Strengthening livelihood capacities to disaster risk reduction
The Project: Mainstreaming livelihood centred approaches to disaster risk reduction
project has been implemented by Practical Action in Peru, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and
Nepal. In Nepal, Practical Action has been implementing the project in partnership with Sahamati in
Nawalparasi and Multidimensional Agriculture and Development Nepal (MADE Nepal) in Chitwan
districts. The project intends to build on the resilience capacities of the local communities to
reduce the risks of disasters through preventive measures and preparedness, reduce the losses
from disasters by effective rescue and relief measures and mitigate the impacts of disasters by
increasing the livelihood capacities of the households. Through multi-stakeholder partnership and
integrated approaches of community based planning and implementation, project aims to build on
the capacities of local communities and political bodies, village development committees (VDCs) and
District Development Committees in particular, to disaster risk reduction to achieve the goal to
contribute to national poverty reduction. The project started in January 2007. The activities are still
ongoing and will last in December 2010.
Hazards and vulnerabilities: Project feasibility studies, PVAs, community interactions and
stakeholder consultation at village, VDC and district level carried before and at the beginning of the
project provided information on hazards, stresses, contributing factors to different vulnerabilities and
priority options for interventions.
Flood, landslide, drought (shortages of water for irrigation and, in some years when more severe
drought occurs particularly for upstream community of Baulaha Khola in between March and May, for
drinking), wildlife intrusion, winter fog, invasive weeds, new pests and diseases in agriculture crops
and forests are major hazards that affect livelihood assets individually and collectively. Many hazards
are linked to impacts of climate change directly or indirectly and entirely or partially. The impacts
spread through different channels; sometimes resulting cumulative effects into different assets of
While wildlife intrusion is associated largely with proximity of the communities to the national
park, increase in intrusion despite decrease in wildlife population is linked to invasion of inedible
exotic weeds inside the park and community forests. Wildlife is badly affected due to the shortage
of food and water due invasive species and the drought. This forced them to intrude community
area more frequently where both wildlife and community and their assets are at risk of casualties.
Furthermore, droughts enhance likelihood of fire in the forests and settlements.
Seasonality of stresses: Different hazards impact at different times of the year. Flash floods
occur during the monsoon between June and October, dry spells usually occur between November
and May which has become more frequent, longer, intense and severe in the recent decade. Lately
the rainfall pattern has been changing creating water shortage for growing crops even during
monsoon period. Winter fog covers in the mornings during December and January and in recent
years it is more frequent, dense and lasts for longer (whole day) and expands up to second week of
February. New disease and pests attack crops of different seasons, but lately winter crops are more
prone to viruses. Usually wildlife intruded year round but between November and May, when food
is scarce in the Park, growing crops were more prone to invasion. But now intrusion is anytime
else due to invasive weeds inside the parks.
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Sensitivity: Different families are differently and uniformly exposed to different hazards.
Landslides and flood affect in two ways i.e. cutting down of agriculture land and damaging crop at
the bank of rivers and sometimes inundating whole village in the downstream particularly in
Chitwan. Cutting of land is almost annual event while inundation has taken place in 8 to 10 years
interval. Upstream hill slopes are prone to landslides. Weather pattern has been experienced
changed that disturbs usual crop calendar. Winter fog (known as sheet lahar) often affects winter
crops such as mustard and lentils. Invasive weeds have invaded grasslands, under storey and ground
cover in the park and community forests decreasing availability of fodder for both wildlife and
livestock. Wildlife damages crops, homes and cattle sheds, attacks livestock, sometimes claiming
human life. Winter fog, increased wildlife intrusion, obnoxious weeds and shortage of water for
irrigation have discouraged farmers in recent years sowing winter crops. Drought affects
agricultural crops and forests for their growth and production. It stimulates forest fire particularly
between February and May. It is more probable to catch fire by houses and cattle sheds in this
Impacts: While different hazards have specific effects, the ultimate impact of each hazard on
livelihood outcomes is similar: each reduces livelihood assets, the access to the remaining assets,
peoples’ capacities and their rights. Indigenous knowledge and coping mechanisms have not been
sufficient to deal with the compounded impacts of multiple hazards. Prevailing poverty and low level
of awareness, limited skills and thus options for livelihoods (and the preparedness) are major
constraint to build on the resilience.
In future vulnerability to these hazards can be predicted to be exacerbated by increasing human
population, unsustainable agricultural practices in catchments of rivers, changing vegetation
composition (inside the park), limited options for livelihoods, slow development processes and the
adverse impacts of climate change. Communities on the ground are more aware on the events that
appear suddenly, are physically visible and damage assets faster. Precaution on the slow onset and
creeping hazards such as drought, invasive species and loss of habitat for wildlife is less although
loss from these hazard was higher to sudden onset hazards.
