Climate change | Blogs

  • Today’s Earth Overshoot Day

    Margaret Gardner

    August 13th, 2015

    Today 13 August is Earth’s Overshoot Day – the day when we have used up all of the ecological resources available for the year. From now on we – as a planet – are in ecological deficit –using up resources we don’t have. And what’s worse according to The Guardian the pace at which we gobble up resources is getting quicker – with this year’s Earth Overshoot day 6 days earlier than last.

    And our response?

    I worry we’ve turned to the ecological equivalent of a payday loan – continuing to squander resources irrespective of the cost, long term implications, and hugely high impact inflation. Fracking, oil exploration and drilling in the Artic, food waste – in the UK retailers and consumers throwing away between 30 and 40% of all food, etc.

    We experience ourselves not as part of nature but somehow separate from it – or at worst dominant, scarily in control of our ecology with the faith that technology will somehow bail us out.

    Why does this matter?

    Climate change is already hitting the poorest people hardest. They live in the main on some of the most marginal and therefore vulnerable land.

    In April I was in Zimbabwe talking with farmers struggling with increasingly erratic rainfall. Crops yields were poor as the rain came late after the crops had already ripened and wilted. John Siambare Practical Actions Field Officer explained ‘this year crops planted using conventional farming techniques died before they did anything’

    We at Practical Action can work with farmers to help them cope – through

    Irrigation scheme Zimbabwe 2015

    Irrigation scheme Zimbabwe 2015

    agroecological farming techniques that maintain moisture in the soil, crop diversification, food preservation, solar irrigation etc. And to help build peoples resilience – if you don’t know what environmental change is going to throw at you – and one of the biggest impacts of climate change is increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather – how can you plan – you just need to get as good as you can at responding to change.

    But ultimately climate change is catastrophic and we will get to a stage where adaptation is impossible and land where people now live no longer viable.

    If the increases in consumption continues as now – in 2 to 3 years Earth Overshoot day will be in July, 5 years after that in June.

    Time to change our ways?

    Fritz Schumacher, Practical Action’s founder, in his book ‘Small is Beautiful’ , talked about moving to a world where we look to maximise wellbeing with minimum consumption. Small is Beautiful was published in 1973. The time for change is now.

     

     

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  • A Progressive Approach to Climate Compatible Development

    co-author Francis Muchiri

    Sustainable development will increasingly be judged on emerging metrics such as climate compatibility and gender-sensitive approaches.

    Climate change is a collective challenge facing the world today, and any effective solutions to slow down or mitigate its effects will need collaboration at all levels. It continues to manifest itself through natural shocks that are increasing in intensity and frequency: raging floods, extended and unpredictable droughts, compromised eco-systems and so on. The effects of climate change have a direct bearing on industry, industrialisation, food security, human migration trends, production systems, availability of water, and overall poverty levels, with the greatest negative impacts being felt by the most vulnerable groups.

    Because of the diffuse nature of its effects, conversations around climate-compatible development should take into account the diversity of efforts required: from the broader policy level, right down to the communal level, that will lead to greater impact. Kenyan women selling charcoal in Bondo market

    Women in both rural and urban areas face barriers (social, economic and political) that limit their ability to cope with the impacts of climate change. However, there is a danger in singling them out as passive victims or recipients to the benefits of adaptation or mitigation activities. Any collective efforts need to engage women alongside men and any other groups, as potential actors or agents for change. Information on the effectiveness of gender-sensitive approaches has not been quantified and analysed to produce clear evidence on the need for engendered approaches in climate compatible development. The lack of segregated data makes it difficult to demonstrate the link between gender, adaption and mitigation activities. Indeed, the impacts of climate change are experienced differently according to age, sex, location, and economic activity. It further has a composite effect on education, employment and the health sector, among others. We need to ask ourselves whether ongoing interventions incorporate strategies that ensure equal participation of both women and men.

    This presents a unique opportunity; to provide the required benchmarks on the effectiveness of gender-sensitive climate compatible development to create frameworks for future planning, investment and resourcing. Successful implementation of these interventions will require a demonstration of equity, where everyone benefits from, and is able to contribute to these measures regardless of their social status, locations, gender, occupation and so on.

