At Helvetas we implement long-term development programmes in the aftermath of a disaster. Following severe flooding in Chitral, we focused on reducing risks, promoting sustainable resource management, and increasing the economic opportunities for marginalized people.
Pakistan is the 12th most vulnerable country in the world to climate change related hazards. It also has been hit by several severe emergencies since 2005. Due to these emergencies, many donor agencies and development partners who were known for their long term development agendas have in recent years switched over their funding to humanitarian response and relief activities. As a result, people, NGOs and government line agencies are increasingly indulged in emergencies and give little attention to long term development needs or to develop strategies and plans of actions for reducing the effects of natural hazards.
Helvetas, since its inception in Pakistan, has been known for implementing long term development programmes aimed at improving economic well-being of the people. The Livelihoods Programme Hindukush (LPH) focused particularly on marginalized men and women by increasing local economic opportunities, promoting sustainable management of natural resources, reducing risks from natural hazards and improving access to basic needs such as water and education.
District Chitral is one of the districts of LPH project activities and interventions. These include increasing resilience of dwellers to both manmade and natural disasters through capacity building and construction of small infrastructure, improving local agro based economy through best practices and access to quality inputs. In one of the targeted valleys namely, Garam Chashma12, LPH has been working since 2012 and formed more than 20 village organizations, built 10 different infrastructural schemes, formed and strengthened five community based disaster management committees, imparted health & hygiene and operation and maintenance trainings. In the agriculture sector, LPH facilitated farmers in access to quality potato seed by providing training to farmers for better potato production and establishing their linkages with government line agencies and the private sector. For this purpose farmers and agriculture research and extension department along with the private sector have started a local potatoes seed production in the valley.
Unfortunately, in 2015 severe flood caused by Glacial Lake Outburst Floods played havoc in several areas of Chitral including Garam Chashma. The floods washed away one village, access roads, bridges, 25 drinking water supply systems, two micro hydro power channels, more than 50 irrigation channels, public and private property and agricultural crops. It was as if time stood still for the people in the area as they forgot about their long term visions and planning and started focusing on their immediate needs. At this stage it was feared that all the hard work done for making Garam Chashma a seed producing area would go down the drain. However, LPH team mobilized its resources, contacted relevant stakeholders and community activists for the relief and rehabilitation of activities. Meetings were held with the other donor funded projects, NGOs, elected representatives, Local Support Organizations (LSOs) and district government. Initial assessment of the extent of damages was carried out through the project staff and community activists. Immediate rehabilitation needs were identified, specifically the ones that could contribute later to the long term development agenda.
In line with this understanding the community identified restoration of livelihoods, irrigation channels and drinking water supply schemes as their priority area. Both the project staff and communities decided for a ‘cash for work’ strategy where the people agreed to work and the project paid them remuneration. In this way, more than 72 irrigation channels and 17 Drinking water supply schemes were restored and people not only saved their standing potato crop but also earned good amount of cash to sustain their daily expenses. Since drinking water supply schemes took longer to rehabilitate, 4250 home-based water purification kits were distributed and two large scale water filtering plants were installed on two major locations so that health hazards may be prevented as a result of drinking turbid and dirty water. In addition to this, other livelihood assets including 31 water mills and 59 food shops were restored for communities to quickly return to their normal lives. Besides all these; 141 tons of wheat seed were also distributed among the farmers to restore their agro based livelihoods.
As a result, affected people recovered quickly from their state of emergency and started to embark again on their long term development activities.
Although each emergency needs to be addressed urgently in order to save lives, it is advisable to take some time in understanding the area and people’s priorities before starting any kind of humanitarian response. LPH sees humanitarian response as part of the overall development agenda. It should never be taken in isolation but should be part of people’s priorities and their long term development. It is a difficult task as in emergency situation, people are in great need and lose sight of their future needs and planning. But an isolated response can create a dependency syndrome and when the emergency is over, people could find themselves ‘back to square one’ and have to start from the scratch again.
LPH known for its long term development initiatives has focused on strengthening the preparedness of communities for emergencies and to increase their capacity to respond quickly in an organized manner. LPH looks at the complete cycle of development, emergency preparedness and humanitarian response and again in a continuum after the emergency to go back to development activities. LPH includes integrated Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) plan and climate change adaption measures during the long term planning with the communities and all the stakeholders to minimize the future risks, reducing people vulnerabilities and improve their resilience.