Disaster risk reduction | Blogs

  • Why is Raspberry Pi perfect for building flood resilience?


    August 20th, 2018

    Could a palm-sized $10 computer become a life-saving tool against disasters and climate change? In this blog, Rob Mullins (Raspberry Pi co-founder) and Miguel Arestegui (Disaster Risk Reduction specialist at Practical Action) discuss how the Raspberry Pi micro-computer is building flood resilience in Peru and how it could help us in the future.

    A Raspberry Pi micro-computer. Source: www.acadecap.org

    A Raspberry Pi micro-computer. Source: www.acadecap.org

    Creator meets user

    Raspberry Pi was founded by Rob Mullins and five other friends in 2009 at Cambridge University. Rob and Eben Upton (now CEO of Raspberry Pi trading) met to discuss “how applicants for computer science had fallen sharply and how those applying had less experience than in the past. The solution, we thought, was to build a low-cost computer. The idea was that this would be something that children could own, experiment and create with and build into exciting projects.”

    Since then, more than 15million Raspberry Pi computers have been manufactured and it has become the go-to technology for creating low-cost, yet powerful, solutions to local problems.

    Miguel Arestegui and his team have used the technology to adapt and improve flood early warning systems in Peru

    “As part of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance we’re working in communities [in Chosica, Peru] where we have the problem not only of floods but also of rapid debris flow”. 

    Without enough warning, communities cannot escape the danger. Although national warning systems do exist, Miguel explains, “There is a strong distrust of flood forecasts, because we have a serious lack of historical data in this area”. An effective local solution was clearly needed.

    Miguel’s team discovered that the “Raspberry Pi Foundation has this weather station kit  for high schools, and that gave us an idea: what if we tackle this need…[by] adapting or developing this sort of early warning system?” 

    Miguel and Practical Action then worked with the community and local government to implement a warning system controlled by monitoring stations based on Raspberry Pi. The micro-computers receive and process information on rainfall, soil moisture and river water levels, and take pictures. This information then feeds into platforms that issue alerts.

    An ‘end-to-end’ early warning system composed of four components, including monitoring which in Chosica is controlled by Raspberry Pi. Source: Practical Action

    An ‘end-to-end’ early warning system composed of four components, including monitoring which in Chosica is controlled by Raspberry Pi. Source: Practical Action

    From toy box to tool box

    So what is it about the Raspberry Pi that makes it the perfect flood resilience tool?

    It’s open-source

    “The fact that the board is used by so many people means it’s become a standard component” says Rob. Plus, because all those users are creating projects with open-source code “other people can build on them and improve them”. This means there’s a community of people and experience to kick-start new projects.

    Miguel’s experience demonstrates this advantage: “We completely constructed this [early warning system] with the community. The open-source code was the building block that helped us complete this in […] just over one year. It would have been impossible if we were working on our own.” 

    It’s adaptable

    Because users have full access to Raspberry Pi codes without commercial constraints, the technology can be tailored perfectly to fit need. “People are able to use computers as tools” says Rob, “they’re able to produce the solutions themselves rather than having to go to someone else to provide the implementation. This stimulates local solutions to local problems.”  

    For example, in Chosica the previous early warning system was controlled by nation-wide commercially-owned software, which made local-scale changes impossible. But Miguel explains that because the new system was based on Raspberry Pi adaptations could be made based on local knowledge, for example “to take data more often than what technical studies would suggest. This was later found to be necessary based on the short lead time for these rapid events, stressing the importance of local memory in data scarce regions. The fact that these technologies can be locally adapted makes them good for building resilience, which goes way beyond isolated preparedness measures.”

    It’s low-cost but not low-tech

    “Previously, low-cost implied low-tech” says Miguel. To have both high-tech and low-cost “is providing a new platform that could help link the gap between local needs in developing countries and the usual high cost of equipment that hinders National Scientific Institutions to address those needs”. 

    Rob agrees, he has seen that “there is enormous scope to…replicate an expensive and very specialised system using something like Raspberry Pi to produce something that is technically almost as good, but using a very low-cost solution.”  

    Miguel Arestegui with first version monitoring station controlled by Raspberry Pi in Chosica, Peru. Source: Practical Action

    Miguel Arestegui with first version monitoring station controlled by Raspberry Pi in Chosica, Peru. Source: Practical Action

    The future of risk, resilience and Raspberry Pi

    How do our experts think the technology will change in the future, and how could this make an even better tool in the fight against climate change?

