Building Disaster Resilient Communities in Cambodia II
Due to geographical vulnerabilities, about 80% of Cambodian territory is subject to large fluctuations in water levels, and therefore floods/droughts occur frequently. This damages livelihoods and constrains development and poverty alleviation. Whilst national/sub-national committees understand the risk, there is a lack of adequate financial and human capacity to effectively address it. Therefore, the intervention took place in order to:
Build the capacity of disaster management institutions in CBDRR and climate change adaption
Promote synergies between DRR and climate change adaption through integration into development planning
Integrate DRR measures into local planning processes
Support DRR activities in selected communities
Conduct DRR training and integrate appropriate early warning systems into local communities
The overall objective was to increase the resilience and reduce the vulnerability of communities exposed to frequent natural hazards/disasters. The highlighted activities were:
Helping villages conduct hazard assessments, whilst supporting Village Disaster Management Groups (VDMGs) to properly plan and prepare for emergencies
Setting up community banking and microfinance initiatives particularly aimed at women
Installing a mobile phone early warning system in target provinces
Integrating disaster risk education into the school curriculum
The Building Disaster Resilience Communities in Cambodia II (BDRCII) project was implemented over a period of 21 months from April 2014 to December 2015. ActionAid Cambodia (AAC) led a consortium with Oxfam, Save the Children (SC), People in Need (PIN) and Dan Church Aid/Christian Aid (DCA/CA). The Consortium received funding from ECHO to implement the BDRCII project. This project built on work done under the first “Building Disaster Resilient Communities in Cambodia” which was implemented under the previous DIPECHO Action Plan (DIPECHO VIII), consolidating results and disseminating best practices.
The main target provinces for the project were Banteay Meanchey (ActionAid), Kampong Speu (DCA), Kampong Thom (Oxfam) and Pursat (PIN). SC works at the national level with the Ministry of Education Youth and Sports (MoEYS). The four consortium partners working at provincial level implement their activities through local NGO partners. For ActionAid, their partners were Cambodia Human Resource Development (CHRD) and OCKENDEN; DCA/CA partnered with Life With Dignity (LWD); Oxfam worked with four local partners – Action for Development (AFD), Angkar Ponleu Akphiwat (APA), Environment Support and Social Development (ESSD), OId Age and MiserabIe PeopIe HeIp Organization (HOM); and PIN worked with three local partners – Anakot Kumar (AK), Ponleur Kumar (PK) and Environmental Protection Development Organization (EPDO).
Local NGOs, VDMGs and CCDMs were involved in the design stage of the project to ensure that it was relevant and appropriate to the community needs. The project also involved working with community leaders to ensure information is spread to local communities effectively. For example, during the installation of a provincial early warning system, village chiefs were responsible for spreading the information and assisting community members in registering. Some village chiefs also had additional responsibilities such as providing water readings to help in risk assessments and early warning. VDMGs were also involved in installing equipment e.g. water gauges for the early warning system.
There was a strong sense of ownership as the projects set-up (e.g. the women’s saving groups) were the responsibility of the community, rather than the organisation that had provided the training for them (e.g. for the saving groups, no financial start up fund was provided). This reduced dependency on the assisting organisations, and as a result the community took full ownership of the project. The vast majority of the mitigation measures supported by the project were non-structural (e.g. training) rather than structural (e.g. finances), which means the majority of the activities will continue after the end of the project.
The project had a strong gender focus, and thus gender aspects have been mainstreamed throughout the proposal, with the intent of increasing the understanding of the challenges faced by woman in DRR leadership, ensuring the project is gender sensitive, improving the gender balance among DM committees and increasing the capacity of women members, and prioritising women in non-structural mitigation works in order to increase their resilience. This has led to the production of a study on gender sensitivity in DM which can help inform future interventions. Specific leadership training for women has given them additional opportunities to understand what they can contribute as leaders. Women have been empowered through their involvement in WSfC groups and also by promoting more women as members of VDMGs and by acting as demonstrators of CBDRR models which can be replicated by other community members.