    Evidence produced from Practical Action’s program implementation over the past 50 years has shown that community initiatives and interventions will neither be effective nor sustainable unless there is equitable buy-in and contribution from both men and women. Based on complete projects that integrated gender-sensitive approaches, there exist prospects to demonstrate how and to what extent engagement of both women and men in adaptation and mitigation efforts has contributed to the achievement of specific objectives, while improving their livelihoods.

    Susan Asiko lives in Kibera. She found herself in an unfortunate position when her only source of livelihood as a domestic worker came to an abrupt halt. After months of living from hand to mouth, and many times sleeping on an empty stomach, a neighbour introduced Susan to the briquette making business. With minimal education, Practical Action provided both business and technology support that has empowered her to manage her enterprise and make business decisions effectively. From an initial investment of Kshs. 200, she has been able to grow her business, producing an environmentally-friendly fuel for household use, and see her children through school. Her enterprise is meeting a number of varied goals: it is making use of available waste material, reducing reliance on ineffective biomass at the household level within her locale, and limiting the pollution generated from unclean fuels here. It might seem like a drop in the ocean, but because she was able to access relevant training, she can now make her individual contribution towards mitigating against the effects of climate change. How much more can be done to build an army of Susans?

    Practical Action through its consulting arm, Practical Action Consulting, is collaborating with the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) across three regions (Latin America, Eastern Africa and Southern Asia) to manage Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN)’s learning study dubbed “Gender Equality and Climate Compatible Development: Drivers and challenges to people’s empowerment”.

    The study will manage the production and dissemination of high quality evidence on gender-sensitive approaches to Climate Compatible Development (CCD) including how and to what extent they can contribute to increasing women’s ability to engage in adaptation and mitigation efforts in ways that affect the long-term impacts. The findings from the three sub-national studies will be used to substantiate the benefits of gender equality within the development and adoption of policy decisions and the subsequent design and implementation of appropriate development programmes in the case study countries and beyond.

    The one-year study will look at the adoption and meaning of ‘gender-sensitive’ approaches to Climate Compatible Development in different urban contexts, and also build understanding of the roles both men and women play in climate change related initiatives. It will also explore the socio-economic, political and cultural factors and conditions which either support or constrain gender responsive policies; strategies, approaches and actions; and the existing barriers in effective participation of women in decision making for activities around disaster risk reduction, post-disaster recovery, adaptation and mitigation in varied settings.

    In Kenya the CDKN Project will evaluate, through a gendered lens to CCD, the five-year Comic Relief Funded project titled People’s Plans in to Practice: Building Productive and Liveable Settlements with slum dwellers in Kisumu and Kitalewith part of its strategic focus on ‘People Living in Slums’. The project was implemented jointly by three partners; Practical Action, Kisumu Urban Apostolate Programme (KUAP) and Shelter Forum in collaboration with the defunct Municipal Councils of Kisumu and Kitale, commencing in 2008 and closing in December 2013.

    The overall aim of the project was to improve the well-being, productivity and living conditions of poor people living in informal settlements in Kenya and the East African region, 80% of who were women and children. It aimed at ensuring their inclusion in the planning and development processes of the Local Authorities; and by improving access to clean water, better sanitation, waste management, drainage, supporting secure land tenure and affordable housing.

    The CDKN study will document efforts made by development agencies to integrate gender into climate compatible development whilst identifying gaps that exist both in programming and policy at national and county levels. This will inform subsequent design and implementation of appropriate urban development strategies in cities and towns experiencing similar challenges.

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  • Learning from 2014 Karnali River Floods in West Nepal

    Sumit Dugar

    August 5th, 2015

    As part of Zurich’s flood resilience program, the post event review capability (PERC) provides research and independent reviews of large flood events. It seeks to answer questions related to aspects of flood resilience, flood risk management and catastrophe intervention. It looks at what has worked well (identifying best practices) and opportunities for further improvements.

    The Karnali region in Nepal experienced major flooding in August 2014, causing 222 deaths and severely affecting more than 120,000 people. The challenge now is to recover, build resilience and to prevent similar damages and loss during future disasters.

