Building Resilience to Disaster and Climate Risks
Ben Tre province in Vietnam’s southern Mekong Delta is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise. A large number of people live in the delta, which in some areas is less than two metres above sea level.
The area is prone to seasonal and tidal flooding. For multiple reasons including changes in the climate, floods now reach further inland and last longer. As a result, saltwater is creeping further inland and upstream, affecting freshwater and soil. This is having a major impact on local agriculture and the availability of safe drinking water. In some parts of the province, the concentration of salt in the water has reached such a high level that it is virtually impossible to grow a number of products, including rice.
In addition, Ben Tre is experiencing unpredictable weather and more intense weather extremes, and this is also having an impact on poor people’s livelihoods and health. Women in poor households are often the most affected by disasters and climate change impacts as they have less access to information on risks and adaptive measures compared to men.
More effective disaster risk management
A five-year Oxfam project, funded by New Zealand, aims to increase the resilience and adaptive capacity of local authorities and poor people in Ben Tre, in particular women, to disaster and climate risks. Oxfam is working together with the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in 15 coastal communes.
The climate and disaster risks project aims to promote increased participatory, effective and equitable disaster risk management by local authorities that benefits poor and vulnerable people, in particular women. Secondly, Oxfam is promoting food security and increasing the incomes of poor women and men through new livelihood opportunities that are not adversely affected by climate change and disasters. We also work to increase the availability and use of safe water by poor and women-headed households and to improve sanitation and hygiene practices.
Improving local planning processes
Since 2012, the project in Ben Tre has achieved a number of encouraging results. For example, Oxfam and the provincial Department of Planning and Investment have developed a guideline for integrating disaster risk reduction (DRR), climate change adaptation (CCA), and gender equality into socio-economic development plans (SEDPs).
This approach ensures that DRR and CCA measures prioritised by local people are included in SEDPs and are budgeted for. The guidelines were first used to train government planning staff in the target communes, and were later introduced by the department to other communes in Ben Tre.
Furthermore, local authorities are now better able to conduct participatory vulnerability and capacity assessments and to integrate the results of these into the annual SEDP. As a result, women’s specific needs and capabilities are now taken into consideration in the SEDP, and about 42 percent of local women participate in local government consultations and planning meetings to develop the SEDP.
Responding to local priorities and needs
Through the project a Disaster Risk Reduction Fund has also been set up. The fund provides financing for (DRR) and (CCA) activities that local communities have identified as important. This has included financing for the construction of a road, which can be used to quickly evacuate local residents if a disaster hits. As local citizens actively participated in identifying the need for a road, they also contributed labour and financial resources for its construction. The commune People’s Committee was identified as responsible for annual maintenance and repair. Together, this helped to increase the impact of the original financing.
To support the promotion of alternative livelihoods, Oxfam has introduced goat and cow breeding in the target communes. Local women and men are encouraged to participate in monthly group activities to share experiences on how to successfully raise the animals and how to prevent and treat common diseases. A number of such community groups have been set up, with 40 percent of them headed or co-headed by women.
In addition, more than 2,500 poor households have been provided with 2,000 litre water containers, which can store enough drinking water to last six months during the dry season. For each water tank donated by the project, a poor household can save 100 drinking water bottles, equivalent to about VND1.2 million (approximately $50). This has also helped to reduce household work for women and girls, as they are usually responsible for finding and storing water.
Finally, the experience and lessons learnt from this project, together with lessons learnt from a similar Oxfam climate change project in the Red River and Mekong deltas, are used as evidence-based input for national policy discussions and recommendations on the SEDP planning process.
Project: Building resilience to disaster and climate risks of men and women in Ben Tre province, Vietnam Location: Ben Tre province
Time frame: 2012-2017
Funding: New Zealand Aid