Climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction

We integrate our work in disaster risk reduction with climate change adaptation to ensure sustainable humanitarian and development programming.

 Climate change, disaster risk and development

Climate change and environmental degradation are some of the greatest challenges facing humanity. Beyond direct environmental impacts, climate change has serious development, economic and humanitarian implications.

Climate change is altering the face of disaster risk. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it leads to changes in the frequency, intensity, duration and timing of extreme weather and climate events. It also causes increasing sea level and temperature rises.

But climate change is also increasing societal vulnerabilities, for example, from stresses on water availability, agriculture and ecosystems. The IPCC predicts that climate change is likely to slow economic growth, erode food security and exacerbate poverty in most developing countries. 

Referenced from: Turnbull, M. Sterrett, C.; Hilleboe, A. (2013) Toward Resilience: A Guide to Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation. Practical Action Publishing: Warwickshire. pp7

Integrating climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction

For more than a decade, development and humanitarian practitioners have been advocating for an approach that integrates disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation to build resilience in a sustainable way.

Disasters and climate change both have similar consequences for people’s lives. There is significant overlap between the problems that disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation seek to address.

Disaster risk reduction covers non-climate related disasters such as earthquakes. But it also addresses climate-related disasters such as floods, droughts, cyclones and storm surges.

With climate change predicted to increase the frequency and/or intensity of climate-related hazards and effects, populations already exposed to those hazards and effects will be at greater risk.

Populations exposed to hazards may also experience stresses due to long-term changes in climate. For example, changes in seasonality, unpredictable rainfall and sea level rise can affect livelihoods and health, making people more vulnerable to all types of shocks, events and further change. 

An integrated project in Makira, Solomon Islands

This project is funded by the Australian Government through 

Makira-Ulawa is one of the Solomon Islands’ most disaster-prone provinces. An island province on an active cyclone path, it’s highly vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters.

Rural Makira communities are vulnerable to natural and man-made hazards. They’re isolated, with poor access to health and educational services. They also have high dependence on subsistence production. Settlements are clustered along the coastline, exacerbating their vulnerability to cyclones, storm surges and sea level rise.

Our DFAT-funded Makira Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction (CCA DRR) Project ran from 2013 to 2015 in seven rural communities in the province’s remote east, reaching 3,400 people in 574 households.

It aimed to raise awareness about climate change and disaster risks and reduce community vulnerability. It did so by working with all community members – including men, women, youth and children – to help them plan and prepare for disasters, and adapt to climate change.

Through a partnership with Kastom Gaden Association, community members learned improved agricultural techniques. Kastom Gaden Association is a local non-government organisation combining customary food production with modern approaches to help communities improve their food security.

Project activities also included distributing farming tools, supporting climate change adaptation committees and identifying evacuation routes. 

Select project highlights

87 percent

of households

implemented a climate-resilient innovation or improved practice

85 percent

of children

can name three climate change impacts – up from zero percent at baseline

57 percent

of households

now have an action plan to deal with climate change impacts

Learning climate-resilient agriculture techniques

On a remote island in Makira, community members attended a three-day training – facilitated by World Vision – with Kastom Gaden Association in 2015. They learnt about preparing seedlings, cultivating the soil and implementing climate-resilient techniques, such as crop rotation and mulching.

The community garden started through the project is now thriving with beans, salad, slippery cabbage and cassava. Participants are also continuing to apply this knowledge in their own gardens.

Jacob used to plant everything in his garden together. His plants would get tangled and didn’t grow well. Through the training, he learnt how to organise his crops. For example, he now plants all his root crops in the same plot, which has seen them grow bigger and healthier.

Jacob also learnt how to make organic compost by mixing coconut husks with soil. He received pumpkin seeds through the training and now sells them on a small scale in the village.

The project has made a big difference for Jacob’s wife Annie and their three children. “Before, I used to get hungry,” Annie says. “But now I never go hungry because I have these greens and vegetables to support the root crops that we have.”

Annie says it’s also helped her add variety to her children’s diets. She can feed their baby son Custy pumpkin and cabbage, sometimes mixed with fish when Jacob goes fishing.

As well as being more plentiful, nutritious food is available throughout the year due to different harvest times for each crop.  

Top: Patson and Peter working in the community garden. Bottom: Community members Peter and Clera with World Vision staff member Robert, who coordinated the Makira CCA DRR Project.

Building disaster response knowledge

Through the Makira CCA DRR project, community members also gained important knowledge about how to respond in disasters.

“When there is a tsunami warning, we run up to the hill. We don’t come and look out to sea,” says Silas, a community leader. “We also learn when we evacuate, we shouldn’t be busy with other things; we should run fast for safety.”

This knowledge was put to the test in the December 2016 Solomon Islands earthquake.

“During the recent disaster, the training from World Vision really helped us because everyone knew what to do,” Silas says. “Everyone just ran. All the children from the school were [up the hill] first, because we learn from the training and then we teach our children.”

The community also knew not to come back down until everything had settled. Police called community leaders by radio and mobile and gave them the all-clear to return to the village.

Silas with his community’s disaster-ready action plan.

Share this story