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21. Implications for Investments...

21.1 ...In Agricultural Development...

If DRM initiatives are to be sustainable, major investment is needed in developing and disseminating productivity-increasing, low-input agricultural technology. The latter is essential on the grounds of poverty alleviation, and to prevent marginal farmers from exploiting ecologically fragile areas such as hillsides, which leads to soil erosion and watershed degradation and thus increased natural hazard risk.

21.1.1 Agricultural Development in Lempira Sur

The Lempira Sur rural development project in the south of Honduras has promoted improved agricultural practices, river basin management, ecological sustainability, increases in on and off farm incomes and economic resilience among poor families. This has been achieved with the introduction and appropriation of improved land use practices, water management schemes, maintenance of biodiversity, local credit schemes, and the strengthening of local government and the abilities to plan urban and rural development. The notion of disaster risk reduction was never considered in the project document. However, the project demonstrates how ecologically sustainable, best practice agriculture, will lead to reductions in disaster risk, although this was not a defining character of the project as such. Hazard reduction associated with flooding and landslides has been achieved, along with increases in the resilience of the local population when faced with extreme conditions. During Hurricane Mitch the area covered by the project suffered little damage due to the types of land use and slope-stabilisation methods that were utilised, and it was able to provide food assistance to other areas severely damaged by the hurricane.

Source: Lavell 2002, at

Increasing support must be provided to sustain ecologically sound agricultural development, and more research is needed on hazard resistant crops. Research must focus not only on agronomic issues but also examine constraints to farmer uptake and adoption of new improved varieties. Farmers may simply not be aware of these, or bottlenecks in the extension service may prevent the dissemination of such information or distort its contents. In Brazil’s hazard-prone northeast, for instance, education helped local farmers rely less upon drought-prone crops such as corn and beans, and more upon sorghum, which is more drought resistant.

Advances in sustainable pastoral development are also necessary, possibly linking technical assistance in the livestock sector to a wider integrated programme. In North-West China, for example, a strategic anti-risk programme for herder households has been elaborated referred to as the ‘four counter measures’, which includes the construction of improved houses, cowsheds, fodder plots and fenced pastures. Given that most people, especially the rural poor, tend to be reluctant to leave their belongings behind, the building of community cattle pens and community strong-houses to secure animals and material household goods and possessions could actually save lives. As community-level common property, the strong-houses would best be built and managed by local institutions set up for the purpose within villages.

21.2 ...In Natural Resource Management...

Major efforts must be made to fight natural resource degradation and improve natural resource management (NRM) practices. Coming from new schools of thought such as New Public Management (NPM) and Total Quality Management (TQM), several instruments or management tools exist to do so (public-private partnerships, challenge (social) funds, etc.). These are essential to “tap” local knowledge and to let the primary stakeholders, the users of natural resources, play a major role in NRM. Especially in disaster-prone areas, all possible alternatives to deforestation should be encouraged and pursued. They must also be complemented by activities with a more direct impact on DRM, such as the consolidation and amplification of woodlands in coastal “buffer zones” and on river banks, in order to offer natural protection from flooding. In Orissa, India, the severe impact of the recent cyclone has been attributed to the destruction over the last decades of buffer forests between land and sea.

Usually, some trade-offs are inevitable between environmental conservation results and short-term livelihood gains, for example, in the case of “forest-dependent” peoples and poor land-constrained households clearing woodlands to grow food crops. There are however also experiences of “win-win” situations: the protection, consolidation and extension of the Nancunchiname forest on the left bank of the Lempa river in El Salvador, for instance has created a successful natural buffer to flooding. Even more importantly, it has opened up new productive and income-generating activities such as growing flowers, raising butterflies, cultivating medicinal plants, and ecotourism, all of which are necessary if the economic benefits of leaving the forest intact are to continue outweighing those of “selling it off”. Also very promising are Ghana’s ‘social responsebility agreements’ within timber utilisation contracts which, as tripartite agreements between the private sector, government and local communities, can be used to source substantive and regular DRM investments.