    Better hardware

    Rob, as the hardware expert, thinks the next few years will bring “ultra-low power computers that can be used in these monitoring applications. Also computers that eventually just biodegrade and don’t have the impact on the environment that they do today.”

    Better connectivity

    Miguel sees a future where more and more of us are connected to the internet. “Right now there are some constraints with connectivity that I think are going to start changing quite rapidly. [This] is going to provide so many tools for people in vulnerable situations”. 

    Changing the way people can share their own knowledge will help them cope with climate change. According to Miguel, “in climate vulnerable areas there is a critical problem in the lack of connection between the impacts of climate change and the amount of data you have in those areas. I think that these technologies can help the role of local information that communities themselves can provide to address this gap.”

    Better networks

    Rob says “even though the community is very strong I still think there are opportunities to build better networks, for example between universities in different countries”.

    But Miguel predicts better networks may also need to exist at higher levels. “I am curious to see if we arrive at some sort of standardisation of these open-source and decentralised initiatives. It is useful to adapt development to local contexts but I think to scale-up these initiatives and make them reliable and robust enough to take to high-level discussions, a level of standardisation is needed.” 

    Local volunteer Anghelo Dueñas with the latest version of the Raspberry Pi based monitoring station. Source: Practical Action

    Local volunteer Anghelo Dueñas with the latest version of the Raspberry Pi based monitoring station. Source: Practical Action

    To discover more solutions for building flood resilience, or to find other information and guidance visit The Flood Resilience Portal

    Or find out more about Chosica’s flood early warning system in this technical brief, or this 360 degree video 

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  • Market based resilience building in Bangladesh


    July 26th, 2018

    For the past week I have been visiting the Practical Action programme in Bangladesh to support their work on resilience programming. I attended the wrap up meeting of the GRP Project, worked with the consultant team undertaking the final external evaluation of the project, helped staff in the flood resilience programme design activities for the next phase of the project and attended the meeting of the Markets Development forum.

    Bangladesh is a relatively young nation achieving independence in 1971 and being described by the then US foreign secretary as a bottomless basket. The country has progressed considerably in the recent past and Bangladesh set a landmark record in poverty alleviation by reducing it by 24.6% between 2000 and 2016, meaning more than 20.5 million people escaped the poverty line to find better lives for themselves. Bangladesh has also been praised in the world media for its outstanding successes with regards to various socio-economic indicators, such as the rate of literacy and life expectancy.

    A demonstration of the commitment of the country to a market driven development approach was clearly demonstrated at the Markets Development Day that I was fortunate enough to attend. I gained a deeper insights into their valuable contribution to market driven development particularly as I was invited to provide the conference wrap up, due to the last minute withdrawal of the pre-agreed speaker. In summarising the conference I was made aware of the diversity of challenges matched to the wealth of critical thinking by the development actors in this forum.

    The Market Development Forum is a forum of over 25 likeminded organisations exploring the use of markets based approaches to poverty reduction. As highlighted above Bangladesh has made significant gains in this area, but this is not felt equally by everyone. The theme of this year’s conference recognises this with the topic “Unblocking barriers to markets” with specific focus on the following;

    • Youth and jobs, in recognition of the rapidly growing youth population facing challenges with inadequate growth in the jobs markets
    • Humanitarian Context, the role of markets in humanitarian relief, especially reflecting that Bangladesh has recently seen the arrival of &&& Rohingya refugees
    • Financial inclusion, looking at linking the small scale informal financial systems developed in poor rural areas with mainstream finance and access to traditional banking and credit
    • Women’s Economic Empowerment, many economic sectors are dependent on predominantly women works with the garments sector the largest GDP revenue earner
    • Reaching the disabled, how to make markets truly inclusive and ensure that the many disabled people in Bangladesh have equal access
    • Social services, markets development on its own is inadequate this session looks at the parallel development of social systems necessary to support and stabilise poverty reduction benefits in often precarious markets

    I was impressed not only at the level of participation in the conference, but also the diversity of organisations and perspectives displayed. The presentations were excellent and the question and answer sessions expanded the discussion indicating the depth and breadth of markets development thinking in the country.

    What were some of the key take home messages I picked up from the conference?