    Urgent Case for Recovery: What we can learn from the August 2014 Karnali River Floods in Nepal is a post event review evaluating flood events, impacts, response and recovery to understand what happened, what could have been done differently, and opportunities for building flood resilience in Nepal. The post event review conducted by ISET International, ISET-Nepal, Practical Action Nepal and Zurich examines two rivers and two districts in the area affected by the floods -the Karnali and Babai Rivers in Kailali and Bardiya districts in West Nepal.

    While the early warning systems saved many lives, these lives have been irrevocably changed with the widespread loss of livelihoods, property, and critical infrastructure. The challenge now is to prevent such damages and loss from future disasters and develop local resilience. A common misconception is that building resilience is an expensive, resource heavy process. However, critical gaps in the disaster management system can be fixed with inexpensive and simple solutions.

    Problems seen in the 2014 floods – such as unwieldy response procedures and lack of information – hamper response to all disasters, including the recent earthquakes. Decision-making processes should be improved, more reliable data gathered, and aid needs to get to those people who need it most. In the end, it comes down to finding ways to become ‘resilient’ to disasters. Resiliency means risk mitigation and preparation, not just picking up the pieces and starting again after every new catastrophe. This is also the focus of Zurich’s flood resilience alliance program.

    Schematic of Karnali and Babai Basin

    Schematic of Karnali and Babai Basin

    Focusing on the disaster management landscape as a whole, including disaster risk reduction, preparedness, response and recovery, this post event review evaluates the flood events, impacts, response and recovery to understand what happened, what could have been done differently, opportunities for action, and identify opportunities for improving flood risk and disaster management as a whole in Nepal.

    The bigger picture that emerges from the 2014 floods in Nepal can be applied more universally: long-term thinking and addressing chronic problems that increase hazards should be part of the picture to get beyond relief efforts. Much work is still needed to save individuals, families and entire communities from the devastation of floods.

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  • Climate Smart Agriculture: why avoiding ambiguity is vital to success

    Jack Spoor

    June 25th, 2015

    Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) is a phrase that has been gaining increasing prominence in both the sphere of international development and in mainstream media. But despite some powerful backers, CSA has not been without criticism. There are growing calls for clear guidelines in order to distinguish between what is ‘climate-smart’ and what is just business as usual under a different name.

     

    Sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes

    Adapting and building resilience to climate change

    Reducing and/or removing greenhouse gases emissions, where possible”

    (FAO, 2015)

    These are what the FAO considers the three main pillars of CSA. If you were to ask most development practitioners what they thought of such goals, you would probably get a variation of same answer: “wonderful, but how do we achieve this?”. This is the question asked by Practical Action’s second Technology Justice briefing paper: “Climate Smart Agriculture and smallholder farmers: the critical role of Technology Justice in effective adaptation”.

    More specifically, how do we ensure that CSA is actually achieving its aims?

    This question is an important one because it is underpins many objections to CSA. In October 2014, the Guardian published an article that criticised the involvement of certain large multinationals in the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture. It warned against “false solutions under vague “climate-smart” rhetoric”, and noted that the “looseness of the term” opened up the CSA label to exploitation. This article echoed the September 2014 paper by the same author from Actionaid International: Clever name, Losing game?, which was also highly critical of the ambiguity of CSA.

     

    farmer adaptation climate change

    Agricultural farmers in Jequetepeque, Peru

     

    These criticisms are legitimate and expose serious flaws in a large-scale international initiative. As such, it is imperative that these flaws are addressed as soon as possible. Without clear definitions, CSA is vulnerable to being reduced to a buzzword, to be used to boost green credentials without making vitally important changes to food production systems.

    The risks are twofold: firstly, if CSA initiatives are seen as risky, participation and commitment will wane. Secondly, if the claims of Actionaid International, La Via Campesina and other critics become reality, then massive damage could be done to both the environment and the reputation of future projects.

    Practical Action’s policy brief sets out how the three pillars of Technology Justice – access, innovation, and sustainable use – can be used as a lens for analysing whether CSA initiatives are really ‘climate-smart’. It explores whether these initiatives support smallholders, or simply ‘greenwash’ business as usual.

