When a large disaster hits – like the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami – it receives international media coverage, aid is mobilised and aid agencies rush to respond. While survivors of smaller disasters might wish for such attention, there are some serious negative side-effects to these responses. Survivors are often sidelined with little influence on the responses chosen and with little control over how the external funding is used or prioritised, as these decisions rest mostly with external funders. But responses that don’t consult with them risk not only failing, but potentially weakening the communities they’re working with. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Visiting rural communities in Bangladesh has always been like ‘homecoming’ for me. But I seem to learn something new every time I visit. This time was no different. I, along with 25+ participants of the Fifth Conference on community-based adaptation (CBA5), visited the Gopalgang area in southern Bangladesh. Historically, the Gopalgang area is highly vulnerable to disasters, like flooding and water logging.