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Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change (CCA)-Taking Livelihoods Seriously

2018-06-15  |   Editor : houguangbing  
Category : Climatological

Why do people live in dangerous places where are aware of the risks? Because that is where they can make a living. This is a significant challenge for disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation.

In high-income countries the term 'livelihood' is not used often; but it is widely used in frameworks and models for low-income and middle-income countries. Each livelihood requires certain 'assets' or 'apital'. Farmers must have land and water, and if they don't own it , they must rent it or work as sharecroppers. A teacher must have a qualification and A driver's license for a bus driver. The Sustainable Livelihoods Approach (SLA) divides assets into five categories to better analyse livelihood systems and poverty and vulnerability: financial, human, physical, natural and social.

In many Vulnerability and Capacity Assessments (VCA), evaluating these assets is part of the process.

In much of the world, the household acts as a basic economic unit in which livelihood strategies can be decided. Assets are operated in various ways to earn money, with each active member of the household playing a part in the process. Some members may not actively earn money , but their work collecting water and fuel, cooking, caring for children, nursing elderly or sick family members is also essential.

DRR and CCA organizations may think the people who face hazards are being irrational. And yet most believe they are being rational in deciding to be where they can farm, fish, labour, work in a factory and earn a living.

A warning from a DRR organization is not going to make people move if they believe that means loss of livelihoods over the longer term. The idea that information will make people behave differently ( 'rationally') in relation to serious hazards has been discredited.

It cannot be assumed that information or even education is a guarantee that people will face up to the risks they are confronted with. Culture, psychology and emotion intervene as 'filters' that alter the way information is used. Any new knowledge has to interact with attitudes and emotions.

In some cases governments suggest (or even enforce) evacuation from hazardous places, depriving people of their livelihoods.

Given that many people are compelled by poverty to live in dangerous places, the implications of livelihoods for DRR and CCA policies must be taken seriously. Another illustration of this is the reluctance of many people to evacuate, fearing theft or loss of assets. The damage to their livelihood from a false alarm may be as great as the hazard.

People's livelihoods are their first line of defence against disasters. Livelihoods also determine the educational level of their children. A successful livelihood is also the basis for people's capacity to protect themselves from hazards - to construct their homes in safe locations. Even when they have the income, many people will not necessarily protect themselves.

These assessments are normally done using participatory methods that are very similar in most NGOs. In hardly any do people include serious hazards. While men, women and children often have different priorities, it is very rare for any of them to include earthquakes, floods, hurricanes or other sudden-onset hazards.

Risk assessments like VCAs are often carried out with a predetermined hazard in the minds of the DRR organization or donor; DRR organizations approach local people based on funding they have obtained for dealing with certain hazards.

Instead of being interested in disasters, people typically mention everyday problems. Some analysis of disaster preparedness suggests there is little point in trying to engage people in DRR activities until these have been resolved.

The frequency and severity of hazards – and the number of vulnerable people exposed to them -is expected to rise with climate change. Climate change is also damaging the rural livelihoods of billions of people through the effects of changes in temperature, rainfall and seasonality – making more people vulnerable to all hazards.

Territorial functioning’ is a concept used in sociology in relation to people’s behaviour in which they show the importance they attach to places. It is primarily a defense mechanism that enables people to maintain emotional stability in the face of change.

Another relevant concept is 'cognitive dissonance' – the emotional stress that people suffer when they are forced to live with two contradictory ideas. Instead of being in emotional harmony, people experience dissonance because they cannot control all their circumstances. This is what can happen when people live with risk, for example, to make their living.

Culture and beliefs can function like this in religious interpretations of the hazard. Individuals accommodate the risk by believing something that makes it easier to bear dissonance. Beliefs are part of the process by which people are able to reduce the cognitive dissonance that goes with risk. The culture that is used to do this accepts that it is outside of people's own control.

What is interesting is how little DRR or CCA institutions have learned from other disciplines, where the concepts outlined here are well known and have long been used to help explain people's behaviours. Related attempts to bridge the divide and combine the different belief systems arise from recent projects bringing together traditional weather forecasters and 'rainmakers' in Africa with meteorological services.

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