Contributing factors: Different contributing factors are interlinked to geophysical setting,
socio-economic activities in the catchments, governance and weather pattern. Therefore,
integrated approaches are only viable for sustainable coping of multiple stresses. That needed
linking different sectors and stakeholders addressing development priorities and DRR together.
Project strategies: Project has devised and adopted community based practical strategies to
reduce the stresses and impacts of different hazards and their contributing factors. These strategies
include both structural measures such as defending wildlife by erecting electric wire fence around
villages, improving resources and access to existing water resources such as by building shallow
tube wells and water collection wetlands and improvement of irrigation channels, improving
spillways and strengthening embankments along the river, and non-structural measures such as
raising awareness and improving breeds and rearing practices in livestock and varieties and farming
skills on agriculture, introducing on-farm and off-farm income generating options such as vegetable
growing, bee keeping, house wiring training, and candle preparation. Disaster risk reduction
initiatives have been introduced through flood warning mechanisms, formation of disaster
management committee and encouragement of emergency fund within local governments,
preparedness for seasonal hazards and promotion of watershed conservation. Both strategies
include short-term and long-term activities along with accessory institutions and functional
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mechanisms such as DMCs, community groups, cooperatives and their inter-linkages within and
outside the community for their sustainability.
Implementation modality: Local communities, their organizations and governments have
taken the role of hub in the process of identification, prioritization and implementation of initiatives
and specific agencies take lead in the respective ground. For example, community identified shallow
tube well boring site for the needy group of farmers, users to each tube well, project provided
financial support to purchase pipes and pumping machines and technical support to bore shallow
tube-wells, benefiting households contributed labour, VDC recommended to provide access to
electricity and electricity authority provided tariff-subsidized electricity. Management of such tube
wells has been taken by the user groups who decide on the levy considering electricity tariff,
maintenance and replacement of pumping machine. The multilateral benefits of better access to
water resources include timely seeding and transplantation, opportunity for additional crop,
reduced cost of irrigation for those who used to rent pump and buy diesel, increased choice of
crops and social harmony.
Similarly, national park provided resources and permissions to erect electric fencing around the
villages to prevent wildlife intrusion inside the community territory. Forest user groups provided
timber for poles, and project provided financial support to purchase wire and materials not
available to the locality. Community raised fund by collecting levies from each benefiting family and
contributed labour. The overall environment was enabled by the respective VDCs and buffer zone
council creating the environment of trust among stakeholders. As the result, intrusion of the wild
animals into the community territory was prevented which saved up to 75% of crop alone. The
process also provided opportunity to raise awareness among villagers on the DRR and earn
support to biodiversity conservation.
The skills and capacities on agriculture, livestock rearing, group management, planning and
implementation are enhanced through field based practical trainings and demonstrations such as
farmers’ field schools, livestock health camps, training village agriculture and animal health worker.
Alternative means of employment and livelihoods such as vegetable growing, candle preparation,
bee keeping and skill based entrepreneurships like house wiring, mobile repairing have been
promoted such that pressure on the natural resources is reduced and sensitivities to shocks and
stresses are minimized.
Three years intensive work with flexible mechanism of partnerships and cooperation has produced
some tangible and intangible outputs. Improvement of 3 irrigation channels have improved
irrigation services to over 273 households in Nawalparasi while 14 shallow tube wells and a dig well
connected irrigation scheme provide opportunities for timely irrigation and an additional batch of
crop to 289 households in both districts. The wetland with raised and strengthened dam provides
home for certain wildlife, longer water availability for around 28 families and potential for tourist
destination in addition to environmental services. However, community capacities need further
strengthening for the sustainable management without external supports and their self-reliance in
future. Irrigation channels are exposed to landslides and floods which need preventive measures.
Vulnerability to wildlife intrusion has been reduced by supporting local initiatives on electric
fencing. Project support in fencing directly benefits to 1235 households in Chitwan and 1238 in
Nawalparasi, larger population than expected in the early stages of project implementation. The
total number of beneficiaries through different services has been depicted in table 1 at the end of
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Activities and outputs: Improved varieties, practices on land preparation, planting, intercultural operations and harvesting practise for existing crops (rice, maize, zinger, wheat, potato and
mustard) and new crops through field based orientations and demonstrations have enhanced skills
and capacities of the farmers and increased production for over 266 households and replicated by
their neighbours and relatives. Seasonal and off-seasonal vegetables are new and additional for
almost farmers. Over 450 households have initiated vegetable growing at different scales. Some of
them are increasing their production and income by selling in the local markets. From the second
year some farmers have emerged as leaders to commercial production and sale of vegetables and
the number is increasing.
