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Mickles, Muckles, and Hazard Risk Reduction

June 29 2015 - by Leslie John Walling, Consultant (Community Disaster Risk Reduction, Climate Change Adaptation Planning and Coastal Resource Management)

It’s always a challenge to find funds for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation (DRR/CCA). The funny thing about investment in this sector is that if you are successful then “nothing happens” and you avert “disaster”.  In a climate of scarce financial resources, with disaster management ministries and agencies competing with other sectors, investing in “something bad not happening” is harder to justify than responding to current needs or to, “something bad that has just happened”.  The bottom line is that our systems have traditionally been programmed to be reactive rather than precautionary and preventive. 

However, there are two immediate win-win opportunities that might be considered to address some of the financial challenges faced by national DRR/CCA programmes, use the cross cutting nature of DRR/CCA to advantage, and work at the problem from both ends (top-down and bottom-up).   

Cross Cutting Strategy

The impacts of natural hazards and climate change are cross-cutting, in that they affect every sector and every aspect of a country’s economic development.  It is said that every problem is really an opportunity in disguise.  Since every sector is exposed to natural hazards and climate change, the actions and decisions that are taken in each sector can increase or decrease a sector’s vulnerability and resilience.  This means that there are potential opportunities for natural hazard and climate change risk reduction interventions in just about every sector of development and humanitarian work. Every sector can participate in, and contribute to, the achievement of national natural hazard and climate change risk reduction goals, through their coordinated financial and technical support; or as the old proverb says, “Every mickle mek a muckle”, which translates into - a lot of small amounts put together become a large amount. 

Work at the problem from both ends: Top-down and Bottom-up.

Over the past ten years there has been an increase in the volume of donor funding for community hazard risk reduction and resilience building.  Support has expanded from the standard types of natural hazard risk reduction interventions (e.g. hillside stabilisation, flood and/or drought risk reduction, community emergency shelters etc.) to include climate change adaptation interventions, and interventions that focus on areas of community development and resilience such as:

  • Sustainability of livelihoods   
  • Renewable energy technology
  • Ecosystem restoration
  • Conservation of ecosystem services (e.g. Flood control, water supply, soil conservation, hillside stabilisation).  

These interventions can be considered as natural hazard risk reduction and climate change adaptation by other names.  In all but the smallest scale interventions, the need for support from government technical agencies, and alignment with national DRR/CCA planning and programming, become evident early in the project cycle. 

Lessons and Proof of Concept. 

If we are looking for Caribbean examples of successful government/community partnerships in DRR/CCA, perhaps the Jeffery Town Farmer’s Association (JTFA) in Jamaica, and the communities of Morne Journe and Riviere Cyrique communities in Dominica, can provide some insights.   

With support provided by the Canada Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Fund (CCDRMF), the Jeffery Town Farmer’s Association (JTFA) designed and installed a solar powered mechanism to harvest water from remote springs and to pump the water to a centrally located stand-pipe and irrigation stations.  The intervention was intended to address the problems caused by more frequent incidents of water scarcity resulting from drought conditions.  On a visit to the community in July 2014 it was revealed that the community had been without its municipal water supply for approximately three months. During this time the project standpipe and irrigation stations had provided an uninterrupted supply of water that had sustained the community.  In doing so, the system minimised the potential disruptions and dislocations to daily life and livelihoods and averted possible crisis.


For more than ten years the JTFA has used donor grant support for a series of projects designed to advance its long-term programme to enhance community resilience for sustainable community development in the face of natural hazard risk and climate change.  The success of the JTFA’s approach has been recognised internationally.  In 2014 the JTFA was awarded the prestigious Equator Prize in recognitions of its efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.  In March, 2015 at the United Nations Conference on Disaster Risk Management in Sendai, Japan, the JTFA emerged as one of three finalists of 88 countries which vied for the coveted UN Sasakawa Award for Disaster Risk Reduction.

For another example of a Bright Spot, we go to the Nature Isle.  The Morne Journe and Riviere Cyrique communities in Dominica secured a CCDRMF grant to restore a derelict community centre to serve as multi-purpose emergency-shelter. The technical support and guidance provided by the Office of Disaster Management (ODM) and Public Works Department (PWD) ensured that the emergency shelter met the relevant standards.  Following the successful completion of the emergency shelter project the two communities used their newly developed experience and capacity to apply for a second grant to outfit the completed emergency-shelter with rainwater harvesting and solar electricity systems. The lessons learned?  Government/community partnerships can deliver successful community natural hazard and climate change risk reduction projects.  Such projects can then be used to leverage additional donor resources for community development and risk reduction initiatives.

There are a growing number of Caribbean examples of successful donor-funded government/community partnerships that achieve reductions in community natural hazard and/or climate change risk.  

Are you meeting the financial cost of achieving national DRR/CCA programmes through coordinated financial and technical support of key ministries and government agencies?

Can a cross sectorial approach to national DRR/CCA be used to leverage donor-funding available for community risk reduction and resilience building interventions? 

How much of your annual national natural hazard and climate change risk reduction budget could this cross-sectorial and donor funded approach meet?

Every mickle mek a muckle.