Ensuring project activities were focused (where relevant) on the most vulnerable in the community was a key objective for all consortium partners. For example, socially vulnerable groups and socially excluded individuals were identified (e.g. people living with HIV/AIDS, people living in geographically or economically vulnerable areas, widows, children, PWDs), and all partners made strong efforts to ensure that all vulnerable groups were given a chance to participate in the planning and prioritising of mitigation measures. Specifically, older people were specifically consulted in order to ensure their historical knowledge was taken into consideration for the risk analysis. Safe areas were also built with facilities that were accessible for the elderly/PWDs.
Regarding specifically planned activities, there was no need for adjustment as due to risk and needs assessments conducted at the start of the project, the activities were relevant to community needs. For example, Institutional Capacity Assessments were conducted early in the project in order to identify specific needs in the target area of the project. This allowed the training modules that followed to be tailored to these specific needs, ensuring that the project was as relevant and beneficial to the individual needs of communities as possible. Communities were also consulted with regarding the activities, to ensure they were relevant and appropriate to community needs so time didn’t have to be wasted on adjusting a fixed pre-existing project.
The Verboice EWS1294 is likely to be fully sustainable due to the strong commitment of the PCDMs and the PDWRAMs (as well as the NCDM at national level) to the system. But there is still a need for technical support from PIN until such time as the system is fully extended nationwide. The continued expansion of the system needs to be carefully monitored to ensure that the hardware and software development can continue to cope with the additional “traffic” passing through the system. Without the support of PIN, the system could be discarded if technical problems arose that could not be solved.
The fact that all consortium partners implemented this activity through local NGO partners based in the target provinces will also benefit sustainability. While these local NGOs may have lesser resources than the international consortium partners, they are clearly committed to continuing development activities within their target areas. It can be expected that additional knowledge and skills on DRR/DM they have gained in working with the consortium has convinced them of the need to fully mainstream DRR/CCA into their ongoing work.
Although many preparedness activities have been implemented, there is still a long way to go until all these target communities are fully prepared. But in addition to the mitigation measures that have benefited some sections of the communities, the extension of the Verboice EWS 1294 to now cover three provinces is an important step towards their resilience to future disasters – if they can get information early, they can be better prepared so they do not lose so much (which reduced the burden of “bouncing back”). The improvement of safe areas has also been an important contribution to the preparedness of those communities in Pursat who live close to these safe areas. Some of the partner activities have focused on supporting the ability to “bounce back”. In particular the studies conducted among WSfG groups have highlighted the importance of these savings groups to provide credit at low cost to help members recover from a disaster. The expansion of DRAT training, previously only piloted by a few farmers, has given thousands of farmers new low-cost techniques that they can apply to quickly recover. As discussed earlier in the report, the structural mitigation works (ponds, dams, spillways) are not only a preparedness measure; they are also key to recovery for drought affected communities (even more effective if combined with DRAT technology).
Despite a number of key government policies recognising importance of DRR, the actual practice of institutions and local governments remain focused on responding to disasters and recovery. Integration of DRR into the government's planning has been a priority since the launch of the DRR Strategic National Action Plan 2008-13 and yet, the Disaster Management law process advances slowly. Government authorities responsible for mitigating, preparing, managing and responding to disaster lack the capacity to plan and prepare communities. Assessment findings in 2013 indicate that despite capacity improvements, NCDM is limited to coordinate amongst different structures involved in preparedness, mitigation & response. While sub-national committees, on provincial and commune level, are reasonably aware of flood and drought risk, they lack human and financial capacity to support risk mitigation planning.
Increasing capacity of DM structures at all sub-national levels was one of the key focuses of the project. Many training courses were developed (or existing modules reviewed) for delivery to these DM institutions. In addition to these training courses, many other opportunities were provided for increasing knowledge and experience. These included the practical application of theory through the development of EPRPs (for provincial and district level) and through HVCA/DRR plans (for commune and village level). Another strategy used by partners to build capacity was to organize exchange visits between different groups to learn from each other. In addition to these, many DM institution members attended the sub-national DRR workshop which were held in each province as well as workshops on CCA.