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Community based- flood risk management: experiences and challenges in Malawi

IWRA World Water Congress 2017 - Cancun Mexico
3. Water security in a changing world
Author(s): Robert Sakić Trogrlić
Grant Wright
Adebayo Adeloye
Melanie Duncan
Faidess Mwale

Robert Sakić Trogrlić
Heriot- Watt University
rs36@hw.ac.uk
Grant Wright
Heriot- Watt University
g.b.wright@hw.ac.uk
Adebayo Adeloye
Heriot- Watt University
a.j.adeloye@hw.ac.uk
Melanie Duncan
British Geological Survey (Natural Environment Research Council)
md@bgs.ac.uk
Faidess Mwale
University of Malawi- The Polytechnic
fmwale@poly.ac.mw



Keyword(s): Malawi, Lower Shire Valley, community- based flood risk management, disaster risk reduction
Article: Oral:

Abstract

Due to the number of benefits it brings to communities at risk, ‘people- centred’ approaches to Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) are receiving an increasing attention across the international DRR community. In January 2015, unprecedented flooding in Malawi highlighted the extent of local vulnerability to natural hazards. The Lower Shire Valley is the most flood prone area of Malawi, with the highest poverty rate in the country and, as in the rest of the country, a high level of dependency on rain- fed agriculture. Floods that occur on an annual basis present a serious threat to livelihoods and perpetuate the disaster- poverty cycle. Current flood risk management strategies rely on international funds from donors, which tend to be used to facilitate Community- Based Flood risk management (CB-FRM) practices implemented by non- governmental organisations (NGOs). This paper provides a critical overview of CB- FRM in Malawi, identifies lessons learned with respect to challenges faced, and presents the evolution of approaches for enhancing its efficiency and sustainability. A research framework, involving data gathered through focus group discussions, surveys and visits during field work in April 2016, has been used to analyse the current CB- FRM approaches. Through an established, decentralised institutional disaster management structure in Malawi, key stakeholders (i.e. rural communities, local government and NGOs) were consulted. The findings of the study indicate that risk reduction activities in the Lower Shire Valley are implemented across different stages of the disaster management cycle (i.e. mitigation, preparedness, response, rehabilitation). Examples include community- led dike construction, early warning systems, economic empowerment through village savings schemes, and afforestation. Although disaster relief remains a prominent component of the process, increased emphasis on risk reduction and preparedness has been observed. And despite the stakeholders’ recognition that CB- FRM has the potential to enhance the community resilience to disaster, a number of challenges and areas for improvement have been identified. The main challenges involve the relatively poor quality of existing CB- FRM projects which often undermines their long- term sustainability, weak governance in terms of coordination and reporting mechanisms between government and NGOs, and the lack of integration of rich, local knowledge into projects and policies. Furthermore, despite the strong presence of NGOs and numerous initiatives, it appears that certain areas in the Lower Shire Valley have remained under- serviced, while redundancies (i.e. duplication of efforts) can be observed in other areas. It is felt that by revealing the current challenges experienced in CB- FRM practices and discussing possible improvements, this study will be helping in improving the development of future risk management approaches in the Lower Shire Valley. Recommendations are also made in relation to revisiting local disaster management policies which serve as a basis for the allocation of projects and the development of policies that integrate capacities and knowledge of communities at risk. Consequently, the study contributes to a growing discussion in the literature that encourages an understanding of the core elements for a potentially transferable ‘blueprint’ for effective community- based disaster risk reduction on an international scale.  

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