A proactive disaster risk reduction framework for recurring Efundja in the rural Cuvelai-Etosha Basin, Northern Namibia

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Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The Cuvelai-Etosha basin is associated with the Efundja, the annual flooding of the basin that results from a combination of local rainfall and water flowing from Angola through the Cuvelai drainage system and spreading across the flat plains of Namibia. This frequently occurring hazard affects the large population of the rural Cuvelai-Etosha basin by destroying their livelihoods, prohibiting their movements and influencing all aspects of their lives. During extreme Efundja events, the inhabitants of the Cuvelai-Etosha basin are forced to repetitively relocate into temporary shelters every flooding season. Governmental response to the Efundja has remained mainly reactive. However, global policies on disaster management have changed drastically since the 1990s, moving away from the previous emphasis on emergency management, towards new applications of disaster risk management. Several international declarations expressed the determination to implement actions to reduce risks at every level. These approaches were adopted by many national governments. Namibia followed suit by aligning with the current Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) as well as the former Hyogo Framework for Action, 2005- 2015. Consequently, the government developed its national disaster risk management framework which is stipulated in the Disaster Risk Management Act, Act number 10 of 2012. The Disaster Risk Management Act is the current guiding national Efundja response blueprint applied whenever responding to any national hazard. Despite the existence of this national disaster risk management framework, governmental response to the Efundja seems to follow a reactive approach as it mainly focuses on providing relief aid and temporary shelters while failing to address the underlying factors. Most importantly, the national response neglects the response mechanisms and mitigation measures of the vulnerable communities living in the basin, completely negating their input in the response mechanism. The aim of this study was to develop a disaster risk reduction proactive response framework for the recurring Efundja in the rural Cuvelai-Etosha basin of northern Namibia, by specifically including the lived experiences of the rural communities of the basin. This study applied a qualitative phenomenological inquiry in order to investigate the appropriate approach of dealing with Efundja in northern Namibia. Through the use of semi- structured interview schedules with key informants and focus group discussions with community members, the present study obtained primary data which was analysed through content analysis with the assistance of Atlas.ti software. The results indicate that the communities of northern Namibia have a negative perception about their ability to deal with the Efundja. This perception highlights the need for risk awareness programmes and improved information sharing methods to teach and help these communities to recognise their own potential and capacities in dealing with the Efundja. These communities collectively engage in response activities such working together to fix local roads and pedestrian bridges, raise funds, demarcate landmarks in the iishana to be able to cross them safely, and use their accumulated knowledge to mitigate the impacts. This indicates capacity and resources to mitigate the impact of the Efundja. Their ability to organise themselves through their social networks in order to participate in these activities represents solidarity and highlights available social capital. Moreover, these communities also engage in mitigation measures that signify the underlying issues that need to be addressed. Mitigation measures such as changing Mahangu storage facility type, buying of groceries in bulk and travelling in groups, changing house building materials, digging trenches, storing valuable goods higher and creating sand embankments all reveal the root issues associated with stagnant water. The large volumes of stagnant water eventually penetrate into homesteads and crop fields and destroy these assets. In order to effectively and proactively address these issues, the government response approach should include the provision of proper road infrastructure that would allow appropriate water movement and enable the movement of the people themselves. An important characteristic of the response mechanisms employed by the communities is that they are only able to respond to, and mitigate, the immediate, short-term and mid-term risks of flooding, but not the long-term risks. Some of the mitigation measures used may lead to further vulnerabilities and accidents such as drowning and the danger posed by open water ditches to children and animals. This indicates the need for the national response approach to earnestly include the vulnerable community’s views and ideas into the national disaster risk management framework in order for the framework to substantially address the underlying issues faced by the communities. The ongoing provision of relief aid and temporary shelters is only a solution for medium and short-term risks but such efforts do not address any long-term Efundja risk issues. The provision of relief aid and temporary shelters does not reduce the loss of human lives or assets as the national disaster risk management framework envisioned to do. Ironically, both the communities and the