    For the markets in humanitarian context the challenges highlighted are in the case of the refugees is the almost instantaneous impact refugees have on existing value chains. The presenter highlighted that in Cox’s Bazaar where the refugee camps are located, the labour markets has collapsed from 500bdt[1] per day to less than 100, while the price of construction materials have increased with the price of raw bamboo poles tripling in price. In the flood case study the flood severs markets, causing value chains to be broken, as access to services, input and export markets become severed. In this situations it is important not to overlook the role of markets in the pre flood disaster planning, to ensure that forecasts and weather information are used to inform the markets actors to ensure that activities are matched to expected conditions and if extreme flood events are expected the critical supplies can be pre-positions for rapid deployment in the case of a flood event becoming a human disaster. Tools such as Emergency Markets Mapping and Analysis (EMMA) and Pre-Crisis Markets Assessment (PCMA) are invaluable tools to help agencies plan for markets based engagement in humanitarian contexts.

    For the youth and job sessions the situation in Bangladesh is challenging. The country has a growing youth population but insufficient employment opportunities to offer this potential workforce. In addition the traditional education system is failing to deliver the practical skills necessary for employment. So structural changes to job markets need to start in the education system. The projects presented are looking to develop appropriate opportunities for these workers, including self-employment in formal as well as less formal emerging sectors. Finally for youth employment it is important to look at the right supporting services including Sexual and Reproductive Health, Gender Based Violence, skills training and job placements.

    In the women’s economic empowerment, the first session highlighted the differential access to information for women and men. One project explored how the provision of information to women enabled them to explore alternative livelihood opportunities. Traditional extension services are focussed on providing services to men and male dominated institutions. New technologies can provide access to formerly disconnected groups. For example SMS messages reach wider audience and voice messages can reach illiterate members. The presenters reported that access to information is certainly benefiting women’s economic empowerment. But more importantly does the access to information lead to changes in the behaviours between women and men? Early indications are that access to information, is leading to women informally helping their neighbours and men being more tolerant of women’s engagement in additional activities and accepting if meals are late.

    In my closing remarks I commented on the refreshing absence of any market maps in the presentations. It is important to recognise that they are a vital tool in markets driven development, but can provide a very unclear method to share findings with a large audience. It was great to get the core messages from their markets projects without descending into the nitty gritty of the value chain, the key actors, the supporting services, or the limits and opportunities presented by the enabling environment. My final comment was on the absence of the care economy in any of the sessions I attended. I was surprised in a forum in which gendered markets development projects were being presented that I learned little about the traditional role of women and men and the implications for the markets driven development on women’s existing role as the care giver.

    [1] BDT Bangladesh Taka (100 BDT = 90 pence)

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  • Reaching the Last Mile: Challenges and Lessons from Early Warning Systems

    Understanding Risk is a global community of researchers and practitioners working to identify, assess and communicate disaster risk. This year, the fifth Understanding Risk Forum was held in Mexico City. The Forum was attended by 1,050 people from 101 different countries and over 550 organisations, including Practical Action.

    Our session on “Reaching the last mile” focused on communicating risk effectively to the people most vulnerable to disasters. In order for people to protect themselves from hazards, they need to receive information, understand it, and be able to act on the information.

    However, there are many complex barriers faced by vulnerable communities: when information is shared via text message, people without access to a mobile phone can’t receive the information; if information is not communicated in local languages, or if technical or unclear wording is used, people who receive the information may not be able to understand it; and if people don’t know what actions to take, are afraid of losing their possessions, don’t have anywhere safe to go, or do not have decision-making power, they will not be able to act on the information.

    Within vulnerable communities, factors including age, gender, ethnicity, literacy levels, physical capacity and poverty affect the needs, priorities and abilities of people to access, understand, and respond to information.

    For example, a study that Practical Action is conducting in Nepal and Peru found that women and men often have different roles in evacuation. In addition, women experience unique difficulties evacuating related to their gender, presenting challenges related to their clothing, hair length, caring roles and responsibilities, lesser physical strength, and inability to swim. Perhaps because of these challenges, women prefer to evacuate earlier than men. However, because women lack decision-making power, they are often unable to take action until men decide to evacuate, by which time evacuation routes are more dangerous, particularly for women, presenting them with additional risks.

    We were joined in our session by colleagues from BBC Media Action, the UK Met Office, Soluciones Practicas (our Latin America office), and the German Red Cross.

    Lisa Robinson from BBC Media Action shared examples of their work in Bangladesh, where they partner with a local radio station, Oromia Radio, to broadcast a short radio magazine programme which provides practical advice on agriculture, water, sanitation and shelter.

