Mainstreaming livelihood-centred approaches to disaster management

The five year multi-country project, Mainstreaming Livelihood-centred Approaches to Disaster Management, is being implemented in Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Peru with the active participation of local partners. It is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) Conflict and Humanitarian Fund (CHF).

International project

This multi-country project focuses on the roles and linkages between vulnerable communities, district and national level government institutions and humanitarian agencies in regards to disaster preparedness and mitigation. It examines how these agencies can be made more responsive to the needs of poor people by adopting a livelihood-centred approach to disaster management.

There are four main aims:

  • To establish models in at least three locations (Bangladesh, Peru, Zimbabwe) where livelihood-centred approaches to disaster management are combined with other methodologies such as participatory action development planning in order to link communities better with wider institutional structures involved in disaster and development planning. The locations selected encompass areas and communities with exposure to a mixture of disaster risks including drought, flood, disease and conflict.
  • To develop guidelines and training materials on livelihood-centred disaster management for use by local and national service providers, planners and humanitarian agencies.
  • To learn lessons from experiences in implementing this approach, including an analysis of best practice in building consensus amongst stakeholders on how to link most effectively with and support communities' own disaster planning in a sustainable way. We will also review how the approach can be applied in different contexts, e.g. in fragile states where institutions are weak and where community/state relations may be antagonistic. We will undertake peer reviews and share learning on risk reduction interventions with other NGOs active in disaster risk management.
  • To influence policy makers at all levels involved in disaster management and development planning to adopt a livelihood-centred approach to disaster risk management. This will be done through:
    • Providing evidence of the positive impact of a livelihood-centred approach to disaster risk management on the livelihood assets of poor people through collation and analysis of past and current projects;
    • Working in partnership with regional networks, such as Duryog Nivaran and LaRed, and international networks such as ALNAP to disseminate project findings and provide a platform for policy discussion and advocacy;
    • Forming strategic alliances with other NGOs active in disaster management to promote joint actions in support of regional or international policy developments.

Project End: December 2010.

Mainstreaming livelihood-centred approaches to disaster management in Bangladesh

The project area in Bangladesh includes a total of five Unions of Gaibandha Sadar Upazila (Kamarjani Union) under Gaibangha District, Sariakandi Upazila (Sadar and Narchi Unions) under Bogra District and Kazipur Upazila (Sadar and Maizbari Unions) under Sirajganj District. All three Upazilas are in the floodplain and situated on the western bank of the mighty river Jamuna.

The project locations are vulnerable to recurrent river flooding and river erosion. A large number of the population, inhabiting the project location are vulnerable to the repeated (almost every year) and frequent (some times twice in a year) flooding and erosion in addition to their pre-existing economic and social vulnerabilities.

The project focuses on two main components;

  • community level activities which reduce the impact of particular hazards by increasing livelihood opportunities, reducing vulnerability and increasing resilience and preparedness; and
  • linking these community-based experiences with local, district and national institutions through advocacy and capacity building in order to influence policy.

The project targets several of the Priorities for Action identified in the Hyogo Framework.

The practical application of a livelihoods approach to risk reduction work, while relatively new, can help to identify the extent and nature of the full range of people's livelihood assets and their vulnerability to hazards and other external forces. This makes it possible to identify entry points to protect the assets that are most at risk or most valuable in times of crisis. It gives insights into peoples' choice of strategies - why they live in fragile and potentially risky situations and how they cope in "normal" circumstances. Activities which strengthen livelihoods and increase resilience will reduce vulnerability.

The project interventions focus on livelihood and preparedness with equal emphasis. In terms of preparedness, the project is mobilizing 6000 house holds in three project locations with active assistance from 300 community volunteers, 300 youth volunteers, CBOs and various committees. Communities were made aware with messages on disasters, impacts and preparedness through these volunteers and committees. Participatory VCA, Contingency Plan has been completed, and a community based disaster management plan is under process. Training on preparedness, search, rescue, evacuation and first aid has been imparted. As part of preparedness, the project facilitated activities like raising homestead, latrine, tube wells above flood levels in a limited scale so other people of the community can emulate these activities as well. Rescue boats for evacuation during flood and river erosion are in place and fully functional.

The purpose behind the livelihoods work to ensure disaster risk reduction with the idea that the beneficiaries will use a part of their earnings for improvement of infrastructure, save money for crisis period, buy food during flood situation when there is no work, will not be dependent on relief (at least if the flood is not prolonged), will not take loan with high interest, will not sell advance labor for survival or sustaining during disaster period. On the other hand these savings or earnings can be used to buy food, and for sending children to school.

This project is part of Practical Action Bangladesh's Reducing Vulnerability programme, and forms part of Practical Action's international Mainstreaming livelihood-centred approaches to disaster management project.


Sign of resilience (PDF, 7.4MB)
The Mainstreaming Livelihood-Centred Approaches to Disaster Management project in Bangladesh reached 6,000 households directly and 33,000 households indirectly in northern districts of Bogra, Gaibandha and Sirajganj. This book is a pictorial journey of the project implementation over a five year period.

Elements of disaster resilience: lessons from Bangladesh (PDF, 7.9MB)
A compilation of six booklets published under the Mainstreaming Livelihood-Centred Approaches to Disaster Management Project of Practical Action Bangladesh supported by UKaid from the Department for International Development (DFID)/ Conflict and Humanitarian Fund (CHF), including:

Sustainable & Diverse Livelihoods: building disaster resilient communities
Cluster Housing: a pathway to reduced disaster risk and poverty alleviation
Improved WatSan Facilities: for increasing resilience of vulnerable communities
Community-based Organization: a vehicle to community risk reduction
Community Volunteers: the DRR defense group

Good Practices for Community Resilience
This document gives a narrative account of good practices of the project in Bangladesh from January 2006 to December 2008, identifies achievements, successes and lessons learned with respect to increasing the resilience of the communities towards reducing vulnerabilities.

Video: Resilient livelihoods reduce disasters

This video describes our "livelihood-centred" approach to disaster risk reduction, illustrating some of the technologies promoted and emphasizing the involvement of local government in building community and household resilience. It shows the impact and learning from our Mainstreaming Livelihood-centred Approaches to Disaster Management project in the Gaibandha, Sirajgonj and Bogra districts of Bangladesh.

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