Afghanistan Resilience Consortium's Community Based Eco-Disaster Risk Reduction (CBED)

Contributed by Julia J. Aguilera | published 10th Jun 2021 | last updated 23rd Jun 2021

This solution has been uploaded by Julia Aguilera on behalf of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency

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Image: UNEP (12/12/18)
Summary

This project aimed to build resilience of Afghan communities and ecosystems to climate-induced hazards within two major river basins, through the implementation of a range of community-selected and community-led water conservation and risk reduction measures.

This Community-Based Eco-Disaster Risk Reduction project (CBED) was carried out by the Afghanistan Resilience Consortium (ARC) with the financial support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).  It had the objective to contribute to the resilience of Afghan communities and ecosystems to climate-induced hazards by executing effective disaster risk reduction plans and promoting the sustainable use of natural resources, while the intended outcome was the active participation of local communities in disaster risk reduction and nature conservation.

Objectives were achieved through the following outputs:

  • Improvement of the institutional capacity at different levels on ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction (DDR) measures that are gender and conflict-sensitive.
  • Strengthened resilience of communities for mitigating the risks of floods and droughts.
  • Ensured participation of vulnerable households of the local communities in the physical works of the project.
  • Increased awareness on evidence-based Eco-Disaster Risk Reduction (Eco-DDR) among policymakers and practitioners.

The project focused on two major river basins in Afghanistan and was implemented in 30 micro-watersheds located in six-sub-basins (5 watersheds per province). The river basins were identified based on their vulnerability to flood and drought hazards, and the watersheds were selected based on their relevance for mitigating flood hazards. The treatments were done in the higher catchment areas to reduce impacts of floods in middle and lower areas. To prevent adverse effects to downstream communities, measures departed from a River Basin Approach. It is estimated that the measures benefited around 291,060 people in 245 communities in the catchment areas of the watersheds.

The Community Based Eco-DRR (CBED) utilized in this project combines; Ecosystem-Based Disaster Risk Reduction (Eco-DRR), Community Based Disaster Risk Reduction (CB-DRR), and Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM). Solutions consisted of a combination of light infrastructure and ecosystem services, an approach that contributed to the identification of natural solutions for reducing risk exposure. The participation of local communities enabled the selection of measures that were locally accepted. This selection included water conservation measures such as control ponds and water reservoirs, measures to protect land such as ridge/bench terracing, trenching, check dams, and terraces in steep slopes, and vegetation measures involving vegetation restoration, tree and shrub planting, supporting women to operate small-scale nursery schools. Furthermore, the project also contained a Cash-for-Work component that consisted of providing cash payments to vulnerable women for the production of gabion networks, and men for other works related to the digging of channels, construction of ponds, and other physical works.

Afghanaid, a British-registered international NGO and leading member of the ARC, was in charge of the coordination of the project as well as forwarding resources to other consortium members, which included Save the Children, Concern World Wide, Action Aid, and UN Environment.

Overview
Location
Afghanistan
Implementation sites
Single country
Multiple locations
Mountain region
Hindu Kush
Province
Takhar, Badakhshan, Samangan, Bamyan, Jawzjan, Sari Pul
Site locations

Chah ab, Kishem, Argo, Aybak, Hazrat-e Sultan, Yakawlang, Bamyan Center, Sheberghan, and Sar-e-pul districts

Solution scale
Sub-national / Regional
Ecosystem type(s)
Lakes and rivers
Grassland
High Alpine
Meadows
Solution type(s)
Engineering
Education and awareness
Land use practice
Sector(s)
Natural Hazards
Human Health & Wellbeing
Water
Climate impact(s) addressed
Flood
Drought
Impact time-scales
Slow Onset
Rapid Onset
Benefits
Climate risk reduction
Co-benefits
Social benefits
Economic benefits
Environmental benefits
Implementation timeline
2018 — 2021
Sendai targets
1
2
4
5
6
SDGs
1
11
13
15
Solution details

Main beneficiaries & outcomes

It is estimated that these measures in Afghanistan beneficiated around 291,060 residents of the 245 communities affected by floods and drought-related hazards in the catchment area of the 30 watersheds. Moreover, thanks to the Cash-for-Work components, the project was also economically beneficial to particularly vulnerable men and women who participated on the physical works for the implementation of solutions. This last aspect looked to promote gender equality. 