    For CSA initiatives to achieve equitable and sustainable agricultural development, initiatives must, at a minimum:

    • Improve and support access to agricultural production for marginalized smallholder farmers in a way that minimizes risk
    • Promote user-centred innovation that improves the adaptive capacity of smallholder agricultural systems
    • Facilitate sustainable use of the natural resource base to ensure the viability of continued production and adaptation

    The paper shows how practices that could currently be labelled CSA would be excluded if Technology Justice criteria were applied. For example, the use of inorganic fertilizer for quick returns on investment is cited as something which can be both harmful to the environment and fall under the banner of CSA. However, if Technology Justice criteria are applied, inorganic fertilizer can no longer be classed as climate-smart, as it supports neither accessibility nor sustainability. These principles can be used to assess all agricultural and CSA practices to ensure their long term impact is sustainable and positive for smallholder farmers.

     

    adaptation climate change farmer agriculture

    Woman farmer showing successful salt-tolerant rice crop, Bangladesh

     

    The criticisms of CSA in its current form have been effective in highlighting the risk of its exploitation and misuse. However, it is possible to distinguish between the concept’s flaws and its potential. CSA is here to stay; as such, it is vitally important that it is as effective and equitable as possible. Working towards Technology Justice in agricultural adaptation is truly climate-smart.

    Practical Action’s Technology Justice Policy Briefing Series can be found here.

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  • Will agroecology, smallholder farmers and technology justice be adequately considered in Bonn?

    Colin McQuistan

    June 5th, 2015

    Climate Change is a recognised threat to global agriculture and places in jeopardy the wellbeing of the poorest people whose fragile livelihoods are primarily dependent on agricultural production. Millions of farmers own less than one hectare of land, live on less than $1 a day and struggle to produce enough to feed their families, these are the people on the frontline when famine strikes. The fragility of their livelihoods will increase if serious climate action isn’t taken.

    farmer

    Pramila Bote age 28 making organic pesticide

    At the Bonn climate change talks the UNFCCC secretariat must be congratulated for dedicating time to discuss the climate change threat to global agriculture. The secretariat organised a series of workshops at which parties were asked to present on a number of critical agricultural issues, this blog reports on the first of these workshops, which explored forecasting and early warning systems highlighting progress and outstanding challenges.

    Overall the workshop reflected the current state of play, with developed countries presenting fairly coherent approaches that linked meteorological services, with extension advisors, policymakers and most importantly farmers and others whose livelihoods are dependent on primary production.  Unfortunately the developing countries struggled to report on more than a few isolated pilot projects[1].

    The workshop clearly recognised the immense benefits that forecasting and early warning systems can deliver, unfortunately very few farmers in the developing world are receiving these benefits and their productivity is therefore compromised. These countries recognised a number of almost universally barriers to these systems, which included issues of compatibility of existing software and hardware designed for a developed country context and the need for technology transfer and supportive financing.  They recognised their huge limitations in technical capacity, especially human capacities to install, maintain and manage these systems. They also highlighted the need for systems that deliver useful and meaningful information for local farmers. This will require an interface that can support local languages and indigenous knowledge, linking science to local systems and making forecast and early warning information usable for local people.

    Interestingly at the same time on the other side of the world the ICT for Agriculture community (#ICTforAg and #ICT4Ag) were discussing the role of technology.  It was reported that agricultural yields can be boosted by access to up to date information, about markets price, short term weather information and longer term seasonal forecasts, with a 11% increase reported for text messaging[2], however when this information was provided as recorded messages the productivity benefits jumped to 26%[3].  This clearly demonstrates the need not only for information but for information in a form that can be acted upon.

    So let’s hope the Paris Climate agreement to be signed at COP21 recognises the potential of forecasting and early warning systems and puts in place effective mechanisms for technology transfer, not just handing out bespoke systems, but also how to work with developing country partners to develop appropriate systems that meet local needs. Technology transfer will also require financing, it’s not fair to only hand out technology, it is vital to support countries to develop and adapt systems which meet their particular needs.  In the spirit of technology justice, sharing knowledge and finance will empower developing countries to design systems that build on their existing skills and knowledge to produce sustainable and practical solutions that reduce the fragility of the poorest and most vulnerable, those on the frontline when natural hazards strike.

    [1]http://unfccc.int/land_use_and_climate_change/agriculture/workshop/8935.php

    [2] https://twitter.com/wayan_vota/status/606105520966148096

    [3] https://twitter.com/wayan_vota/status/606105990652674048

    The text of the agreement on how the world will tackle climate change and set targets that will keep global temperatures from rising more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels is being negotiated in Bonn this week.

