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Strong roots, strong women: empowering women for community and coastal ecosystem resilience in central Vietnam

Submitted by Philip Bubeck 6th September 2021 15:45
Watch this video by the RISK Awards about "Strong roots, strong women", which won 1st place in 2021.
Women selling fish at a local market (by René Arnold).

Women selling fish at a local market (by René Arnold).

Introduction

Environmental and climatic changes are projected to worsen with continued emissions of greenhouse gases, ecosystem degradation, population growth, urbanization and economic development. These changes magnify the risk of climate-driven disasters by increasing the frequency and intensity of hazards like floods, altering exposure patterns, and decreasing the coping capacities of particularly vulnerable societal groups in many regions.

Thua Thien Hue is a coastal province in central Vietnam facing chronic stress from flooding. This was highlighted in October 2020, when at least 178,000 homes were flooded in central Vietnam. 

Nature-based solutions, including ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction (Eco-DRR), have recently gained increased attention as no-regret alternatives that can complement, or even replace, grey infrastructure. As Eco-DRR is more inclusive and accessible for vulnerable groups of society, and because ecosystems support the livelihoods of those directly depending on natural resources, it makes it a promising means to support and protect those who are more vulnerable to natural hazards and climate change. Mangroves, for instance, not only reduce flood risks and coastal erosion but provide many co-benefits supporting local livelihoods.

​Strong Roots, Strong Women, recipient of the 2021 RISK Award of the Munich Re Foundation and UNDRR, uses Eco-DRR to empower women for community and coastal ecosystem resilience in Central Vietnam. Key activities supported by the 2021 RISK Award include the establishment of a community-run mangrove nursery as well as capacity building and awareness raising through lively theatre plays performed by members of the local Women’s Union.  

* A report on previous activities of the project can be found in the featured download.


A figure showing the benefits people derive from mangroves. Credit: IUCN & Save Our Mangroves Now!

Methods and Tools

To empower women for community and ecosystem resilience, the following activities shall be implemented over a period of two years jointly with provincial and local stakeholder in coastal Thua Thien Hue.
 

Establish a mangrove nursery at Tiam Giang Lagoon

A first core activity is to set-up a community-run mangrove nursery jointly with the local Women's Union in coastal Hai Duong commune. The nursery will be run by a community group, with the active participation of women. The community group was established during the previous project. The community group will be supported by the main decision-making body at the communal level. The mangrove nursery shall provide direct income from Eco-DRR to vulnerable groups. Revenue from the nursery shall contribute to an innovative community fund. This fund can be accessed by women for livelihood activities or for recovery from flood impacts.The mangrove nursery shall thus enable Hai Duong commune to meet their own request to enlarge the existing mangrove area, to generate a direct income from Eco-DRR supporting economic and social stability of women, and to enhance ecosystem resilience of the Tam Giang Lagoon.

Replicate and scale-up Women's Union Theater

For capacity building, awareness-raising, and empowerment, we will facilitate a series of theatre performances in coastal communities. The theatre plays will be performed by members of the local Women’s Union and will cover topics such as flood preparedness, gender, emergency response, and the role of ecosystems in disaster risk reduction. This activity also includes the implementation of a theatre festival in the provincial capital Hue and the 1st Eco-DRR Theatre Award ceremony. The performances of the winners will be captured in film clips. The short film clips, will be provided to the Women's Union, the Disaster Management Centre and other interested organizations to be used in their awareness raising and capacity building activities.

Facilitate cooperation

To link the topic of women in disaster risk management institutionally, the projects will facilitate cooperation between the Women's Union and the Disaster Management Centre, for instance, through joint capacity building and close cooperation throughout the project.

Impact evaluation of activities

Evaluation of the ecosystems services provide by the mangroves and the mangrove nursery

We will use an ongoing longitudinal study among 400 residents in Thua Thien Hue province, including respondents in Hai Duong commune, to evaluate the effect of the mangrove nursery on flood risk perceptions and ecosystem services valuation, and its effectiveness in terms of enhancing economic and social stability.

Evaluation of theatre performances as a risk communication tool

We will also evaluate the effectiveness of the theatre plays to enhance societal resilience against climate-related hazards in coastal communes. During the performance of the theatre plays, 50% of the visitors will be surveyed before the event, while 50% will be surveyed afterwards. The assignment of respondents to these two groups will be random. The survey will elicit risk perceptions of climate-related hazards, perceived benefits of Eco-DRR and overall community and ecosystem resilience. Moreover, the questionnaire will elicit intentions to engage in preparedness behaviour and important factors that are known to be linked to such behaviours, including flood coping appraisals. These activities will be accompanied by selected in-depth interviews with the women performing in the plays. 

Conclusion

We found that floods have a large and long-term impact on the welfare of those affected in areas such as Thua Thien Hue province, where floods occur frequently. We also found that flood impacts are larger and longer lasting on women, which highlights the necessity to account for gender differences when designing flood risk management and adaptation strategies. For instance, women in the coastal areas indicated that their recovery is hampered by limited access to loans and support for recovering their livelihood activities following a flood event. Moreover, women face a high burden during and after disasters due to their additional work load and their responsibility to take care of others.

To enhance flood resilience of urban and coastal communities, the project directly invests in the implementation of EbA measures. Our findings and experiences support the notion that EbA measures are a promising mean to increase the resilience of vulnerable groups of society. A challenge that remains is the time between implementation (e.g. planting of mangroves) and the moment the ecosystem services (e.g. risk reduction) start to be effective. To increase the sustainability of the implemented measures, we aimed to create direct economic benefits from implementing EbA by setting up the mangrove nursery.