    They also broadcast a reality television series which visits vulnerable communities as they work with their neighbours and local government to build their resilience. They have found that their audiences and listeners trust this information because it is in their native language, specific to where they are, and is easy to understand. As a result, people are using this information to make decisions.

    At the other delivery end, the UK Met Office is working to build the capacity of national meteorological services in hazard-prone countries. Nyree Pinder highlighted the key role that meteorological agencies have in identifying and communicating risk as they work within the government to protect lives and livelihoods. The UK Met Office is working through a range of programmes to build the capacity of national and regional meteorological services to improve climate information services, and is moving towards impact-based forecasting to better meet the needs of vulnerable communities.

    David Lau from Soluciones Practicas highlighted how the team in Peru are engaging with the community to build resilience. As well as installing solar-powered field monitoring stations to measure rainfall using photographs and soil saturation, community groups (brigades) are formed and supported to use these stations, issue evacuation alerts, and conduct drills. In this way, knowledge is owned and trusted by the community, supporting improved resilience in the long term.

    Mathieu Destrooper from the German Red Cross then demonstrated how the early warning system in Peru could be improved to give vulnerable communities more time to prepare: combining upstream water levels, rain forecasts and soil moisture levels could increase the time available from one to five hours, to one to five days.

    However, as well as improving forecasts, there are key questions to consider regarding how to guarantee early action being taken at the community level. Context will affect whether early warning systems are best managed locally or nationally, how to define thresholds for alerting and taking action, and how to share warning information.

    The session brought together a range of voices, perspectives and experiences in reaching the last mile. Our panellists worked in different countries, with different stakeholders and at different levels, engaging with national and local government, media, and directly with community members.

    Across this broad range of experience, a key factor emerged consistently: there are a multitude of factors which affect people’s vulnerability to and experience of disasters. Our work on early warning systems must be context-specific and tailored to the needs of the people who have to respond to warnings in order to ensure action is taken and lives are saved.

    Related links

    Reaching the last mile: addressing gender inequality in early warning systems

    Collaborative mapping creating local flood resilience with global impact

    Advanced Early Warning Systems Protect Lives and Livelihoods in Nepal

    How the community in Bangladesh prepares for Cyclones – BBC Media Action

    Early warning systems are a key component of community resilience to disasters and have the potential to save lives and livelihoods in hazard-prone communities.

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  • Technology for Development


    June 28th, 2018

    Why is technology justice central to international development?

    As history demonstrates, technology provides a catalyst for change. Practical Action has been working on flood Early Warning Systems (EWS) for over ten years and we have seen not only technology adoption taking place but also social change occurring.

    At the Technology for Development conference the focus is very much on the former, but in my active participation and interaction with the conference delegates I am interested to explore the latter.

    Looking beyond the hardware

    Practical Action’s experience of developing EWS, demonstrates the benefit that new technologies can have on development. However, although technology may provide a jump in capability, understanding the nature of the change is vital if these developments are to be maintained. We need to understand the causal factors in adoption and what are the threats to this progress being maintained?

    EWS appear to have a transformational impact on the communities that they reach, although this transformation doesn’t take place immediately in synchrony with the delivery of the technology, there is a time lag between the rollout of the technology and the social change needed to embed the EWS into people’s lives.

    For EWSs the following greatly simplified process takes place:

    • Phase one – No EWS, the community lives at high risk, they may implement a basic observation based systems and flee at the onset of each flood event, but losses accumulate as population density and climate change impacts progress;
    • Phase two – EWS arrives but trust is not yet built so impact on behaviours is limited. Critical is the provision of reliable warning combined with the delivery of actionable warning that people can understand and follow;
    • Phase three – community members begin to trust the EWS system, they begin to rely on it as rainfall events, this starts to adjust behaviours, rather than fleeing when the warning is announced they prepare for the evacuation, and in the process they start to learn about what preparedness actions are the most beneficial;
    • Phase four – communities begin learning about hazard profiles, and that no floods are the same, they start to recognise critical impacts and trends in the hazard event, this learning leads to adaptations in their lives and livelihoods to limit loss and damage.

     

    At the Technology for Development conference we are hearing a lot about the success of the technology systems, but less about the impacts these systems have on people’s lives. People almost seem to be passive beneficiaries rather than components in the system. As we have learned, the EWS must become integrated into people’s lives. This will enable people living in flood prone areas to be empowered and informed to live with the risks they face.

