“Though the flood happened this year, the loss wasn’t huge. We were able to save our lives, livestock, food, and seeds. We can easily regain our livelihoods.”
Wouldn’t it be beautiful to hear this during monsoon-induced disasters rather than hearing of the loss of lives and livelihoods? Practical Action is committed and works with the communities with the same goal. One of the aims of Practical Action is to build resilient communities. Practical Action works with communities in southwestern Nepal and helps them live and thrive despite floods. Over two decades, together with communities and local governments, we have been able to save lives through effective disaster preparedness and a state-of-the-art flood early warning system. Coordination has been done with all tiers of governments to demonstrate the community resilience wins, and advocate to systematize these wins to help allocate more investments for climate resilient and disaster risk reduction development planning and implementation.
Communities as changemakers
Practical Action starts with the communities. The communities are at the forefront of climate-induced disasters. With proper training, skill, and social organization they have taken over as changemakers through our community-based early warnings system and disaster preparedness programs. These communities come together and form Community Disaster Management Committees (CDMCs), which are voluntary, grass-root community-based organizations composed of community members, women, and youths.
These micro institutions represent their communities for disaster risk planning with the local governments and various stakeholders and are the entry point to reach communities living at disaster risks. There are additional task forces for first aid, early warning, and search and rescue that volunteer for the community focusing on the most vulnerable people. They have developed a mechanism to raise disaster management funds within the community. The CDMCs coordinate with various other stakeholders to improve community resilience.
Bangaun CDMC of Kailali is one of the CDMCs that Practical Action has helped form just like in the other 25 communities in western Nepal. This CDMC has been actively supporting its communities to prepare effectively for the monsoon. Despite the uncertain situation aggravated by covid, the CDMC has also been responsive in managing the mixed vulnerability. This CDMC has experience in dealing with extreme events. In 2010/11, the flood wreaked havoc in Bangaun. But thanks to effective community-led disaster risk reduction and management. The communities have since been much safer despite the extreme tantrums of monsoon.
Practical Action initially worked to improve community flood resilience including preparedness, structural and non-structural mitigation measures, and resilient livelihoods. Later, Practical Action worked with CDMCs like the one in Bangaun Village to enhance their knowledge and actions for flood resilience through training, regular meetings, follow-ups, social mobilization, and annual mock flood simulations. Community members and municipality stakeholders have hailed the CDMC for being very proactive and resourceful in disaster risk reduction and management.
Helping communities thrive despite floods
Keeping people’s lives safe from floods is not enough. It is also important that floods do not impact assets and businesses so that they can recover quickly and get back to their normal lives and livelihoods with minimal damage. Practical Action also works with communities that lie alongside these river channels and tributaries and helps them build their resilience to these floods so that they can survive and thrive despite floods. We employ a unique approach to building resilience. We use Flood Resilience Measurement for Communities (FRMC) to unpack and understand the flood resilience capacities of communities. This framework is based on five capitals and 44 sources of resilience. After completion of the survey, the results are graded into four categories. The grades are shared with communities based on which the communities identify necessary interventions that could help improve their resilience. Resilience interventions could be from any of the livelihood capitals (human, social, financial, physical, natural)
Amongst many interventions guided by the FRMC, Sita Tharu and Pradeshini Tharu from Murghawa chose banana farming as livelihood interventions. It is their first attempt to plant bananas, which they started after receiving training from Practical Action. They started banana farming in their joint 14 kattha land. This is a joint effort where these families got together and invested jointly in their flood-prone land; that had been turned barren after floods from Karnali.
Such efforts are made to enable the communities through training to diversify livelihoods and promote cash crops in riverbed areas. Banana farming has been doing very well. They have been able to earn more income and spend on their children’s education and family well-being. They can save and invest in community cooperatives, which will help them in hard times.
Innovation and Policies to support building the resilience of the communities
With the learnings and evidence from our community-based initiatives, we have influenced the policies of local, provincial, and federal governments. We have received requests from and supported rural/municipalities to build local disaster and climate resilience plans (LDCRP). These LDCRPs have been formed based on the federal draft guidelines of LDCRP from the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration (MoFAGA). The main objective of these LDCRPs is to mainstream climate-smart risk-informed, resilient development planning and implementation at local government levels. It will also help these municipalities to prioritize climate-smart and risk-informed programs and help receive co-funding support from other government and nongovernment programs and projects.
As per priorities identified in the LDCRP of Rajapur Municipality, the community received an additional budget of NPR 8,62,000 to build a wall around the irrigation canal in Chakkhapur from another organization. Similarly, the municipality allocated NPR 1,000,000 for the communities of Tighra to build a similar wall structure around an irrigation canal.
Practical Action has also conducted numerous research that has supported as evidence in national advocacy for climate and resilience. Practical Action conducted extensive research and proposed an assessment framework to assess and address climate-induced loss and damage in Nepal. The assessment framework was based on research with the communities that suffered from the 2014 floods. The assessment framework has been cited by many researchers. It is also cited in the National Framework for climate-induced loss and damage, proposed by the Government of Nepal in 2021.
Similarly, Practical Action has also been working with the local government and various stakeholders to conceptualize and build risk-informed sustainable tomorrow cities, as a part of the ‘Tomorrow Cities’ initiative.
On top of all, Practical Action in partnership with Global Parametrics, Stonestep, and Shikhar Insurance has initiated the Index Based Flood Insurance (IBFI) in Nepal, the first product of its kind, in Nepal. The insurance will cover possible damage caused by flood hazards based on a pre-agreed flood index indicated in the IBFI product approved by the insurance board. Index-based insurance can be more effective for low-income households and communities exposed to river floods and those living in flood-prone areas.
Practical Action is a global change-making group. It is a change-making organization that works in unconventional ways. It is focused on putting indigenous ideas into work to contribute to poverty reduction and sustainable well-being. Apart from programs focused on building resilience, Practical Action also implements various programs that promote farming that works and programs that ensure access to clean energy.