Around the world, the impacts of climate change are forcing communities to take extreme adaptation measures or else risk losing everything. Communities in South and Southeast Asia face the most extreme rise in hazards at the same time that they are markedly underfunded to implement disaster risk reduction measures.
This week, our team has been in Asia meeting with several of the NGOs engaged intensively in disaster preparedness work. Most are in the midst of long-term projects, and it is worth checking in on the work completed as well as what’s still to come.
To better contextualize DPP, we’re zooming in on four organizations involved in these long-term initiatives:
What is Disaster Preparedness?
When many people donate to support disaster-related programs, their first instinct is to contribute to recovery efforts after a disaster has taken place. There is far more to be gained from investments in preparedness before a disaster strikes at all. A recent UNICEF study revealed that investments in preparedness rather than recovery have a dramatically higher return on investment both in terms of cost and time saved – not to mention lives.
We at Give2Asia have partnered with the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction to increase the capacity of local community-based organizations across Asia to prepare for disasters and build sustainable programming to address long-term climate challenges. Through this NGO Disaster Preparedness Project we work with countries that are highly vulnerable to disasters to fund innovative programming at the community level, and develop resources for donors and international organizations to better understand the disaster landscape in Asia.
Guiuan Development Foundation, Inc. (GDFI)
Since its founding in 1988, Guiuan Development Foundation, Inc. (GDFI) has been empowering climate-resilient communities and preserving natural resources across the Philippines.
After 2013’s devastating Typhoon Yolanda, which was the worst in the Philippines’ history, we partnered with GDFI in collaboration with Build Change to support their disaster relief programming on the hard-hit island of Maliwaliw. Watch this video overview to learn more about their long-term programming for disaster-affected families, from constructing sustainable new homes to designing preparedness systems to creating new vocational skills training in the Philippines.
The first phase of GDFI’s programming was a relocation housing program for families whose homes were lost in the typhoon. 48 of the 97 Maliwaliw families whose homes were lost had been situated in the No-Build-Zone, which refers to vulnerable coastal area 40 meters from the shore. This project was an undertaking to relocate all of those families to higher ground and equip them to be a climate-resilient community. A majority of the provided funding went towards the construction of permanent housing for these families. Further, because this community was dependent on fishing and other marine industries that were severely damaged by the storm, GDFI facilitated two livelihood projects to enable alternative income sources for the families through mud crab ranching and beekeeping.
This project is only halfway complete, with Phase II planned for 2018. The next stage of the grant will support the establishment of a center in the resettled community for women-focused livelihoods, including training on vocational skills, family health, and zero waste management.
Bangladesh Environment and Development Society (BEDS)
The Bangladesh Environment and Development Society, or BEDS, is a unique collaboration between environmentalists and development workers seeking to preserve both the environmental landscape and social livelihoods in the southwest coastal region of Bangladesh. Built on cooperation at the local and regional levels, BEDS has worked extensively to address the area’s many interrelated challenges brought on by issues like climate change, food shortages and economic pressures.
On the Ground: Cyclones and Shelters
The Sundarbans is one of the largest mangrove forests in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site, and retaining its rich ecosystem is critical for the long-term sustainability both of its wildlife and its local population. Most inhabitants survive from nature-based activities such as fishing and crabbing. These communities are highly vulnerable to climate change induced threats such as bank erosions, tidal surges, cyclones, and salinity intrusion, not to mention unsustainable human actions such as overharvesting and illegal hunting. When a disaster hits, affected peoples must trek one and a half kilometers to find shelters which usually cannot accommodate them, demonstrating the need for serious preparedness measures.
Among several of BEDS’ projects is a cyclone shelter and training center in Mathurapur Jelly Polli, a small fishing village in the Sundarbans facing increasing and unpredictable climate challenges each year. The multi-purpose shelter is engaged in events such as training, workshops and other events that focus on livelihood improvement, disaster preparedness, adult literacy and children’s education, and natural resources management. Further, the center itself serves as a shelter during disasters.
