Livelihoods: Recipe for disaster resilience?
By Alex Barrett

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Shazia is a banana and chilli grower in Bangladesh. Her crop may be small but it allows her to earn enough money to provide for her family. The great threat, constantly hanging over her head, is the risk of her land being eroded away by flood waters. If she loses her land, she has no livelihood and no source of income.

 Shazia is not alone in having a livelihood that is threatened by natural hazards. Across Asia and other parts of the world, hazards are a constant stress on people’s source of income, particularly the poor. Livelihoods are fundamental for ensuring people can meet their basic needs such as providing food and water for their family, and if we want to make these livelihoods sustainable, it is important that we make them disaster resilient.

Livelihood programs need to consider disaster risk

 Livelihood programs often invest extensively into providing households with assets or capital, which the household can then use to create a sustainable livelihood – one that the program no longer needs to support.

For these interventions to be truly sustainable and in order to permanently lift these households out of poverty, there is a need to comprehensively assess the disaster risks the households face and put measures in place to mitigate the impact of future hazards.

The consultations on the post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction demonstrated gradual progress in almost all of the five priority areas of the Hyogo Framework for Action. However, countries reported relatively less progress in Priority for Action 4 on reducing the underlying risk factors and tackling the causes of risk creation, especially unequal economic development as well as poor resilience of households and communities and their livelihoods.

Working towards resilience – together

Considering the increasing vulnerability of people to natural hazards – particularly in the developing countries – it will be essential that while the disaster risk reduction community builds the resilience of households, it also addresses the challenge of securing their livelihoods.

It is not a new idea to combine the concepts of disaster risk reduction and livelihoods, but it is not yet a standard to combine interventions on these two topics either.

 It will be of great importance to continue reducing the vulnerability of households and securing their livelihoods as part of the new global framework for disaster risk reduction. For this to work, it will be essential for disaster risk reduction practitioners to work in partnership with their counterparts in the field of livelihoods.

Alex Barrett serves as Program Coordinator at Asian Disaster Preparedness Center in Thailand, a leading regional resource hub for disaster risk reduction in South and Southeast Asia. He previously worked at the Chars Livelihoods Programme in Bangladesh and completed his Masters in Development and Emergency Practice at Oxford Brookes, UK.