Geneva, 12 October 2016: As part of its global goal of advocating on the benefits of ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction, UN Environment has been working in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries. Operating on the ground with communities in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti and Sudan, UN Environment has already proven the great value of these ecosystem-based approaches.
From mangrove forests to drylands, the ecosystems change but the logic remains the same. Such approaches are cost-effective and sustainable alternatives to traditional hard engineering for disaster risk reduction. Ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction measures can protect people and their livelihoods. Raising awareness about these solutions is vital, an important goal of this year’s International Day of Disaster Reduction.
We meet people in the field, for example Clement Nzobasina in DR Congo, who #LivetoTell their stories. Learning from Clement’s experiences and people like him, we helped implement agroforestry schemes in the Lukaya River basin, reducing flood risk and improving the quality of drinking water. These schemes help generate income for communities with few livelihood options. We also planted deep-rooted vetiver grass, protecting riverbanks from erosion and reducing the risk of damaging floods.
UN Environment has been working with fishermen in Haiti for many years. In the lead up to Hurricane Matthew, which recently devastated the Grand Sud region of the country, fishermen in Port Salut followed the emergency protocol developed in partnership with UN Environment. The fishers worked together to move their boats and equipment to safety.
UN Environment is using ecosystem-based approaches to help support sustainable and resilient fishing in the south of Haiti. Repairing boats has reduced fishing pressure from coral reefs, which are important buffers to storms.
Eval Maurice, a member of the Port Salut Fisher’s Association, explained the benefits to us: “When your boat is in good conditions, you wear your life jacket, start your engine, and you are able to fish far away from the shore.” Being able to fish further away from the shore increases the ability of coral reefs and fish stocks to recover, making fishing more sustainable in the long-term and resilient to future disasters. Helping these fishermen to return to this revenue-generating activity will be essential in the months to come.
In a completely different ecosystem, in the mountains of Afghanistan, UN Environment supported the planting of 140,000 trees to help protect communities from river floods, and help them better prepare for harsh winters. Working with UN Environment to organize workshops and revegetation activities, local community members are proud of the results. Haji Abdul Qadeer from the Khushkak Community is the village Chief Environmental Officer. Telling their story he speaks highly of the work accomplished together: “Through these activities, we have improved the knowledge of people in my community, on how trees and vegetation reduce the risk of flooding.”
And it’s not just the case in Afghanistan. Thousands of miles away in Sudan, tree nurseries and community forests in North Darfur are helping protect soils from erosion. Managing drylands sustainably is key to reducing the risk of drought, as well as improving food and water security.
Raising awareness about the benefits of ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction measures has the potential to reduce the impacts of disasters. Let’s help more people #LivetoTell their story.
For more information on UNEP’s work in the field of Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction see www.unep.org/DRR. This project was funded thanks to the generous support of the European Commission.