Planning and implementation

The project was implemented by the Afghanistan Resilience Consortium (ARC), integrated by Afghanaid, Save the Children, Concern Worldwide, Action Aid and UN Environment in 2013. This consortium has the dual aim of reducing vulnerabilities in Afghan communities to climate change and natural disasters in a coordinated manner, and to deliver systemic change to the way in which government and stakeholders work to reduce disaster risks.

Afghanaid, the leader if ACR, was in charge of the project coordination, as well as forwarding financial resources to the other consortium members. However, the 30 micro-watersheds were divided among all the consortium members for implementation. At the start of the process, a baseline survey was carried out by an external consultancy agency. It gathered baseline values and status of each output, outcome and impact indicators of the project. Moreover, several geo-tagged baseline photos were also taken at various key locations of each watershed.

The river basins in which measures were implemented were selected based on their vulnerability to droughts and floods hazards. Later, local communities were engaged in the solution selection and implementation processes to ensure that the measures to be implemented were locally accepted. Several solution options that consisted of a combination of light infrastructure and ecosystem services were presented and selected in each case. Finally, women considered vulnerable received cash payments for the production of gabion networks, and vulnerable men for other work in connection with the digging of channels, construction of ponds, and other similar physical activities.

Finance

The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) provided full financial coverage for this project through a project grant of 120,000,000 SEK (approximately 13, 808, 340 USD). A grant agreement was signed by both parties (SIDA, and Afghanaid as representative of the Consortium) to establish the rules and specific conditions concerning the grant. The monetary aid was disbursed in annual instalments based on the financial needs of the project for each annual period, and detailed in an annual work plan, and budget provided by implementers.

Funders required the implementer group to exercise the necessary diligence, efficiency, and transparency in line with sound financial management, cost-efficiency, and best practices principles such as result-based management including learning and adaptation. Furthermore, it was also demanded to identify and mitigate any related risks during the implementation of the project such as possible corruption issues and other irregularities. Finally, the ARC then had the responsibility to provide a semi-annual financial report, an annual audit report carried out by an external auditor, as well as a semi-annual and final narrative report.

Innovation

The innovative aspect of this solution was the Community Based Eco-DRR (CBED) approach, which emerged from the combination of Ecosystem-Based Disaster Risk Reduction (eco-DRR), Community Based Disaster Risk Reduction (CB-DRR) and Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM) approaches. This combined perspective contributed to the identification of natural, sustainable, and low-impact solutions to tackle the risk of floods and drought in the region while improving the resilience of ecosystems and maintaining they natural functioning.  

The cash for work component and the involvement of local communities in the selection of the solutions were also new assets that allowed acceptance of the population and helped ensure success. This last aspect was equally supported by the conflict perspective of the project.

Performance evaluation

As part of the initial steps on the implementation of the project, Afghanaid (representing the Consortium) engaged an external research and consultancy agency to conduct a baseline survey for gathering baseline values and statutes on each of the outputs, outcome and impact indicators of the project. Several geo-tagged photos in key locations of the 30 watersheds were also taken. Later, towards the end of the project, Afghanaid also looked to contract an experienced agency for performing a final study on the project that compared new data with data obtained during the baseline survey and helped determine the outcomes of the project interventions. This final survey had also the intention to collect evidence of changes in the lives of local population connected to the solution implementations. To date (June 2021) there is no available information regarding if this end-line survey has been conducted nor any results. The project implementation finished in April 2021.

As required by the financial supporter of the project (SIDA), implementers performed an annual evaluation and monitoring on the progress of the implemented measures. The Parties of the project then held semi-annual meetings in order to discuss the achieved results, lessons-learned and adaptations made during each activity period. 

Long term maintenance and sustainability

There is no available information regarding the performance of an environmental monitoring assessment. Due to the heavy engagement of local populations, it is envisaged that the ownership, acceptance, skills and knowledge are established to enable communities to maintain the implemented measures over the long term.