government focus on short and medium-term responses. While this is normal for affected communities, governmental responses should take a more long-term approach to be successful. The local headmen have also expressed an inability to effectively respond to Efundja. They have stated that besides monitoring the status of residents and consulting with the local constituency. councillors, encouraging the locals to work harder to have enough food, creating awareness and issuing warnings, they do not have a defined way of preparing for or responding to Efundja. Their responses show a lack of confidence in their work and highlight the lack of resources and means to prepare and support their communities during the recurring Efundja. They expressed how they are the least recognised in terms of remuneration, resource allocation and funds provision in order to assist their communities. They emphasised that all the resources and relief aid assistance they offer is usually taken from their personal income. This indicates a need for programmes to empower headmen, through training and awareness programmes, with authoritative power and empowerment in the overall traditional leadership to be able to effectively guide and offer direction to their respective communities in times of hazards. On the other hand, the local-level disaster risk management officials regard the occurrences of Efundja as normal and have expressed the way their offices are under-equipped. These officials only assist those who come to ask for help, give precautionary measures, conduct rapid assessments, monitor dam levels and organise and prepare relocation camps. Moreover, the results show that these local officials lack institutional capacity and knowledge of disaster management. This is evident in the way they emphasise maintaining emergency budgets, giving information on dam levels with no actions recommended, the organising of relocation camps and keeping of emergency equipment, without referring to planning or mitigation for future flooding. Their responses indicate the emphasis placed on emergency management and a lack of planning to reduce the effects of the Efundja on the people. Therefore, it is necessary to build institutional capacity for the local-level disaster risk management officials to empower them to take the leading role in disaster risk reduction at local levels. It is hence important to equip them to be able to initiate, lead and sustain community-based disaster risk management (CBDRM) programmes. They are the people closest to disaster-related problems taking place in communities, making them the best vehicle to establish and execute long- term solutions to risk reduction. This implies that local and traditional authorities are indispensable components in establishing and maintaining disaster resilient communities. The entity responsible for overall national Efundja response is the national-level disaster risk management officials. The national response is based on the national disaster risk management framework which is stipulated in the national policy on di saster risk management and the National Act No.10 of 2012 on disaster risk management. Although this framework stipulates various proactive measures, it is not appropriately implemented throughout the affected area. It displays a top-down response centred on key government decision-makers coordinating other employees in order to provide swift relief aid and temporary shelter to the affected communities. In theory, the framework describes the recommended disaster risk management and disaster risk reduction responses to disasters; however, what is practised and implemented on the ground seems to be emergency response management. The overall response approach is less focused on the affected communities, their views or their way of responding to Efundja and more concerned with evacuating them out of the Efundja zone during flooding season. The affected communities play no role at any level and their views or opinions are not considered on any platform nor do they contribute to the national disaster risk management framework. Therefore, the present study identified an urgent need for the full implementation of the existing disaster risk reduction framework in order to minimise the negative impacts of the Efundja, and the inclusion of the views of the local communities in developing a better, more proactive disaster management framework. The proactive disaster risk reduction framework developed from the results of this study recommends the development of community-based risk awareness programmes, the strengthening of early warning systems and dissemination of information thereof, active participation by community members in improving disaster response and mitigation strategies, and empowerment of local headmen and local-level disaster risk management officials. Further recommendations include the need to secure a funding mechanism for the implementation of further risk reduction programmes and capacity building for all disaster risk management units. By implementing these recommendations, the current disaster risk reduction framework can be improved to ensure sustainable, proactive, disaster risk reduction and mitigation in the Cuvelai-Etosha basin.
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Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2021.
Cuvelai (Namibia), Etosha National Park (Namibia), Floods -- Namibia Cuvelai, Efundja, Natural disasters -- Risk assessment, Hazard mitigation, Sustainable development -- Namibia Cuvelai, Risk management -- Social aspects -- Namibia Cuvelai, UCTD