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Today is International Day for Disaster Reduction, the purpose of which is "to raise the profile of disaster risk reduction and encourage people and governments to participate in building more resilient communities and nations.

In several of Heifer's program countries, Community-Managed Disaster Risk Reduction (CMDRR) is an integral part of project design.

Elmer Maboloc (2nd from right) of the Social Action 
Center of the Diocese of Butuan facilitates the Hazard 
Vulnerability and Capacity Assessments during the 
CMDRR workshops, January 2011. (Photo by Jun Ayensa)

At the start of 2011, the Caraga Region in northeastern Mindano, Philippines, experienced continuous torrential rains. Effects included flooded thoroughfares, inundated rice fields, destroyed bridges, grounded transport services, landslides and other hazards. People evacuated to safer places, even as local governments and non-governmental organizations scrambled to provide relief operations. At the time of the disastrous rains, Heifer's Southern Philippines Regional Program was in the midst of conducting a series of village-level CMDRR trainings.

The training series aims to capacitate communities to survive hazards and redue their vulnerabilities to hazard events, thus reducing disasters. These trainings are part of Heifer's Increasing Resiliency to Climate Change through CMDRR Project, funded in part by the Canadian International Development Agency through the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives.

The Sangay River in Buenavista, Agusan del Norte
obliterated a large part of the land during the floods in the
village in February 2011. Heifer participant families were
conducting the CMDRR workshop at the height of the
flood. (Photo by Jun Ayensa)

Training facilitators, consisting primarily of Community Facilitators of the seven Heifer project partners reported that at the end of the course, village participants developed a shared understanding of the concepts, principles and practices of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and understood the causes and effects of various hazards, including climate change. Experiencing flood hazards during the training series certainly focused the attention of the participants during the training.

They certainly developed and felt the sense of ownership of the CMDRR training and accountability to implement their plans. "We would rather be survivors than victims of these hazard events," said one of the participating community leaders.

A key part of reducing communities' vulnerability to disasters is increasing the overall resiliency of families within the communities. If you consider vulnerability and resiliency along a continuum, it could be described as this:

Group A--Highly Vulnerable
Don't own land
Low level of education
Highly malnourished
May or may not have access to community land
Live in a remote location
Are on non-productive land
Can only meet their food needs through their own production for less than a year
May work as laborers
Often have men who must migrate to cities for work
Do not have access to support services such as financial and extension
Tend to adopt subsistence farming practices

Group B--More Secure, But Still Vulnerable to Disasters
May have small plots of land
Produce a small amount of surplus
Have enough food, but the food may not be nutritious enough
Vulnerable to external shocks
May be selling to local markets
May be organized (formally or informally)
Have informal savings
May have access to formal financing
Lack access to appropriate technologies
Have fewer men who migrate to cities

Group C--Resilient
Able to access formal markets
Have secure, productive land
Produce in a market-oriented way
Have organized cooperatives or associations
Are food secure
Have stable incomes
May do low-level processing of products
May have a household business
Are able to access and use support services such as financial and extension

By working with communities and families with training, education and livestock or other agricultural inputs, Heifer is helping families become resilient. For example, the Building a Sustainable Way of Life Project in the Piura region of Peru seeks to turn the threat of El Niño floods into a major opportunity for families living in Peru's dry forest. During the wet years, the project will replant trees, bushes and pastures, build grain storage sheds, and improve housing conditions to protect against heavy rains. Communal wells will be improved, and equipment will be provided to ensure the availability and quality of water in wet years and dry. To protect the forest that is so central to livelihoods in the area, the project will implement the Communal Forest Management Plans in the five project communities to conserve and sustainably use the forest.


Brooke Edwards

Brooke Edwards is from Little Rock, Arkansas, and started working at Heifer International in 2009 as a writer. She and her husband raise two daughters in a house way too small for their four pets. They spend a lot of time sweeping.