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Community resilience in the post-disaster context of Nepal

Resilience is the ability to anticipate risk, limit hazardous impact, and bounce back through survival and adaptability. Resilient communities are able to minimize the disaster’s disruption to everyday life by protecting their local economies. Resilient communities are not only prepared to help prevent or minimize the loss or damage to life, properties and the environment, but will have the ability to work through recovery, rehabilitation, and reinstate the essential services needed enabling day-to-day life activities. In the context of post-disaster earthquakes and affects in Nepal, many lessons have been learnt so far. They allow us to rethink and improve community resilience, a hot topic everybody talks about today.

Social engineering is as important as physical reconstruction. It preserves the cultural and social heritage of communities.

Reconstruction & effectiveness

Unlike other post-disaster countries, recovery and reconstruction in Nepal has taken a somewhat different approach due to a different physical structure, predominance of ethnicities, specific needs of indigenous people and different cultural aspects.  Speeding up shelter construction to protect vulnerable families from the monsoon rain and harsh winter is a major concern for all of us after the disaster.  However, family shelter reconstruction process not only aims to construct concrete houses and roofs, but to respect and preserve local traditional and cultural norms. Similar cases of post-disaster recovery and reconstruction proved that indigenous fishing communities in Indonesia and Sri Lanka did not want to live in concrete shelters, newly built  in the post-tsunami reconstruction program.

For each hazard we worked out the most effective prevention measures and ways forward, using local skills, knowledge, resources.

In Nepal, hundreds of engineers are working in reconstruction programs of the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), I/NGOs and the private sectors. However, social engineering is as important as physical reconstruction. It preserves the cultural and social heritage communities have been relying on for ages. Take the Tamang families, an ethnics group living in higher elevated rural mountain villages. Shelter programs that do not take into account their traditional housing design, are simply not effective. The same is true for other ethnic groups, like the Gurungs, the Newars and so on.

community resilience

Shelter construction site. After Cordaid’s masons training, people start building earthquake resistance shelters using safer technologies. (© Cordaid)

Identification of risks and village mapping

In Rasuwa district of Nepal, the earthquake affected families have a very practical approach to resilience. CORDAID, NGO partners Lumanti Housing and Parivartan Patra and the local communities have been working intensively together in a post-disaster recovery and reconstruction project. We shared knowledge and resources of resilient frameworks to fulfill the needs of the community.  Together we conducted a vulnerability capacity assessment (VCA) and a Local Disaster Risk Mapping (LDRM). Risks and needs of 18 heavily earth quake affected villages were thus outlined and sketched effectively.  Hazards, challenges and gaps in addressing them were mapped in a detailed way. For each hazard we worked out the most effective prevention measures and ways forward, using local skills, knowledge, resources and learning from good practices of others, to mitigate hazards and prevent future disasters.

A three decade old water conflict in the community of Jipjipe has been resolved by the resilience project.

Today, the community is rebuilding earthquake resistance shelters in areas where they feel comfortable and happy to live in. The local community has realized that recovery and reconstruction process after the big disaster is also an opportunity for them to learn, adopt, share and implement new and innovative skills to build back safer. The community resilience framework is methodically developed for communities to better define and map their own needs, their safety, and the social protection and sustainability of their livelihoods and environment.  The project launched the Local Disaster Risk Mapping (LDRM), in which the community actively took part and identified their role and responsibilities in terms of social protection and economic development in the future.

community resilience

A newly constructed 20.000 ltrs earthquake resistant tank . (©Cordaid)

Communities identify gaps and mitigation measures

Challenges defined in the community LDRM turned into the prime activities if the community driven resilience project in Rasuwa district. The main issues focused on safe shelter, water, health-hygiene, livelihood, infrastructure, market economy and local employment. The newly formed rural municipality bodies have adopted LDRM tools and the resilient framework as the model for local community development. Skills based trainings for local community members in Rasuwa were set up to bridge knowledge gaps in communities. Today, those who participated in the trainings can’t wait to share their knowledge and speak about community needs, past experiences and future mitigation measures.

community resilience

In Cordaid’s Disaster Risk Reduction training, participants are taught how to rescue persons who are trapped in the debris. (© Cordaid)

Building back better, building back safer

As a result of our resilience project, community bodies are now in a process to integrate and work together rigorously under the slogan ‘build back safer, build back better’.  The community functional bodies such as Citizen Forum, Water User Groups, Farmers Community, Women Cooperatives and political parties are working together tirelessly.  A number of skills based trainings have been provided by the project to the community members who are engaged in rebuilding today. A three decade old water conflict in the community of Jipjipe has been resolved by the resilience project. As a result about 200 families will have access to drinking water and irrigation facilities. The district government complimented this process and joined hands by providing small grants for additional water pipes. Social cohesion has been strengthened between different groups and indigenous communities as the water conflict was resolved and effective operational method bridged tensions. Today, community is moving ahead, learning from the past and creating a more resilient and shared future.

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