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  • Controversial report on financing energy access from the UNSE4ALL

    Simon Trace

    May 20th, 2015

    I’m writing this blog while sitting in the very impressive surrounds of the UN General Assembly Hall in New York on the 3rd day of this year’s UN Sustainable Energy for All (UNSE4ALL) annual forum. It’s great to see so many people gathered in one place to discuss the goals of universal access to energy, a doubling of the amount of renewable energy in the global energy mix and a doubling of the rate of improvement in energy efficiency. Although there is a long way to go, the UNSE4ALL initiative has genuinely accelerated interest in these issues in the last couple of years and has galvanised investment and developed really innovative ways of transparently tracking progress against these goals through what’s known as the Global Tracking Framework.

    energy enablesPractical Action has lent its full support to UNSE4ALL and continues to believe ensuring its success will be a critical contribution to both fighting poverty and achieving a sustainable future for everyone on the planet. But sitting here today, listening to a debate on how we find the necessary finance to achieve the goals, something worries me about the assumptions behind some of the calculations for funding needs for universal energy access. In 2011 the International Energy Agency (IEA) annual World Energy Outlook produced a detailed analysis of the funding needs to achieve universal access by 2030. Critical to that analysis were the assumptions about how far extensions to central electricity grids would be the answer to providing energy for those who do not have it at the moment and how much off grid solutions (such as solar powered lights, solar home systems, independent mini grids powered by renewable energy or diesel generators etc) would play a part. The IEA analysis concluded that total investment in energy access would need to range between around $30 billion a year over the period 2010 to 2015 to around $55 billion a year over the period 2026 to 2030. During that period the proportion of that investment that would need to be made in off grid technologies would need to rise from around 25% at the start to over 50% by the end. That is a really important conclusion as it says that we need a transformation of the energy sector with a huge emphasis on building capacity for an investment in off grid solutions such as solar power, micro hydro electricity, biogas etc. That is very different from where we are today, with the vast amount of investment just going into the grid.

    So why am I worried? Because, the UNSE4ALL’s Finance Committee has just published a report that contradicts this analysis (without providing any information on why different assumptions were used to the IEA). According to this new report off grid technology will only need to account for 15% of total annual investment (as opposed to the IES’s estimate of between 25% and 50%). Why does this matter? Because it takes the pressure off governments and the development banks to redirect finance to where it’s needed – to deliver off grid solutions for those who have no access to electricity now. It’s effectively a green light for business as usual – more money is needed yes, but just for the traditional energy sector. It’s a huge disappointment to see UNSE4ALL publishing a report that so dramatically contradicts the IEA’s earlier analysis without either recognising that contradiction or explaining the rationale behind it.

     

     

     

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  • Relief supplies arrive in Dhading, Nepal

    Amanda Ross

    May 15th, 2015

    Following the earthquake on 25th April, Practical Action’s Nepal team  has been working hard to help some of the devastated communities in Gorkha and Dhading.

    Distributing relief in DhadingWe’re focusing on:

    • Water treatment (to reduce deaths by disease, especially in infants)
    • Emergency shelters (for homes, and public facilities e.g. toilets)
    • Energy generation (lighting and heating, including for medical centres)
    • Solar communication technology (for mobile phone charging)

    Please help us deliver this help by donating to our appeal.

     

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  • People prioritise community infrastructure

    Samjhana

    May 11th, 2015

    Together with the Rapid Assessment Team of Practical Action, I recently visited Salyantar VDC of Dhading District, which is one among the most affected districts from the recent earthquake. As I transected into the villages, I recalled my memories back from 2008, during which I was directly involved in supporting biogas plants, constructing a high-school building and development of drinking water system through a project funded by the German Government. There were many known faces that had lost their loved ones and their property. I wanted to go closer to them, talk and ask the kind of support they expect from organisations like us in this difficult situation. Somehow, I felt that many of them wanted to smile back and thank as we were with our team to distribute relief items for them.

