In mid-December the ELCA, through its International Disaster Response program, approved a disbursement of $102,337 to support a Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Community-Managed Disaster Risk Reduction (CMDRR) project in the Turkana district of Kenya. Now you might be wondering what CMDRR is or you might be wondering why it needs to be instituted in Turkana. And you might even be asking where Turkana is. Well I’m glad you asked. This post will answers these three questions. If you have any others, please share them in the comments.

Turkana: The Where and Why

Turkana is located in the northwest part of Kenya and shares borders with Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia. Much of its population is pastoralists, which means they raise cattle and spend a good deal of their lives moving around the area looking for grazing land. In times of drought this type of land becomes more difficult to find, leading to a few possible problems. First, the pastoralists and their cattle are getting less water and food as wells, lakes and crops dry up. To help meet the need they usually have to expand the area in which they search for grazing land. So with less resources to begin with they are traveling over greater distances. All of this leads to fatigue and compromised immune systems for both people and animals, and subsequently to an increase in disease and death.

Then because of the location as a border district, these larger areas of searching tend to cross international borders. With these reduced resources and heightened tensions lead to an increase in border clashes. Then the local and national governments must expend human resources to keep the peace while also trying to meet the increasing demands of the people for water, food and livestock care.

A response to help alleviate the current need while also looking to lessen the chance of its reoccurrence is CMDDR.

CMDRR: An Overview

So what is CMDRR? Here’s a good explanation from LWF:

Today’s population is experiencing more frequent disasters than before due to natural and social hazards. Such conditions have resulted in the destabilization and disruption in society causing widespread human, material and environmental losses….Awareness and recognition of the link between disaster and development is now crucial. Community-Managed Disaster Risk Reduction (CMDRR) is an approach that shows the relationship between disaster and development and offers solutions.

CMDRR therefore refers to a process of disaster risk reduction in which communities are actively engaged in the identification, analysis, treatment, monitoring and evaluation of the risks, with the aim of reducing people’s vulnerabilities and enhancing their capabilities. It places the communities in the heart of the decision making and implementation of disaster risk reduction measures. It supports the communities in building their capacities to prepare for the disasters as well as reducing the weaknesses in the communities which contribute toward the hazard affecting them negatively.

CMDRR: The How

In Turkana this is being done over the 12 months of 2012. To begin with there will be meetings and consultations with stakeholders (people funding and affected by the work) and the local community. They will then be identifying individuals within the community to be leaders for Village Land Use Planning Committees (VLUPC) and Pastoralist Field Schools (PFS). The VLUPCs membership will be drawn from village elders, men, women and children in order to encompass multiple viewpoints. The goal is to develop community resource and drought preparedness plans in negotiations with local neighbors. The PFSs pool the community knowledge that already exists regarding drought-coping strategies to determine and share best practices with everyone.

There will also be water retention programs that involve building contour bunds and sub-surface dams. The contour bunds are ridges dug along the edges of hills to help in conserving rain water. Sub-surface dams are built underground and perpendicular to rivers in another effort to retain water in the soil. The water is then extracted with hand pumps.

With these activities the communities are building upon what they already know and are a part of the process from the beginning. They not just receiving tools but the knowledge to use, tweak and fix the tools as things break or need revamping down the line. Through CMDRR they are being empowered through better disaster preparedness and self-sustainability.

After reading this I was struck by how great it is to be a part of a church really doing church. To see the gifts to and of this church in action, creating the space for what God has given us to flourish, even in the most desolate of conditions.

Gifts to ELCA International Disaster Response allow the church to respond globally in times of need. Donate now.