Capacities for design and implementation

Knowledge

The knowledge of the consortium partners in community-driven processes was highly relevant aspect for the implementation of the project. Afghanaid (British-registered international NGO but with a majority of afghan employees), has a large experience addressing the right and fundamental needs of Afghan people in some of the most remote areas of the country, providing basic services and supporting the development of rural livelihoods.

Knowledge and experience in the implementation of community-based Eco-Disaster Risk Reduction projects were equally necessary for the success of the solution. This not only required knowing the current conditions and functioning of Afghan society but also effectively analyzing and managing the causal factors of disasters, as well as promoting sustainable development and resilience from an ecological perspective.

4/5

Technology

The solutions included a broad selection of light infrastructure and ecosystem services based on the local conditions. Despite technology being employed for analysing initial and final conditions of the work areas (e.g. geo-tagged photographs) and to support implementation of measures like water reservoirs and check dams, it is not considered to be one of the main enablers of the project. 

2/5

Institutional

This Community Based Eco-Disaster Risk Reduction project had as one of its main objectives to enhance the institutional capacity at multiple levels on ecosystem-based approaches, as well as increasing the awareness of policymakers in the country on evidence-based Eco-DRR solutions. Moreover, management capacities were key for the coordination during the implementation process which was ensured by semi-annual meetings that allowed reporting and analyzing the progress and outcomes of the solutions, as well as helping the relevant authorities decide the possible adaptations to be implemented. 

4/5

Socio-cultural

The social capacities of the project are clear given that implementation was prompted by a Non-Governmental Organization. Moreover, for decades, armed conflicts in the country have left population ill prepared to confront climate related risk that hit several regions. The collaboration of local communities and the enhancement of their resilience to climate-related hazards was among the main objectives of the measures.  Collaborating closely with the local population allowed the acceptance of the solutions and its implementation given that vulnerable women and man directly worked on the different physical activities required to put solutions in effect. Women’s participation was a priority since the beginning of the process. 

4/5
Barriers and adverse effects

Barriers and adverse effects

One of the main risk associated to the project was the fact that SIDA could not initially ensure fully financing, prompting concerns that the project could not be implemented according to the plan. Due to internal administrative challenges, SIDA could only at the time commit to 60% of the total budget, however, the intention was always to provide full financial coverage as soon as possible, and by August 2020 the full amount was provided.

In order to fight possible corruption issues, SIDA committed to continuously bring this topic to the table and support implementers engaging in an open and transparent manner. Procurement activities were initially identified as areas particularly vulnerable to corruption.

The conflict perspective assisted in the selection of measures avoiding large-scale infrastructure solutions, and instead focus on actions where maintenance and materials could be managed and provided locally. By departing from a River Basin Approach, it was possible to ensure that the project's actions would not adversely affect downstream communities in the river basin.

Outlook & Scalability

Transformation and future outlook

This solution supports fundamental change in climate change adaptation in mountain areas by increasing the resilience of local communities and ecosystems, and by raising the communities’ awareness on climate related risks. Moreover, it engaged the local population to be active in reducing risks and practice conservation of natural resources not only to their benefits but also for future generations - a cornerstone of transformation.

Well-managed ecosystems help reducing physical exposure to many hazards. Moreover, the good management of ecosystems not only provides higher adaptive capacities and protection of population, but also brings economic, social and other environmental benefits. 

Potential for upscaling and replication

There is no available information regarding the possible replication of this solution. However, the approach used (Community-based Eco-DRR) is an excellent strategy for actively involving local communities in climate adaptation related activities given the fact that they commonly possess high knowledge of their lands and mountains in general that has been shared through generations, and because it is important to familiarize local populations with adaptation measures. In this particular case, the cash for work component was very important for ensuring participation and providing a source of economic means.

Acknowledgements

This survey was elaborated based on official project’s documentation available through Openaid (Open Government data of Swedish aid). The solution description reflects the authors’ views and not those of the Afghanistan Resilience Consortium (ARC) or the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) collaborators. Julia Aguilera Rodriguez filled the survey, while Simon Allen revised the solution description.

Solution Resources

Participating Organisations