Mainstreaming disaster risk reduction into community development in the Windward Islands

Idelia Ferdinand

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The Windward Islands are vulnerable to a number of natural hazards. This thesis examines the possibilities for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in the Windward Islands. The Windward Islands offer a special case of “Island Vulnerability”. Island vulnerability is essentially defined as an increased probability in disaster events against what would be expected if vulnerability were to be measured against international levels of poverty, defined as Gross National Product per capita. There are three reasons for this namely the topography of islands, the site characteristics and the socio-economic setting. The topography is one where islands, largely of volcanic or coral origins, face multi-hazard experience particularly from flooding and storm surge. The site issue is that islands usually have a high ratio of coastline to land mass implying a relatively higher exposure to extreme events. The socio-economic conditions are peculiar to island including isolation, mono-agriculture and mono-industry essentially laid down by colonial experience, an absence of formal employment opportunities and weak capacity in local governance including the absence of NGOs. Though DRR has evolved over the last 20 years, some islands and communities remain more vulnerable than others. This research investigates the mainstreaming of DRR in the Windward Islands of Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines. The key issue researched was whether DRR could be effectively implemented at the community level. To address this issue, the research investigates the vulnerability and capacity of communities to hazards in the Windward Islands and suggests ways to reduce risk and build community resilience. The factors affecting vulnerability and capacity to hazards in the Anglophone Windward Islands were identified as a means of determining how to reduce risks and build resilience to hazards in the Windward Islands. Efforts to enhance community development and build resilience are not effective as they fail to address fully community needs. This research concluded that some communities are more vulnerable than others and a major contributor to their vulnerability is poverty. None of the methods used in this research are unique to island vulnerability analysis as they have been applied elsewhere in DRR. What is unique is the scoping of the application of these methods to gain an overview of DRR possibilities. What emerges as a conclusion is the limited impact of top down interventions, especially those interventions that try to address poverty alleviation to lower risk. This is essentially because the poor themselves barricade their own coping mechanisms against external interventions, thus building a wall against external help. Building on local organisational capacity, including religious groups, can help address this problem. Research in this area is limited for the Anglophone Windward Islands and this thesis on vulnerability of household and communities will contribute to knowledge in this field.
Original languageEnglish
  • O'Keefe, Phil, Supervisor
  • O'Brien, Geoff, Supervisor
  • Jayawickrama, Janaka, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Publication statusIn preparation - Aug 2013


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