    Looking at the roll out of EWSs, and how this is being reported in the key global agreement, we find a similar disconnect. Reporting for global agreements is too focussed on the technology roll out and not on the impact the technology has on avoided losses. Most systems are focussed too heavily on the monitoring and warning components and most systems are failing to reach the poorest and most hazard prone.

    Recommendations

    Investment in technology is vital if we are to deliver on the SDG’s, to put the Sendai framework for DRR into practice and to meet the global obligations under the Paris Agreement and hence avoid the disaster of climate induced change. Central to delivery under the Paris Agreement is the need for a financing mechanism under the Loss and Damage mechanism to ensure investment to put in place to ensure avoidable losses are maximised.

    EWS are vital transformational mechanisms, not as simple silver bullets but as catalysts for behavioural change. It’s not just the hardware but the orgware and software that also requires investment, time and patience, and the system must be owned and for the communities to ensure these benefits are delivered.

    Find out more

     

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  • Elevated hand pumps supply clean water during floods


    June 18th, 2018

    Dakshin Sahipur, a small village near the bank of the Karnali River in southern Nepal, gets flooded every year. Most of the residents here are former bonded labourers, freed after the Government of Nepal abolished the bonded labour system in 2002. The government provided five kattha of land (around 1.700 square metres) for each family for their sustenance. However, the land provided was prone to flood during monsoon and drought for the rest of the year.

    One of the residents, Phoolbashni Chaudhary, 45, explains:

    “Every monsoon, our land gets flooded, we lose our crops and more often we lack clean drinking water. Our hand pumps get submerged in flood waters for more than a week. Even after the flood recedes, small water beetle like insects come out with the water for a month.”

    a. Common hand-pump in Phoolbashni’s house. b. Phoolbashni Chaudhary carrying water from raised hand-pump

    The hand pump is a major source for drinking water in this area. But because of its height it is submerged during floods. Flood water enters into the hand pump and contaminates the water. When the flood recedes, small water beetles come along with water from the pump and people can only use the water after filtering it through cloth.

    The government provides water purification tablets as part of the relief materials after the flood recedes. But because the information on the use of these tablets was unclear, people used to put all the tablets directly into the hand pumps.

    Khadananda Jaishi, a neighbour of Phoolbashni shyly said,

    “We had no idea about the use of the water purification tablets so we used to put the tablets directly in the hand pumps and simply filter the water to remove the insects. Now we understand, why we used to fall sick after flooding!”

    Things are different now for the residents of Dakshin Sahipur.   Community members have constructed an eight foot tall raised platform for the hand pump along with a deep bore system for irrigation. They use the hand pump for drinking water during monsoon and irrigation at other times.

    Nepal Flood Resilience Project (NFRP) provided 60% of the cost of building the raised hand pump.  Practical Answers, the knowledge service of Practical Action, is supporting the communities to develop the knowledge and skills required for different livelihoods by providing relevant training.

    Thanks to the deep bore irrigation and the training, member of the community have started growing vegetables commercially. Khadnanda Jaishi was able to earn NPR 40,000 (£278) selling sponge gourds and pumpkins in the three months’ from March to May this year.

    Phoolbashni happily said, “We don’t need to worry about drinking water during the monsoon and we are making the best use of it in other months of the year as well.”

    She added, “We had never thought we will be able to grow vegetables in this dry and sandy soil but now we are making profit of at least NPR 5000 (£35) a month.

    It has really changed our daily routine and life.”

    Khadananda and Phoolbashni busy in their vegetable garden

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  • Authorities join local communities on mock flood exercises in Nepal


    June 13th, 2018

    USAID/OFDA funded project, implemented by Practical Action and Nepal Red Cross, joined hands with government agencies and communities to organise mock flood exercises in Kankai and Kamala River basins in Jhapa, Siraha and Dhanusha districts marking World Environment Day on 5 June 2018.

    Mass SMS from DHM

    It was organised in coordination and collaboration with the government’s Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, National Emergency Operation Centre, respective District Disaster Management Committees (DDMCs) and local governments together with DRR actors to help the communities. A total of 41 communities (26 in Kamala and 15 in Kankai River basins) participated in the drills simultaneously from 8:00 am in the morning for over next two hours.