Livestock rearing practices have supported to improve breeding and rearing practices particularly
for goat and pig, and organizing livestock health camps. Fifty seven households improved pig sheds
and 26 goat sheds in the upstream. Open roaring of pigs has fully controlled. Sanitation has been
improved for both livestock and villagers. Earlier, people from outside feared to visit these villages
due to the dirt and open roaring of pigs. Seasonally, livestock experts visit villages door to door and
The flood risk has been tried to minimize through different strategies; improving embankments and
spill ways in the down stream and watershed health particularly in the upper reaches. A range of
structural and non-structural strategies have been adopted; stall feeding, SALT, fruits, community
forestry and off-farm income options such as bee keeping and sitting tool fabrication are some
examples. Preparedness to the flood has been promoted through up and downstream linkages in
communication. It would be too early to see the results although there are some good indicators.
However, some activities need more investments and maintenance to make them strong enough to
defend upcoming stresses.
Institutions and linkages are established at local, VDC and district level to manage emergencies and
continuation of initiatives after phase out of the project. They are at their early stages and a lot
needs to be done to make them effective and functioning. Each project working VDC has disaster
management committee and disaster management plan for at least three hazards in top priority
(similar plans have been developed for 59 VDCs and a municipality in two districts), communities
are grouped in different groups such as irrigation user group, saving credit group, mother group,
bee keeping group etc. based on their livelihood practices.
As of end of February 2010, 20 farmers groups have been registered to respective district
agriculture development office (DADO) while other 3 are in the process, expected to be
registered within March this year. Two water source user groups (irrigation purpose) have been
registered to division irrigation office and a group is in the process. A bee keepers’ group is in the
process of registration to DADO and two community forest user groups are in the process of
registration at district forest office. A cooperative has been established and registered to division
cooperative office which is providing banking service to over 100 families. These institutions and
linkages provide legal basis, better and ensured access to resources and technical inputs from these
government line agencies. Project has supported with technical inputs and financial resources to
establish office, stationeries etc. The institutional development supports will continue.
Practical approaches based on the project learning and experience have been shared through
publications, presentation, meetings, visits and training events to the stakeholders outside the
project areas benefiting government officials, organizations and communities.
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Project assisted DDCs to publish DRR plans in two project districts. Practical approaches for
CBDM planning has been published and shared with national and international audience in both
printed and e-copies. A booklet with brief information on installation of shallow tube well has been
published and shared. Some good practices have been published in national and international
publications while a few others are selected for and being published. A book on CBDM is under
process of manuscript finalization and some documents on CBDM training are being tasted by pilot
trainings to clubs, government officials and other stakeholders.
Initial results: Results so far can be viewed through food security situation of 30% vulnerable
households in the project area has increased by 6 to 9 months (they are year round food secure)
and about 30% families increased food security between 3 to 6 months. More than 70% families are
now food secure for whole year, while over 50 families have earned beyond food security level.
Quality of food has been improved remarkably with additional menu of green vegetables as
reported by the beneficiaries. Growth of livestock has been observed faster and more vigour due
to improved breeds, feeding practices, healthier sheds and regular veterinary services.
Sensitivity to the wildlife intrusion and drought has been reduced remarkably as loss due to wildlife
has been reduced to negligible and farmers have utilized opportunities of irrigation to grow more
crops and increase usual crop production. Raised income could be attributed to contribute to
improve their resilience capacity.
Local and district level governments have initiated disaster planning and implementation processes,
and incorporated disaster risk reduction into their development planning. Some local bodies have
allocated emergency funds; organize preparedness meetings and allocated resources though not
sufficient for DRR in their annual budgets. Political parties have become more sensitive to the issue
and their youth wings are engaged in rescue. Some people trained by the project have started
providing services to others in and outside districts.
Lessons: Early lessons of the project can be summarized as; recurring hazards though less
striking in single event weaken the capacity of the community to sustain their livelihoods.
Traditional focus of the government and other organizations were only to rescue and relief
operations with respect to larger onset disasters. But the loss and impact is more severe and wide
ranging posed by the stresses particularly brought about by the creeping hazards in association with
mal (socio-economic) practices which are often neglected, if not, overlooked. Long term
cooperative actions are necessary in an integrated way to safeguard livelihoods of vulnerable
people thereby reducing the risk of disasters and improving the resilience capacity. Most severe
hazard and most affected asset of livelihood can be the starting point.
A challenge and also opportunity for the project was to create common understanding among
different political ideologies in viewing the disaster in different context. Disaster was not viewed
from the perspective of victims and failed to incorporate the needs of vulnerable communities on
the ground. However, a range of discussions, trainings, workshops and exposures between
vulnerable communities, government line agencies, development organizations and political party
representatives helped to establish common understanding on hazards, vulnerabilities and their
consequences. This has helped to create synergy to integrated and cooperative actions from
different stakeholders in DRR though slow in pace. Communities need to be more aware on new
disease and pest risks and impacts of climate change which is likely to raise the risk in future
beyond past experiences.
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