    _MG_3390

    Food items supported by Practical Action in Salyantar VDC

    A gentleman in his early 50s, named Babu Krishna Shrestha, came closer to me and said “What really hurts of all are the schools and health facilities that have been destroyed. It will take years to construct our schools, and unless this happens, our children will not forget the earthquake and this devastation”. Further discussing with him, I found that he lost his wife in this disaster who was also the Principal of Salyantar Higher Secondary School. I was greatly shocked – he was the husband of the woman I worked with eight years back to construct this school. I still remember her hard work and dedication during the entire period of construction. She greatly believed that the drop-out rates could be reduced provided an attractive school environment including infrastructures. She was strong with her arguments that poor infrastructures lead to poor student behaviour and conduct in the classroom, affects teaching learning environment, and weakens the health of children. She is no more, but I strongly feel that her arguments are highly valid. Our assessment team observed this together with many other schools in Salyantar VDC that have either been completely destroyed or require immediate renovation.

    IMG_3347

    Inner view of Salyantar Higher Secondary School

    Assessing further, we found that the only Primary Health Care Centre (PHC) of Salyantar VDC is also damaged. The buildings have bigger cracks making the patients vulnerable. Emergency patients are being treated in tents while other regular patients are attended through an emergency desk just outside the PHC. As mentioned by the Health Assistant Mr. Shambhu Poudel, there were 6 delivery cases in 15 days after the earthquake. The pregnant women were kept outside until the final labor, taken inside the building for delivery and shifted outside again after the delivery. Just imagine, how risky is it for both the mother and her baby inside such building? Equal is the risk of infection to both of them after delivery.

    Having the situation of community infrastructures observed, I no longer felt it necessary to ask people about their expectations. It is clear that people have more sentiments towards the community structures like schools, health posts and drinking water services. Of course, they want their children to have quality education and health care when in need. Practical Action is committed towards promoting small, light and economically feasible infrastructures/technologies in post-disaster situation and help people rise from this disaster.

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    Beds for patients in Salyantar Primary Health Care Centre

     

    Please join us and be part of this support. Visit us at http://practicalaction.org/helpnepal

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  • When generosity is the only attribute!

    Bhuwan Adhikari

    May 7th, 2015

    In the aftermath of Nepal’s mega earthquake and amidst incessant aftershocks, the Practical Action team here in Nepal are working hard to offer whatever in personal and professional capacities they can. All of us – as many as 82 professionals have all been affected in some way by the disaster’s destruction and have been doing all we can in such unprecedented nearly worst case scenario.

    6 May 2015At this time everybody’s goal is same but we are doing different things in different settings. After all, in a situation where whole state is screaming for rescue and relief, we are as if indifferent by virtue of our ability to bounce back from sorrows and trauma. We are working hard to reach the needy victims, form alliances with other organisations, sympathise and empathise with people’s feelings and contribute physically, mentally and financially.

    Our leadership so much engrossed in the emergency situation here, reaching out to people in the fullest capacity, and reminding me of my days in a human rights organisation when human rights violations and ethnic violence were rampant and urgent response was a high priority. To my surprise when everyone around me is so generous how can I seat just ideal? My seniors were coordinating resources and facilitating various channels to reach out to community. Our colleagues Buddhi Kumal is deployed in the forefront. My colleagues including Swarnima, Prabin G, Sachin and Milan were around ground zero zone for offering relief and rescue. Our DRR team is working at full throttle at ground level whilst all of us are being involved in various works that complement the undertakings of our experts.

    It is said that giving is always satisfying but when you have limited things to offer, generosity counts highly. The organisation itself has been urging all its teammates, donors and partners to express solidarity and to contribute in whatever capacity, so that needy people get sigh of relief and respite. Further to this, there are various stories of contribution in personal and professional capacities by our colleagues, domestic and universal coordination and appeals from relevant desk is all time high. This first-hand experience of generosity not only inspires but is catalytic in making the team more motivated to offer support and help. To be honest I was not as generous as I am right now.

    When leaders who better understand the organisation’s capacity and its strategic relevance are working 24/7, there is no need of other motivation and incentive. The sense of encouragement, the smell of generosity and cooperation is everywhere regardless of aims and themes. Standing tall as a rescue and relief providing entity needs much resource and expertise and our priority areas of reconstruction, rebuilding and resilience are waiting for more resources to pour in. However, we may be in short supply of resources but we are not in short supply of vision, value and vigour. The generosity with our sleeves rolled up for the relief work has made us a frontline organisation that focuses on immediate technological needs in regard to shelter, water supply and energy.

