PublicationsSystematic reviewsDo CBDRM initiatives impact on the social and economic costs of disasters? If so, how, why, when and in what way(s)?
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Do CBDRM initiatives impact on the social and economic costs of disasters? If so, how, why, when and in what way(s)?

What do we want to know?

Considerable effort has been devoted to mobilising government support for the integration of Community Based Disaster Risk Management (CBDRM) activities into policy, planning and programming. Disaster risk reduction (DRR) initiatives comprise a wide range of activities and measures aimed at reducing the adverse effects associated with natural disasters. For DRR initiatives to be successful and sustainable, communities should be actively involved. Disasters can have a significant negative impact on a community’s livelihoods and wellbeing, erasing any developmental gains and reinforcing the mechanisms that create poverty traps and chronic poverty among those most vulnerable. There is a great need to reinforce programmes that limit the negative consequences of natural disasters.

This review explored the following research questions: Do CBDRM initiatives impact on the social and economic costs of disasters? If so, how, why, when and in what way(s)?

Who wants to know?

The study was funded by the Australian Agency for International Development’s (AusAID) Australian Development Research Awards Scheme (ADRAS) as part of a joint call for systematic reviews with the Department for International Development (DFID) of the UK, and the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie).

What did we find?

The review identified the importance of CBDRM interventions “linking up” and “linking in”. Interventions should be multi-faceted, “linking up” mechanisms which promote ‘expressed empowerment’ and ‘actioned agency’; resilient livelihoods; enhanced safety, security and protection; technological innovation and communication; and ‘integrated knowledges’ within programming. They should also “link in” communities with other stakeholders thus ensuring that interventions leverage off existing networks if available and create partnerships which will enhance the sustainability of interventions. “Linking up” and “linking in” enhance community coping capacity, resilience and sustainable development.

Understanding local context & settings

Deep understanding of the local context is fundamental to successful programming. Textured insights into community and state structures and functioning, appreciation of the local political economy environment, will enhance likelihood of interventions doing more good than harm by reducing vulnerability and risk, and bolstering resilience and capacity.

Place resilient livelihoods at the centre of CBDRM initiatives

Livelihood diversification activities should be integrated with programming which should itself be based on a comprehensive market assessment and careful planning. Three forms of diversification should be considered: 

  • Same sector diversification – this takes place through the production of multiple crops in multiple areas or through intercropping or rearing different types of livestock.
  • Value chain diversification - undertaking related business activities along the value chain, and can include value-adding activities.
  • Sector diversification - moving into other sectors such as from agriculture to small scale trading.

Initiatives should also incorporate traditional livelihood activities along with the enhanced livelihood strategies to diversify income bases while still ensuring traditional livelihoods are retained and practiced as a “safety net”.

CBDRM and the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework 

Building resilient communities should reinforce all five core areas of the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework. These are important to ensuring that interventions are comprehensive and more likely to be sustainable:

  • Social Capital - social resources (networks, membership of groups, relationships of trust and reciprocity, access to wider institutions of society) upon which people draw;
  • Financial Capital - financial resources which are available to people (whether savings, supplies of credit or regular remittances or pensions) which provide them with a range of livelihood options;
  • Physical Capital - basic infrastructure (transport, shelter, water, energy and communications) and the equipment and means that enable people to pursue livelihood activities;
  • Natural Capital - natural resource stocks from which resource flows useful for livelihoods are derived such as  land, water, wildlife, biodiversity, and the environment;
  • Human Capital - skills, knowledge, capabilities and ability to labour, along with the good health necessary for the ability to pursue different livelihood strategies.


    We also identified two additional core areas of importance to CBDRM: 

  • Technological Capital - availability of appropriate technical resources, and the effective mobilisation of these resources, in ways that can positively impact access to information and upward mobility;
  • Cultural Capital - underlying factors that provide human societies with the means and adaptations to maintain themselves in their environment. 

    Incorporating local and traditional knowledge

    For any intervention to be successful and sustainable it is important to identify, acknowledge, and incorporate helpful local and traditional practices. These may relate to any or all of knowledge of the natural environment, climate, extreme weather events, and associated responses.


    What are the implications?

  1. The Review highlights the importance of a dynamic and multifaceted approach to managing disaster risk and climate change adaptation if positive outcomes are to occur at the community level. The mechanisms identified were affected by, and reflected the influence of, differing contexts.
  2. Our analysis leads to the conclusion that CBDRM programmes have the potential to contribute to reducing risk and vulnerability, and may contribute to enhancing resilience and the capacity of affected groups, thus mitigating the long-term economic and social impact of disasters. However, achieving these positive outcomes is strongly dependent on programme design, the prevalence of enabling trigger mechanisms and the control of inhibitors.
  3. Interventions at community level need to be transformative rather than cosmetic if their potential benefits are to manifest.
  4. Interventions must “link up” and reinforce the different mechanisms shown to be effective, and should “link in” communities with other agencies.
  5. Textured understanding of local context and settings is required in order to design and implement appropriate interventions. Those which facilitate actioned agency and expressed empowerment are more likely to bring real benefits.
  6. Livelihood diversification activities should be incorporated into programming which should be based comprehensive market assessments and careful planning. Initiatives should incorporate effective traditional livelihood activities with other enhanced livelihood strategies; traditional livelihoods provide an important “safety net”.
  7. Building resilient communities should reinforce five core areas of the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework (Social, Financial, Physical, Natural, and Human) plus a further two - Technological and Cultural capital.
  8. Integrating local and traditional knowledge of the natural environment, climate and locally common extreme weather events is important for long-term sustainability and resilience.

How did we get these results?

The review had two main stages:

  1. Searching: 31,938 studies identified through searching 25 major databases; 6 key journals over a sixteen-year period; 63 relevant websites; citation tracking; and suggestions from the review reference group.
  2. In-depth realist synthesis: 27 studies, rated for methodological rigour were included in realist analysis. These all had a CBDRM and socio-economic focus, were rigorous, measured outcomes, and provided insights into contextual factors.

This report should be cited as:

Zwi AB, Spurway K, Marincowitz R, Ranmuthugala G, Hobday K and Thompson L (2018) Do CBDRM initiatives impact on the social and economic costs of disasters? If so, how, why, when and in what way(s)? London: EPPI Centre, Social Science Research Centre, Institute of Education, University of London.

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