    This covers 10 local governments, 7 municipalities and 3 rural municipalities where over 50,000 people are vulnerable to flooding at different level risks. The massive exercises, directly involved more than 5,261 women and 4,287 men as volunteers, 778 task force members, 265 disaster management committee members and 10 project staffs. The exercises were organised to test the systems and mechanisms of disaster prevention building on the early warning systems set up by the project in coordination and collaboration with the agencies, communities and organisations at local level.

    The project has tested the capacity of risk forecasting, monitoring and communication systems of end to end flood early warning system in these river basins through these exercises. The exercises were carried out considering minimum of 20 minutes lag time. In real flood event, the time for community ranges from 20 minutes to 4 hours in Kankai and Kamala River basins from the time they first get the flood information. The flood forecasting stations in Titriya for Kamala River and Mainachuli for Kankai River are the sources of flood forecasting at real events.

    Rescue by task force members.

    The District Disaster Management Committee comprises all appropriate government agencies, NGOs and private sectors in each district. The security forces (Nepal Police and Armed Police Force) also joined the mock flood exercises in different communities and jointly carried out the drills. “Such exercise can help improve the response capacity of community along with skills on coordinated actions to deal with emergency situations,” said the Chief District Officer of Siraha.

    The districts have taken leaderships and institutionalized the events through formal decisions and requested NEOC and DHM to help them. This year, the event was organized in six rivers in Nepal – Karnali, West Rapti, Babai, Kamala and Kanakai Rivers covering about one third of total flood prone districts in the Tarai.

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  • Flood mock exercise triggers disaster preparedness


    June 13th, 2018

    Disaster preparedness is crucial for prevention of losses and successful coping as well as building community flood resilience. Better preparedness ensures reduced loss of people, their assets and livelihoods. Building on the end to end flood early warning systems Practical Action has been helping communities in its projects to adopt ‘flood mock exercise’ as an approach to self-test the capacity to respond floods and institutionalise disaster preparedness at all levels in Nepal.

    Day of nationally coordinated action

    First aid volunteers performing mock drill.

    On 5 June 2018, while world marked environment day, flood vulnerable communities organised flood mock exercise to ensure they are ready to upcoming monsoon rains and potential flood they would generate. Generally, monsoon rains start by 10 June in Nepal. Therefore, the day is much appropriate to test the preparation and ensure everything is in place. On this day, community disaster management committee (CDMC) at grassroots level performs and leads different actions as a part of preparedness such as testing of risk information sharing devices/techniques, practicing of rescuing people at risk, providing first aid service, bringing people and their assets to safe place, informing local security personnel, serving dry foods among others and so forth activating available humanitarian clusters and coordination mechanism. These actions are linked to national level flood forecasting, monitoring and communication abilities. It’s truly a nationally coordinated action.

    Joining hands with local governments to initiate more actions on disaster preparedness

    Community members and stakeholders reviewing the event.

    Flood vulnerable communities coordinate with local government including emergency service providers for flood mock exercise. The local security forces perform flood mock exercise in collaboration with community people. Local governments joined flood vulnerable people in the exercise. This helped local governments understand community initiatives and institutionalise the flood preparedness actions during monsoon. The local governments determines the most flood vulnerable communities and takes decisions to perform flood mock exercises. Later on, after review of flood mock exercises, local government officials move on for further preparedness.

    A wake up call for all

    DHM’s text message on status of flood sent via Ncell.

    Flood mock exercise brings together all level DRR stakeholders together for single objective in common platform. Agencies responsible for risk monitoring, generating risk information and disseminating it to respective people and DRR actors has to work in in close coordination and collaboration. It is so interdependent that every agency should awaken to complete their tasks and provide and pass on the support to next. In Nepal, Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM) is responsible to monitor flood risk and provide it to Emergency Operation Centers and other agencies. They monitor different systems and generate rainfall and flood risk information for different time period in defined river basins in flood early warning system. The other DRR agencies then, act on the available information. The information is shared and disseminated through defined diverse communication channels such as online bulletins, social media, telephones, text messages, FM radios, sirens and volunteers visiting door to door.

    During mock exercise, these all agencies and the community have opportunity to test the ability and functionality of the system they work in. Nepal’s largest private sector telecom Ncell have volunteered to send text messages to their subscribers in the area decided by the DHM or MoHA. The EOCs who are working on behalf of Ministry of Home Affairs mobilized a team to disseminate risk information messages and district government decisions as District Disaster Management Committee (DDMC) decisions.