21.3.1 Training in Pastoral DRM

Concerning pastoral risk management, Yongong et al. (1999) find for North-West China that “there are major training needs of herders' group leaders, especially in the areas of pastoral risk management planning and implementation, and small group formation and management. In addition, the groups have no internal organizational structure and relevant organizational regulations, and no working funds, although membership fees are paid for effective functioning of internal cooperation” (p18). Moreover, the following needs for institutional strengthening were identified by the study: 1) to strengthen pastoral extension and veterinary service functions in risk management, poverty alleviation and sustainable pasture development; 2) to promote inter-household assistance and co-operation during the snow disaster occurring and recovering periods; 3) to strengthen co-ordination functions of community leaders; and 4) to further strengthen governmental financial support, technical services and institutional co-ordination roles.

Pioneering work has begun by environmental economists and others on imputing economic value to new “environmental services” such as carbon dioxide sequestration. Regions that give preference to leaving their forest canopies intact are thus entitled to financial compensation under these programmes; but much more needs to be done, and the worth of “avoided natural disasters” be factored into similar environmental programmes - landslides in 1999 cost Venezuela US$ 10 billion, corresponding to 10 percent of its GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Even where such options remain wishful thinking, minor improvements in NRM must not be costly, and local institutions can do a lot to raise awareness about such measures and provide a good example by putting them into practice. In the Dominican Republic, for example, the National Institute for Hydraulic Resources (INDRHI) builds and manages dams and irrigation systems worth millions of dollars, but pays very little attention to watershed management, even though the cost of planting trees is negligible; the establishment of watershed management associations, which elsewhere play vital advocacy roles, could address this situation.

Risks, disasters and poverty are closely interrelated factors constraining pastoral development and often cause a vicious circle by which a degraded pastoral resource base catalyses natural disasters; these lead to more poverty, which in turn leads to further resource degradation and accentuated hazard risk exposure. In many parts of the world, pasture ecosystem improvement is a necessary prerequisite to implementing DRM programmes. Again, it may not be costly when compared to the annual losses the sector incurs through natural disasters, and livestock development programmes should include components designed to take stock of existing practices that are beneficial, or at least harmless, to the environment, and from there launch participatory research and technology improvement projects with interested herders. Herders associations may establish livestock famine relief camps for weak animals, to be returned for a fee once they have recovered. An understanding of local incentives to protect pastoral resources is necessary to overcome government line agency personnel and traditional herder communities accusing each other of ineffectiveness in NRM.

21.3 ...In Training

“Progress in reducing the impacts of recurrent natural disasters depends on site-specific, targeted support to local capacities” (WFP, 1998: 8).

In a variety of post-disaster conditions, it has been found that NGOs require skills development in hazard mapping, risk assessment, as well as disaster damage and needs assessment (Guzman and Dixit 2002). Given their own scarce resources, governments are typically reluctant of funding such activities, and donors should insist upon assessing and addressing the training needs of civil society groups, including NGOs.

Training has often been targeted at male technocrats, whereas DRM at household level is also, if not mainly, a women’s affair. This male bias in training activities can in part be offset by focusing more on the household and farming systems level, to which the Sustainable Livelihoods (SL) framework can add important value - training the frontline staff of technical line agencies in SL could do much to further the understanding of household-level constraints and opportunities for improved DRM. To avoid wasting funds on unnecessary training programmes, the objectives of skills upgrading should be situated in the wider institutional environment, based on systems analyses of the functions and roles of the actors that participate in local “DRM arenas”.

Training syllabus for the introduction of disaster prevention; examples from Ahuachapán (El Salvador) and Petén (Guatemala)

Training topics


Introduction to disaster prevention
Planning and evaluation
Management and cooperation

Hazard and resource maps of participating villages
Project planning for each village
Emergency planning for each village
Analysis of strengths and weaknesses
Plan outlining cooperation at community level
Project profiles

Like in other domains, Training-Of-Trainers (TOT) in DRM has the potential of increasing the cost-effectiveness of DRM programmes, but “cascading” systems from the macro or meso to the local level have often been found inefficient. In two new project regions in Latin America, volunteer “multipliers” are engaged in a training course for half a year, whereby they address the issue of horizontal defragmentation and cross-fertilisation within TOT initiatives; the course includes five components that seek to link theory and practice (by addressing the topics and tangible results listed below; see the table in this Section). Course participants are divided into groups to elaborate project proposals which will constitute the basis for DRM measures (forest fires, landslides, floods, etc.) to be carried out in collaboration with local and other actors.

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