    I urge you all to be a part of our relief work. Please show your generosity by supporting our work.

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  • How many more deaths will it take before Disaster Risk Reduction is adequately financed?

    Colin McQuistan

    May 6th, 2015

    The extent of the horrific devastation in Nepal caused by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake is being increasingly realised. At least 7,566 have died[1], and it is reported that over 8 million have been affected. Further, the long term impacts on communities’ livelihoods, children’s education, and health and psychological wellbeing are unimaginable.  Earthquakes are an everyday risk in the region, as are floods, landslides and many other hazards. Scientists have warned of a ‘big one’ for decades and some have even predicted the exact epicentre location as that experienced this week[2]. It was never a case of if, but when.

    Nepal EQ map

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    But what was even more certain was that when it came, buildings would fall, people would die, and livelihoods would be lost. The losses in Nepal were not only caused by the earthquake; they were caused by bad development. The lack of provision of safe construction for a burgeoning population, the failure to separate housing from risk location, lax enforcement of building codes, and the widespread poverty restricting household’s ability to protect themselves. These are all lessons we must learn and implement in the future to avoid a similar catastrophe when the next earthquake strikes. Development must not ignore disaster risk reduction (DRR) this requires a shift from responding to disasters to managing risk.

    Many groups are contributing to this learning and rebuilding process. The National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET) holds workshops in Nepal to build the capacities of members of the community, local governments, and NGOs to build more safely. Practical Action works with rural and urban communities across the country to create locally appropriate flood warning systems and in Pokhara has worked with local partners to explore a multi-hazard approach to risk reduction. Oxfam implements community based DRR approaches across the country, strengthening local capacities to prepare for crises.  All these agencies are working with the government to strengthen risk reduction concepts in national laws.

    Nepal EQ 001 Nepal EQ 002

     

     

     

     

    Update 4 May: Practical Action teams are now in the remote villages in Ghorka. We have been able to source the vital supplies in Nepal, with only tents coming from India. Protecting local markets is a vital part of supporting local recovery #M4DRR.

    We are beginning to see this resilience building in an ad hoc manner in some communities in Nepal, and this reflects the state of affairs globally. But it needs to happen everywhere; it needs to be systematic. This requires additional, predictable and sustained funding for disaster risk reduction. But will the terrible toll in Nepal finally prompt lasting change? Is it enough to hit home about the need to reduce vulnerability and improve preparedness?  Do we now have the impetus to build back better – recovering in a way that builds resilience to future disasters? And is it enough to persuade donors and governments to fund this resilience building?

    States are currently negotiating an international agreement on the future financing of development[3]. Led by the United Nations, the agreement will lay out principles and targets to guide domestic and international public and private funding for sustainable development. The devastation in Nepal more than ever highlights the need for a specific funding target within this agreement on disaster risk reduction. After all, disasters are a development issue; disasters are exacerbated by bad development, and can reverse decades of progress in seconds. Sustained and predictable funding can help to mainstream risk assessments in local development planning and policies, builders could be trained in hazard construction, hospitals and medical staff could receive disaster preparedness capacity building, and disaster prevention could be integrated into school curriculums.

    It is sad that it often takes catastrophes to catalyse these changes. Some of the most significant achievements in international, national and local disaster policies occurred in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. Let’s hope the international community can learn from the devastation in Nepal and raise international commitments to finance resilient development, so that these human tragedies and economic losses can be largely avoided in the future.

    [1] http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/05/05/us-quake-nepal-collapse-idUSKBN0NI12120150505?utm_source=twitter

    [2] Bollinger, L., S.N. Sapkota, P. Tapponnier, Y. Klinger, M. Rizza, J. Van der Woerd, D.R. Tiwari, R. Pandey, A. Bitri, S. Bes de Berc (2014) Estimating the return times of great Himalayan earthquakes in Eastern Nepal: evidence from the Patu and Bardibas strands of the Main Frontal Thrust, Jour. Geophys. Res., DOI: 10.1002/2014JB010970

    [3] http://www.un.org/esa/ffd/overview/third-conference-ffd.html

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    NB: An earlier version of this blog by Lucy Pearson and the BOND DRR Working Group appeared on the BOND website

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