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Enhancing communities’ resilience to floods

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Some of the tree trunks used to strengthen the Livulezi river -Pic by Roy Nkosi Some of the tree trunks used to strengthen the Livulezi river -Pic by Roy Nkosi

Lilongwe, May 22: Floods have become a common occurrence in most parts of Malawi and the resulting damage has had far reaching consequences on individual lives and their communities.

For people of Group Village Headman (GVH) Dzindevu and the surrounding areas in Dedza have been part of the statistics exposed to this wrath of nature.

The perennial overflowing of Livulezi River, which pass through several villages in Senior Chief Kachindamoto including Dzindevu, has often been a cause of trouble to its catchment area that spreads across Dedza and Ntcheu districts.

Areas of group village heads Ndindi, Kabulika 2 and Dzindevu have always been the worst hit in Dedza as Livulezi River changed its course during rainy season.

Gertrude Kambalame, 33, from GVH Dzindevu has come face to face with the ordeal of floods and its devastating impact.

In 2014, Livulezi River broke its banks resulting in floods in most nearby villages including Dzindevu.

“My maize field was washed away. We had no food that year and my family was forced to engage in piece works to find food. It was hard to sustain our livelihood,” says Kambalame, a married mother of five.

She adds that apart from affecting crop harvests in the area, the floods also negatively affected school going children in the area because of the closure of Gosheni Primary School.

Following these floods, communities from three affected group village heads mobilized and joined hands in constructing a sand bag block along Livulezi River as a solution to their problem.

An assessment of the river found that the right embankments of the river were destroyed by flood water resulting in a wide cut between the embankment and the river bed. The cut, which two metres deep and 150m wide, caused water to over flow.

Group Village Headman Dzindevu says after becoming tired with the occurrence of the floods, community members in affected areas engaged Dedza District Council to embark on a river training and embankment project with financial support from United Purpose.

“We cut bamboos and tree trunks and planted them on the river banks on the most vulnerable part of the river,” says GVH Dzindevu adding that the interventions were not an instant success.

“The project was successfully implemented but a year later the embankment was washed away as it could not withstand the force and volume of flowing water,” he says.

After the embankment got washed away, Dedza District Council, through Dzindevu Civil Protection Committee, sought funding from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Small Grants Scheme through the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) to reconstruct the damaged embankment using the fascine mattress technology.

This technology involves the use rafts specifically designed to shield the shoreline of rivers against erosion and they are made with locally available materials such as bamboos, stones and woods among other.

As Richard Manyowa, Chairperson of the Civil Protection Committee explains, Fascine Mattress project was to enhance resilience of the communities within Kachindamoto area in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) through proper management of risks that affected livelihood and caused some shocks.

“Gosheni Fascine mattress covers an area of about 3000 square meters. It has 224m of length and 30m of width at the widest point.

“The committee mobilized community members to gather materials for the embankment such as stones, tree logs and bamboos to conserve and safeguard the embankment and also take part in the actual mounting of the fascine mattress,” he narrates.

According to Manyowa, the project promoted community led river training, river bank stabilization and embankment protection, enhanced communities’ capacity in handling, managing natural shocks and building resilience of the individuals in the impact area.

Through the project, 200 people (100 men and 100 women) benefited through cash for work.

With the project complete, communities now feel safe because their households or fields are no longer affected by floods, according to Chief Dzindevu.

“This has enabled us to freely carry out various socio-economic activities such as farming. There is no interruption of classes in schools,” he says.

The relief of the entire community has spilled over to individuals like Kambalame who is now pregnant and awaits her sixth child.

“Am happy that since this intervention, there has been no floods. This has allowed us to grow our crops without the fear of losing through flooding,” she says.

Disaster Officer for Dedza, Zione Vyazi advises people of GVH Dzindevu and the surrounding areas to protect the environment by avoiding the cutting down trees in mountains and high areas in order to safeguard the Gosheni Fascine project.

“By protecting the trees, we are ensuring that all the works we did to erect barriers in Livulezi River is protected. DoDMA is also encouraging the people to avoid cultivating along the river banks.

“Another practice that we are encouraging them is the planting of bamboos, vetiver as well as putting stones along the river to ensure that the river bank is strong,” says Vyazi.

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