The District of Maroantsetra in northeastern Madagascar is exposed to many natural disasters, including periodic cyclones and annual floods. Most recently, a large cyclone made landfall in 2021, displacing more than 500 people in three different communes of Maroantsetra district and killing at least one person. In light of climate change, an increase in frequency and intensity of such events is expected.
To help prepare for such natural disasters, the USAID-funded Mikajy project, in partnership with NCBA CLUSA and Tetratech, is helping risk and disaster committees prepare realistic disaster management plans which incorporate environmental management; increasing representation of grassroots communities in these committees; and training committees in the application of early warning communication systems to help improve resilience to climate change.
USAID Mikajy Activity supported the Maroantsetra District Risk and Disaster Management Committee (CDGRC) to update the five-year action plan, known as the District Contingency Plan, which outlines key actions to be implemented in the first two weeks following a cyclone, flood, or epidemic. The CDGRC is chaired by the mayor of Maroantsetra, and brings together various development actors from education, health, nutrition, environment, and agriculture sectors with a common aim: to manage and mitigate the adverse effects of natural disasters. USAID Mikajy supported the CDGRC to set up Commune Risk and Disaster Management Committees, establishing a rural network to help coordinate risk management and disaster response.
USAID Mikajy helped the committee establish a clear communication strategy for what should be done before, during and after the cyclone and USAID Mikajy’s mobile platform sent messages to inform people of the meaning of color-coded flags. For example, in advance of the cyclone, the Committee is charged with quickly disseminating information throughout its network that the cyclone is coming. During the cyclone, the committees raise a red flag which means the cyclone is almost here so people should cut the electricity and not go out of the house. After the cyclone has passed, the committee raises a blue flag meaning it is safe to leave shelter, however it is unsafe to touch electricity on the ground and water must be boiled before consumption.
Recognizing the interplay between natural resources management and natural disaster risk management, USAID Mikajy has also integrated natural resource management messaging into the CGDRC’s communication strategy, so that communities can be more aware of the steps they can take before, during, and after a cyclone event to minimize environmental destruction. Further, USAID Mikajy successfully advocated for inclusion of representatives of community natural resource management structures (COBAs) and farming cooperatives as members of the Risk and Disaster Management Committees, which has proven to be an effective method for integrating environmental conservation into disaster risk management.
The inclusion of such natural resource conservation measures has been well received, as expressed by a community-based conservation group representative:
“The introduction of the environment component within the CDGRC is crucial – _for example, it helps to regulate and manage the collection of fallen trees after a cyclone has passed and ensures villagers do not take advantage of the natural disaster to cut down trees without authorization.”