An Organization for Socio-Economic Development (AOSED)
An Organization for Socio-Economic Development (AOSED) was established in 1999 by a group of young activists committed to the sustainability of ecological and indigenous systems alike. Since its founding, they have worked to expand traditional knowledge to consider scientific approaches to dealing with the negative impacts of climate change and improve communities’ standards of living. Focused in the highly climate-vulnerable southwest coastal region of Bangladesh, AOSED has brought improved access to resources such as safe drinking water while working to conserve the region’s iconic mangrove forest and establish disaster risk reduction systems.
On the Ground: Fighting to Fish
Due to the rich natural resources in the southwest coastal region of Bangladesh, communities have developed from the beginning with high dependence on those resources for sustenance. Yet this region is highly vulnerable to adverse environmental challenges and natural disasters which have been exacerbated in recent years by global climate change, dramatically compromising the security of both fishing communities and the fishing people themselves.
The rate of cyclones and sea depressions have nearly doubled in recent years while their warning and reporting systems remain undeveloped, which directly endangers fishing people. Fishing groups will face storms at sea and be forced to decide between two options: return to the community without any fish and have to sell property or land to pay for the expedition cost, or continue the mission and risk the loss of their boats, assets, and lives. In some cases, they are even washed out by wind and tide, rescued by the marine forces of neighboring countries, and then subjected to jail time as illegal intruders. All of this could be prevented by effective communication on weather data, tracking systems, and safety equipment. Further, the communities on land also face the first impacts of cyclones, storms, tidal surges, river erosion and salinity intrusion, putting them at great risk without effective warning systems in place.
AOSED’s project Sundarbans Adjacent Fishers Enabling Resilience (SAFER) is working to establish a climate-resilient fishing community in the Sundarbans by directly helping 600 fishing people and their families to face the increasing level of environmental hazards striking the region. The initiative has focused on long-term preparedness measures such as equipping boats with trackers, safety equipment, and radios to receive weather information. It even entails launching a 24/7 warning center that relays important information to boats in local dialects, and the establishment of five different community schools to make knowledge of disaster risk reduction and response an integrated part of local knowledge.
With roots stemming back to 1968, Shontoug Foundation, Inc. has spent decades promoting indigenous development projects in the Cordillera region of the Philippines. Shontoug Foundation makes a regular practice of reaching out to marginalized communities and integrating their participation into its indigenous community development models, which focus largely on youth education, sustainable agriculture, and health programs.
Shontoug Foundation is now halfway through a large two-year initiative through Give2Asia’s Disaster Preparedness Program to build up climate resilience in 10 indigenous communities in the northern Philippines.
On the Ground: Risk Reduction and Sustainable Farming
The Cordillera Region of the Northern Philippines is located within the so-called “typhoon belt”. A series of super typhoons has devastated Northern Luzon with particular strength since 2008, and repeated restorative efforts have not been sustained due to the continuing threats of chaotic weather patterns. The area is also highly vulnerable to hazards such as landslides that plague the steeply sloped mountain areas. Because the indigenous communities here have strong ties to their ancestral settlements, displacing them to a safer area would be far more disruptive than adopting risk reduction measures at the ground level.
Shontoug Foundation is making climate change resiliency a reality through a project to ensure food sustainability, alleviate poverty, and establish disaster coping mechanisms for indigenous communities situated in this vulnerable region.
This initiative is replicating and scaling up an innovative, sustainable model that has already proven effective in transforming victims of typhoons into eco-sustainable communities. Using this model, community project partners have become resource managers and disaster responders rather than helpless, vulnerable victims.
Workshop sessions have been predominantly attended by women, empowering them as thought leaders on climate-resilient farming practices. Some of the insights being shared are actually indigenous cultivation practices which help defend against environmental hazards, but which were being lost over time. They also improve food productivity and help conserve the area’s rich biodiversity. Thus, this initiative is accomplishing sustainable, local-led development that incorporates traditional practices while equipping communities with the knowledge and resources to cope with environmental hazards.
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