Building resilience requires working at various scales from the regional, national, and city, up to the community levels, mainly because of the rapid rate of urbanization in Asia which could heighten vulnerabilities of the urban poor. Shocks and stressors also disrupt existing systems within rural communities, with floods and droughts affecting lives and livelihoods, often leaving many unable to cope and recover both physically and financially.
Asian Development Bank (ADB), in partnership with Oxfam GB, is piloting community-led projects to build resilience through the technical assistance (TA), Promoting Urban Climate Change Resilience in Selected Asian Cities – Development of Pilot Activities and Project Development Support (Subproject 3). This is being implemented in four countries: Bangladesh, Myanmar, Pakistan, and the Philippines.
The project is anchored on the vision of communities to be able to take action to deal with shocks and stressors, make incremental measures to create more flexibility, and implement steps to stop or reduce the drivers of risk.
In December 2019, Oxfam Pakistan project team members (country project manager Zeeshan Mahar and project associate Nazan Nawaz) visited the Philippines to learn from the local experience of municipalities and communities under the project.
In Barangay Napaan in Malay, Aklan, the combination of topographic and climactic factors increases the threats of flooding to the community – a regular occurrence during monsoon season. On the other hand, Barangay San Julian in Janiuay, Iloilo is severely affected not just by flooding but also by regular prolonged droughts. The Pakistan team wanted to know how the communities in the Philippines were developing responses to the impacts of climate change and rapid urbanization.
Earl Paulo Diaz
Meeting with the community stakeholder group (photo by Nazan Nawaz).
Listening to voices that are often unheard
A key feature of the TA project is the use of a dynamic approach to engage sectors through the formation of a community stakeholder group (CSG). This is comprised of individuals from both community and city government who represent sectors traditionally excluded from planning and decision-making, such as the youth, women, elderly, and persons with disabilities. Previously, the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF) project team facilitated workshops and planning sessions in Malay, Aklan and Janiuay, Iloilo with their respective CSGs.
The conversations that occurred in these workshops informed the responsive construction design of the community-led projects.
In Malay, the proposed multi-purpose evacuation center expands the general aim to provide a safe space during emergencies. Through the inputs shared, the design of the center will respond to distinct user needs based on gender, age, and abilities during times of crisis. As an added feature, the center will also be used as a livelihood hub to help generate additional income for the community.
In Janiuay, the community-managed water supply will allow residents to reduce payments for water services, helping ease their financial burden. Furthermore, it will aim to decrease the time allocated for water collection, which is a household task traditionally done by women and girls, since the community supply will serve as an alternative and accessible source of water during periods when resources are scarce.
Enabling leaders from the ground up
Conversely, the communities in the Philippines also learned about the experience in Pakistan, such as the complexities of the government structure. The constant shifts in political dynamics hinder the creation of an enabling environment where stakeholders from the city and the community can collaborate toward realizing a responsive long-term plan as well as address immediate resilience needs.
The Oxfam Pakistan project team members gained a valuable lesson from the experience in the Philippines: the space created for participatory processes. The on-ground community resilience officers (CROs) hired under the project significantly contributed to the facilitation of this inclusive space. The CROs helped establish and maintain linkages among various stakeholders that empower them to have a collective project ownership. This could be useful for improving the enabling environment in Pakistan.
The understanding that the contexts of each country, city, and community are distinct is a key insight from the peer learning exchange. Lessons learned by cities like Malay and Janiuay can inspire the implementation of other community-led projects in various cities.