    Building community flood resilience
    This is an innovative strategy for disaster risk reduction promoting institutionalization of good practices and checking preparedness in time at the face of upcoming flood risks. Bringing everybody together it reveals the need of joint actions; the largest training for everybody useful to life saving. The communities lead the response supported by all around at local to international using modest technologies. It is small, simplified and very important. Truly beautiful!

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  • Saving seed and grains from flood


    June 12th, 2018

    Chandra Bahadur Rokka Magar and his neighbours in Tikapur Municipality, ward 5 of Kailali district, face the wrath of floods every year.

    Chandra Bahadur showing water level during flood

    Magar says, “Our village is near the Karnali River, so we face flood very often. In some years the floods are more disastrous. In 2014, floods swept away all of our belongings and it took more than a year to recover.”

    Magar and his neighbours lost their standing crops to floods. The stored seeds and food grains were soaked with flood water. And due to stagnant water and prolonged rainy days, they were unable to dry the seeds and food grains in time and lost them completely.

    Thanks to a government river engineering project, for the last three years, they have not faced such disastrous floods. A dyke constructed along the river bank has protected the village from flooding. However, last year the floods damaged  the dyke and the villagers are worried about flooding this year.

    Chandra Bahadur standing in front of his raised grain storage

    Magar is anxious, “If the government does not repair the dyke on time, we’ll need to be prepared to face the floods again.”

    Learning from the previous flood damage and with the guidance of Nepal Flood Resilience Project (NFRP), Magar and his neighbours plan to plant a flood tolerant rice variety this season and have built a raised grain store on a 36 square foot platform 4.5 feet above the ground.

    Magar says, “Even if the flood level is not always disastrous, we face flood regularly. Our seeds and grains used to get damaged every year. So with the guidance of NFRP staff, we have constructed raised grain storage. I can store 12 quintal of grain (1 quintal equals to 100 kg) in it, safe from flood.”

    This time Magar and the other farmers of Tikapur will have grain to eat and seeds to plant when the floods recede.

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  • ‘Technology’ Enabling Adaptation to Climate Change


    June 11th, 2018

    At CBA12, Practical Action is working with IIED and its conference partners to lead an ‘adaptation technologies’ workstream, exploring how technologies can be used to enable communities to adapt to climate change; increasing their resilience to climate stresses and shocks, and how ‘technology’ can be used to lever support and investment in adaptation.

    In a world where we see new technology changing the way we live our lives, and constantly surprising us about what is possible, it is no wonder that ‘new technology’ is often looked at to provide a solution to the issues that face the world.

    The daunting task of delivering effective action on climate change – the mitigation and adaptation objectives of the Paris Agreement – is no exception to the idea that ‘technology’ will help us achieve the sustainable change we need.

    New technology has been an enabler of climate change mitigation. Commercial research and renewable energy technologies have created tremendous opportunity for nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and, therefore, implement their mitigation commitments. Through market competition or regulation by governments, the private sector has been instrumental in improving the energy efficiency of engines, cars, planes, factories and homes.

    The story is not the same for adaptation, for which there is still woefully inadequate finance, limited innovation and little success! To address this there are growing calls for the scientific community to deliver market oriented and transferable adaptation technologies – technology ‘fixes’ – silver bullets!

    However, what is really needed are affordable, co-created and long-term solutions. As with mitigation, the ideal is to mobilise the private sector to deliver the additional innovation and resources needed to achieve change at scale. However, the innovation and technology needs to be appropriate – accessible and affordable – to small scale poor or risk adverse farming families in developing countries.

    To do this, technologies need to use or build on the assets smallholders already have, have low cost, be reliable (have little risk), and work in the long-term. These are the technologies that are likely to be adopted and lead to adaptation at scale, i.e. adaptation technologies.

    Adaptation technologies in developing countries might be about using the natural capital rural communities already have – their plants, animals, soils, water, forests, land – in a more resilient and productive way. For example, water and land use management that integrates the needs and voices of all vested interest groups – including groups within households, farmers, livestock owners and other.

    Alternatively, they might be about how recent advances in renewable energy have created opportunities for farmers to cope with the increasingly unpredictable weather and seasons, or households to process or storage produce, and thereby develop added value to enterprises. A good example of this is solar powered irrigation for crop production. Solar powered irrigation can range from portable units, to small standalone systems, to multiple sites within mini-grids, or to large systems that replace diesel pumps in extensive irrigation schemes.

