It has been argued1 that governments and large
development agencies tend to adopt a 'top-down' approach to disaster mitigation
planning whereby the intended beneficiaries are provided with solutions designed
for them by planners rather than selected for themselves. Such 'top-down'
approaches tend to emphasize physical mitigation measures rather than social
changes to build up the resources of the vulnerable groups. They rarely achieve
their goals because they act on symptoms not causes, and fail to respond to the
real needs and demands of the people. Ultimately they undermine the community's
own ability to protect itself.
1 Maskrey, A., Disaster Mitigation
- A Community-based Approach, Oxfam, 1989.
An alternative approach is to develop mitigation policies in
consultation with local community groups using techniques and actions which they
can organize themselves and manage with limited outside technical assistance.
Such community-based mitigation programs are considered more likely to
result in actions which are a response to people's real needs, and to contribute
to the development of the community, its consciousness of the hazards it faces
and its ability to protect itself in the future, even though technically the
means may be less effective than larger-scale mitigation programs. They will
also tend to maximize the use of local resources, including labor, materials and
Applying such community-based policies depends on several
factors - the existence of active concerned local community groups and agencies
able to provide technical assistance and support at an appropriate level, for
example, are crucial to success.
Opportunities for community-based mitigation actions
should always be sought in developing a comprehensive mitigation
Nevertheless, opportunities for community-based mitigation
actions should always be sought in developing a comprehensive mitigation
strategy. They will certainly be cheaper and may be more successful than
alternative larger-scale programs.
Community-based mitigation strategies tend to
maximize the use of local resources; materials, labor and management.
River defenses being built by local community-based
organizations in Rimac Valley, Peru