A mountainous landscape and low socio-economic status leave the people of Nepal incredibly vulnerable to ever increasing threats from climate change and natural disasters. INF has now woven disaster response and resilience philosophies through much of its work to empower and equip communities into the future. 

Nepal currently sits among the top 20 countries considered most multi-hazard prone in the world. It is ranked fourth in the world on the climate change vulnerability index.* The effects of climate change are incredibly serious for the general well-being of Nepalis. Climate change threatens the country’s food security, human habitats, water resources, livelihoods, health and safety, and tourism. Variations in the monsoon have major implications for agriculture, forestry and pasture resources. In the same way, drought, floods, landslides and soil erosion have a direct effect on farmers and rural communities weakening Nepal’s ability to produce food for its population.

The remote, rural, rugged and fragile geography of Nepal’s rural communities, combined with a weak economy and government, low literacy rates and a lack of public awareness, all cause climate change and natural disasters to have an even more devastating effect on the poor and marginalized communities INF is working alongside.

With these concerns in clear view INF has incorporated Disaster Risk Reduction [DRR] into its work, particularly in more remote communities. DRR strategies have been integrated in both its Community Health and Development [CHD], and its Community Based Rehabilitation [CBR] work to empower and equip communities to reduce the impact of future disasters.

Educating communities about the affects of climate change and the importance of disaster risk reduction has seen INF empower communities to implement adaptive measures, reduce vulnerabilities and develop coping mechanisms. Much of this has been achieved through INF facilitated Self-Help Groups taking ownership of the challenges ahead. INF’s Group Action Process [GAP] approach among these groups is based on participation, empowerment and valuing local knowledge. Over the years INF has seen this to be the most effective approach as community members themselves identify their common problems, analyse them and make an action plan to implement.

INF’s experience working with local partner organisations and government in response to the major floods in August 2014 and the devastating April 2015 earthquakes, contributed to the more recent establishment of INF’s Disaster Response and Resilience Department [DRRD].

The department’s central aim is to ‘reduce the impact of disasters in Nepal within INF and its working areas’ and to build on the work already being done. The DRRD has initiated a Community Resilience Project model for two districts particularly vulnerable to natural disasters and the affects of climate change – Kapilvastu and Rolpa.

Kapilvastu is on the terai [the flat plains] and is affected by flood, fire, epidemics and drought causing huge loss of property and life every year. Rolpa is located mid hill but is highly vulnerable to landslides and epidemics, particularly during the monsoon season. During June of 2017 I accompanied INF staff on a visit to each district to begin baseline surveys with community mobilizers on the ground and gain first-hand knowledge of previous disasters and specific challenges for each area.

The trip demonstrated the serious and significant risks faced by each community. It broadened my understanding of how INF is committed to reaching the most remote and vulnerable in Nepal. I reflected on God’s faithfulness as I witnessed the Self-Help Groups, community mobilisers and INF staff worked together to create a sustainable and safer future.

* UNDP/BCPR, 2004

This article featured in the latest issue of Today in Nepal and was written by INF staff member Sharon Joshua Tiwari.