    Or ‘adaptation technologies’ might be about how digital or communication technologies improve the access to and use of knowledge. For example, short and medium term weather forecasts that give farmers and traders a better understanding and confidence about supply and demand and therefore prices. Or using new digital devices and information so that farmers know what is happening in the market and strike better deals with traders for their produce.

    Practical Action is an active and committed participant in the CBA community. Given the lack of implementation of the ‘adaptation’ component of internationally agreed actions on climate change, Practical Action is working with the CBA community to develop evidence and the narrative needed to inspire greater and more effective investment in adaptation – especially in developing countries.

    Practical Action’s key messages are:

    1. New technology has been an enabler of climate change mitigation, however, this is yet to happen for adaptation. To achieve this requires more committed support and investment – to get the finance and innovation that is needed for success;
    2. There is a need for affordable, co-created and long-term adaptation solutions that involve and engage the private sector. System change requires all actors to be involved;
    3. Finally, technologies that enable climate change adaptation must be accessible and affordable to small-scale, poor and risk-averse farming families in developing countries, to be adopted and so enable adaptation at scale.

    More information about Practical Action’s role at the CBA12: https://policy.practicalaction.org/policy-themes/food-and-agriculture/cba12-2018

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  • Collaborative mapping creating local flood resilience with global impact


    June 1st, 2018

    Worldwide, floods are becoming more intense and unpredictable every year. Communities in developing countries face many barriers to protecting themselves, their homes and their livelihoods from these floods. But a new digital mapping approach, developed by the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance, is helping people to understand this risk, prepare for floods and protect themselves.

    The data gap that undermines resilience

    It’s vital for communities to be able to plan for flood events: by identifying safe places to go and by protecting their buildings, livestock, crops and other infrastructure. But in developing countries this planning is made difficult by a lack of accurate information. Without detailed local maps communities don’t know where the risks or safe places are, or where to find resources to support them, like safe shelters, clinics, or safe sources of drinking water. When community maps do exist they are often hand-drawn, inaccurate and useful only to a small number of people.

    A typical community risk map

    The Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance (ZFRA) has developed an approach to address this issue: we have been working to combine collaborative digital mapping techniques with community-based mapping methods.

    Bringing local knowledge to a global scale

    To bridge the data gap in local information we used OpenStreetMap, an emerging open-source platform which is based on contributions from people all around the world: from engineers and humanitarians to mapping enthusiasts. These contributors use aerial photos, GPS and low-tech field maps to give accurate and up-to-date information about their location.

    We were able to take the information provided by this new technology and combine it with the local knowledge of volunteer mappers, who compared the digital information with what they could see on the ground.

    Using this combination of local and global knowledge, we were able to produce highly detailed information which is more accurate, easier to update and easier share. With this information,  more people can be better informed about the risk they face, and so make decisions to keep themselves safe.

    Use case: collaborative digital mapping in Nepal

    In the Karnali river basin in Nepal – , where flooding last year alone killed 135 people, destroyed 80,000 homes and resulted in an estimated £61 million worth of crops lost –   we mapped over 50,000 buildings and 100 km of road thanks to the efforts of a dozen local social workers. They identified agricultural land, community forests, safe shelters and irrigation canals: information which had previously not been captured. This allowed communities to visualise their risks, resources and resilience in a way that was impossible before.

    Comparison of hazard map of Chakkhapur community before and after digital mapping approach

    What this means for flood resilience

    This approach is an exciting step forward which means that communities will have access to information which is specific to their location and helps them to make decisions based on the risks they face and the resources they have. When we know not just where floods are likely to occur, but where, for example health posts, schools and water pumps are, we can think about what risks the flood itself poses to a community: Will safe drinking water be contaminated? Will people have access to health care? Will children be able to get to school or will the roads be washed away?

    This means that communities can plan effectively and take the most effective action to protect themselves from the impacts of flooding, whether it’s raising water pumps so that they are above the anticipated flood water level, relocating supplies or reinforcing roads.

    So far, we have applied this approach in Nepal, Peru and Mexico. There is huge potential for this mapping approach to build resilience in hazard-prone communities around the world.

    Read more:

    Full paper – Integrated Participatory and Collaborative Risk Mapping for Enhancing Disaster Resilience

    Policy Brief – Participatory digital mapping: building community resilience in Nepal, Peru and Mexico

    Related Post – Flood Dynamics in the Karnali River Basin

    Related Post – Floods and Landslides in Nepal, August 2017

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