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Management of Natural Resources

Natural Resources are earth's treasures to mankind - gift for food, wealth and sustainable livelihoods. There are the products in our soil, water and air with which most of mankind's existence is dependent. They include crude oil, minerals, agro and agricultural produce, fisheries, flora, fauna, stable weather phenomena and many more.

 Sadly, our ability to maintain the balance between needs, use and availability of natural resources has been stretched by years, decades, and centuries of exploitation and reckless consumerism contributing to disasters.

 What do we mean by a disaster? A disaster is any kind of crisis or risk event that happens when people are unable to cope with the impact of an event that causes severe damage or destruction.

 According to the World Disasters Report 2010, over 304 million people were affected by natural disasters during that year alone and nearly 300,000 lost their lives.

 Here’s the current state of affairs (Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction 2013):

  • In 2012, flood disasters in Nigeria displaced 2.3Million people, killed over 363 persons, destroyed about 597, 476 houses and left economic losses in billions of dollars (NEMA) – National Emergency Management Agency, Nigeria
  • In the last twenty years natural disasters have affected 64% of the world’s population (UNISDR) – United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
  • 95% of people killed by disasters are from developing countries (IPCC) – International Panel on Climate Change, Geneva.
  • Women, children and the elderly disproportionally suffer the greatest disaster losses (UNISDR)
  • More than 50% of people affected by ‘natural disasters’ live in fragile and conflict-affected countries (Safer World)- an International NGO
  • Conflict, insecurity and fragility affect one in four people on the planet (World Bank)
  • The majority of disaster losses are due to small-scale recurrent disasters, primarily associated with weather-related hazards (UNISDR/GNDR VFL)

In recent years climate change has increased the frequency and intensity of some weather-related hazards. Rising sea levels and unpredictable weather patterns have increased flooding and droughts. Communities are being exposed to extreme hazards which are new to them. Human activity, such as deforestation and farming on steep slopes, contributes to degradation of the environment and increase the risk of floods or landslides.

 What is our response?

The increase in disasters threatens any social, political and economic progress made in recent decades. Reducing the threat of disasters on vulnerable communities is central to the very success of development itself.

When they occur, disasters can seem overwhelming, but remember that if a community builds up its capacity to cope with disasters, it will suffer much less. If we can tackle the causes of vulnerability and hazard, we may be able to prevent future disasters.

Influence Africa’s activities to reduce vulnerabilities include community led triggering to support: 

  • building flood protection dykes;
  • improving drainage;
  • building flood-resistant housing;
  • planting trees, particularly on steep slopes to reduce rainwater run-off and in coastal areas to reduce storm damage;
  • soil conservation measures;
  • peace-building and reconciliation; and
  • improving food security and land reforms.

The disaster cycle

We know that disasters often recur in the same place – annually or with a gap of some years. Once the immediate needs in a disaster area have been met, the work of reconstruction begins. This is accompanied by learning from the experience of the disaster and planning to reduce the risk of future disasters which is often not the case in most scenarios.

  • Emergency Response: In the first few days and weeks after a disaster, there is a need for search and rescue, medical care, food, water, sanitation and shelter, as well as emotional support.
  • Rehabilitation: As the weeks pass, houses need to be repaired, water supplies restored and livelihoods re-instated. Rehabilitation is often called recovery.
  • Mitigation: These activities help to ‘build back better’, making the community more resistant to future hazards. Mitigation is closely linked to rehabilitation – for example, stronger or raised houses, water pumps on raised platforms, alternative crops to cope better with flood or drought.
  • Preparation: This means preparing for the next storm or flood, for example, by establishing a warning system, setting aside food or water stocks, making ready an evacuation centre or training volunteers.

But then not all disasters are natural, we need not forget that even more people are affected by conflict. During the 1990s over 31 million people each year were affected by conflicts, with around 230,000 people killed each year. Recent onslaughts of terrorism in places not seen before such as West Africa is likely to increase the burden on development as more people flee their livelihoods and habitats to become refuges in alien places. The increasing impact of natural disasters may be partly due to an increase in droughts, floods and storms as a result of long-term climate change. However, the main reason is because of increased poverty. Each disaster is likely to leave poor people in a worse situation than before, and even more vulnerable to a future disaster. In addition, the impact of war and terrorism in Africa has brought sudden poverty to many millions of people.

Whilst the situation may appear gloomy, there is much that can be done to reduce risk and create safer, less vulnerable communities. At Influence Africa, we:

  • give a higher priority to pre-disaster activities, not rely on response alone;
  • identify, assess and monitor the risks and work with international partners and governments to develop good early warning systems and pre-positioning of relief items;
  • develop safer communities through education, awareness and training;
  • reduce the risk factors which make people more vulnerable – eg working with stakeholders to improve housing, diversify livelihoods or protect water supplies; and  
  • increase preparation for disasters so that response is faster and more effective.

Conclusively, in recent years Nigeria and indeed Africa has witnessed a significant increase in losses associated with ‘natural’ disasters. The number of people affected by these disasters was fifteen times higher in the 2000s than in the 1990s, and economic losses were twenty fold higher. Disaster-related costs to human life and livelihoods are incalculable. 

 This trend is expected to continue over the coming years with increasing levels of vulnerability due to issues such as population expansion, displacement, HIV/AIDS, environmental degradation and global warming. As most human and material losses to disasters occur, disasters threaten to undo development gains and prevent the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals just as the target year of 2015 is in view.

Influence Africa is concerned about the disruption of its development programmes by hazards such as floods, and droughts. Convinced that risk reduction in the form of both preparedness and mitigation is essential to safeguarding these programmes, Influence Africa partners undertake risk assessment and risk reduction activities with rural communities in Nigeria through various development programmes including Views from the Frontline (VFL) - a project implemented by African Youth Movement (AYM) as Country Director of the Global Network for Disaster Reduction (GNDR). GNDR is the implementing centre of the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR).  This work has proved beneficial to communities through increasing knowledge of risk vulnerabilities of food and water security in times of flood and drought, and the ability of rural communities to protect their homes and livelihoods in the event of a flood, drought or other natural hazard.

Consequently, Influence Africa is determined to integrate risk management into all of its development processes and is undertaking measures to achieve this, believing that community level risk reduction must be supported by local and national government. Influence Africa has also been urging deeper political commitment to the issue, including greater levels of donor investment in disaster prevention to vulnerable countries such as Nigeria.

We offer the findings of our research as a contribution to the ongoing endeavours of all those working to decrease the vulnerability of the poor to disasters thus increasing availability of natural resources for sustainable livelihoods.

We commit ourselves towards making a positive contribution to the future by taking environmental responsibility and promoting sustainable development in our daily lives as integrated approach to natural resource availability. This done to help us shape the present so that future citizens will not remember our generation as one of wasteful consumerism and social blindness rather as one of responsible living and positive change. Join us be the Change we Desire!

 

 


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395 Vale Avenue
Ferndale
Randburg
2194
Johannesburg

P.O Box 4039
Cramerview
Bryanston
2060
Johannesburg

 

Tel:  +27 (0)11 036 6008  or  +27 (0)11 036 6391

Fax:  +27 (0)86 554 8140

Email:  info@influence-africa.org


Office hours: Mon - Fri 9:00 to 17:00