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Disaster risk reduction through livelihood improvements
Communities are vulnerable when they have limited livelihoods assets and options, and are
frequently affected by hazards such as flood, drought, crop pests, livestock diseases, etc. Their
vulnerability is further amplified when local or national policies and plans do not address their needs.
Vulnerable communities can fall into disaster when even a small shock or hazard affects them.
Practical Action Nepal has been working with
communities in Chitwan and Nawalparasi Districts who
frequently face drought, flood and wildlife hazards,
being close to a national park. This project has taken
a livelihoods approach to disaster risk reduction.
It recognizes that unsustainable livelihoods, e.g.
deforestation, cultivation of steep slopes, unmanaged
grazing etc., can exacerbate hazards. In turn, hazards can
undermine livelihoods through land erosion, destruction
of crops, damage to infrastructure, and loss of life.
Livelihoods approach to disaster risk
Two key strategies are pursued in order to reduce
vulnerability to disaster:
minimizing the adverse impacts of hazards on assets
and resources through prevention, protection and
preparedness; and
ensuring effective recovery through strengthening and
diversifying livelihood strategies.
After carrying out a participatory vulnerability
analysis, community members are now able to
understand the hazards and take steps to protect their
lives and livelihood assets. This is achieved through
improved forest management which reduces hazards
such as flooding and landslides. Gabions and bunds have
been constructed which protect land from erosion when
flooding does still occur. Early warning systems, response
plans and emergency shelters have been established to
ensure that lives (human and animal) can be protected.
Interventions have helped communities to strengthen
their access to livelihood assets, and to diversify their
livelihood options, which enables them to recover
from hazards more quickly. For example, they have
successfully accumulated assets, including cash through
saving and credit schemes, which can be drawn on to
cope in times of need.
Scaling up into policy
To achieve this kind of change at scale, government and
other agencies need to take a similar integrated approach
to development and disaster management. Practical
Action has built the capacity of local government and
partner NGOs to work with communities to analyse
and address vulnerability. Community plans are now
incorporated into District Development Plans in Chitwan
and Nawalparasi.
Adaptation strategies
Communities in these districts are already starting
to feel the impacts of climate change in the form of
more frequent and unpredictable hazards. Therefore,
the above strategies to support disaster risk reduction
are ever more important. Furthermore, strengthening
access to livelihoods assets is proving to be critical
to ensuring households and communities are able to
adapt to changes in weather patterns. In addition to
these strategies, work by Practical Action has led to
the conclusion that access to new types of information
will also be critical: not only information about climate
change and its potential impacts, but also new skills and
technologies which will help communities to maintain
production under an unpredictable environment.
Gehendra Gurung
Practical Action Nepal
Pandol Marga, Lazimpat
P O Box 15135
Kathmandu, Nepal.
Using gabions to construct dykes for flood protection at
Kolhuwa, Nepal
See also
For further information about this work and related
publications, please visit