, while its urban areas are characterized with its dense urban population and dense built areas this make the country more vulnerable (UN-ISDR, 2007).

Another good practice is on 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 limited or no access to risk transfer schemes. The micro-insurance represents an innovative approach to help the victims; 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 after a major earthquake exposed the community members to disaster-induced financial losses. The project is said to be part of the Regional Risk Transfer Initiative, an action learning project of the Gujaratbased All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (UN-ISDR, 2007).

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, which the UN ISDR (2007) considered a good practice. 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. The region is characterized by experiencing a three-month rainy season and a nine-month drought season. Problems on food shortage is said to be brought by lack of climate-related knowledge and information that results to crop failure (UN-ISDR, 2007).

Another good practice 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 project was initiated to put emphasis on the capacity of families and local communities in playing a key role in Vietnam’s disaster risk reduction strategy and in reducing their vulnerabilities, which during the project implementation, community-based disaster risk reduction, is still not integrated. The process involves community 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). The severe typhoons and floods affecting the country have resulted to damage and loss of housing in the affected communities (UN-ISDR, 2007).

In order to understand current 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. The monitoring scheme, where community members themselves have identified the relevant indicators, serves as a tool for identification of environmental changes that may affect their livelihoods; furthermore, the results are used as basis for decisions on management actions, climate variability, policy changes, etc. Overall, the community benefits from the project by improving their capacities and promoting institutional development which consequently lead to enhanced resource management and livelihoods and increased capacity to manage and reduce risks related to drought and desertification and other potential disasters. This project in Namibia has influenced several government policy instruments with on-going derivative projects. Namibia is experiencing drought and desertification which impacts the livelihoods of people living in drylands. Poverty, increasing population, urbanization, naturally variable climate, climate change, lack of community organizations, political issues and other pressures further compound the problem (UN-ISDR, 2007).

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 Community 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 Philippines through Asian Disaster Preparedness Center and in partnership with the city local government. The country is among countries with highest exposure to natural hazards, a climate hotspot and belongs to the most natural disaster prone countries (UN-ISDR, 2007).

These are some of the CBDRM examples which, as we noted and apparent feature in these cases, are highly participatory in nature, engaging various stakeholders in different phases of project management as resource base, while trying to address vulnerabilities and recognizing impacts of natural hazards with the goal of strengthening community resiliency.

However linking to the shortcomings of participatory development, these initiatives have, likewise, recognized challenges in the implementation of the project – from the perspective of the project team, community level, and in partnering with the local government. For the part of the project organizer, it is on the project activities being time consuming which requires them to maintain efforts and demonstrate firmness, in terms of supervision and support, to ensure good quality output. For community level, it is on convincing communities on the process of participatory development and reassuring that social systems and cultures would be respected; motivating community members and elaborating the benefits they can derive from the project; maintaining community consensus and achieving behavioral change; ensuring and keeping up community participation throughout the project period through motivation; and enhancing or broadening community member’s local knowledge to enable a more participatory assessment. Moreover, the political and administrative culture such as top-down approach and government-led planning affecting project implementation; while support both from the local government and the community for long-term sustainability (UN-ISDR, 2007).

The last part allows us to step back from the purpose of this study, summarizing the arguments and concluding whether CBDRM is an effective approach to climate change adaptation. Likewise, it will give us some ideas where the study can have wider implications for possible future focus of research.

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