How does a fast food restaurant build flood resilience?
By Krity Shrestha and Anna Svensson
Gita is a 29 year old woman living in Nangapur, a village in western Nepal close to the Karnali River. She is an entrepreneur, managing a small fast food restaurant, a Community Disaster Management Committee member, active in the community’s First Aid Task Force, and the mother of a small child.
Gita’s husband Daman used to migrate to bigger cities in Nepal for long periods to earn money. This is common practice in villages like Nangapur. When floods hit people often end up in debt from repairing damages or replacing losses. By moving to work in a larger city in Nepal or neighbouring India they hope to earn money to pay off loans faster.
With Daman away Gita would be left to look after her home and the farm on her own, while caring for and raising a toddler.
The monsoon floods in 2017 hit Nangapur hard. Gita’s home was flooded. She lost grain she was storing, the crops in her fields were destroyed, and her chickens and pigs were killed. Despite her husband’s earnings as a daily wage labourer the family was not able to repay the loans needed to rebuild and meet their daily needs.
Diverse income streams build flood resilience
In 2019 Gita participated in a month long cooking course provided by Center for Social Development and Research (CSDR) and Practical Action, a partner of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance.
The course was funded by the Z Zurich Foundation through the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) funded Climate Change and Fragility Project.
The idea behind providing cooking courses to community members is that learning a new skill leads to livelihood diversification. More than one income stream means relying less on crop yields that are at high risk of being ruined when floods and other extreme weather becomes increasingly common and unpredictable as a result of climate change.
When people make more money by pursuing new business ventures they are able to invest in measures that mitigate the impact of floods. Like building raised platforms for animals, grains, and household assets. They have better ability to save, so have the money needed to quickly re-build after a flood. Or they can invest in insurance that protects the value of their crops.
Gita’s experience of running the restaurant
In her small restaurant Gita serves dishes she learned to cook during the course. Noodle dishes like Chow Mein, egg based dishes, Namkeens (a collective word for savoury snacks in Hindi), sweets, and tea.
Since opening the restaurant the family is much better off.
“I have been able to contribute directly to my child’s education after opening this shop. Besides this I have been saving Rs100 (about 83 US cent) daily in a cooperative for future. I have also been saving for my child’s education in another cooperative, where I contribute Rs. 200 monthly. I used to have to take loans from community members and relatives but after opening this shop I have not borrowed a single rupee. This is a big relief for me.”Gita
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted her business negatively. But the savings she’d already built up has made a big difference to her family’s ability to cope during lockdown. As restrictions are eased Gita is excited about the prospect to save more, continue learning new skills and recipes, and expand her venture.
Developing flood resilience solutions beyond business as usual
So, how do you come to the conclusion that flood resilience is built by providing cooking qualifications?
By using the Flood Resilience Measurement for Communities (FRMC) we are able to measure the existing resilience of communities we work with, their strengths, and challenges. Together with the community we identify what areas, or resilience capabilities, to invest in.
Because of the holistic and systems-based approach to flood resilience that the FRMC provides we often end up with solutions that are far from the hard infrastructure many of us picture when considering how to reduce the risk and impact of floods.
Interventions like the livelihood diversification training that Gita has participated in provides multiple benefits. Her increased income is not only useful to mitigate the impacts of floods. She will also have opportunities to make home improvements, afford more nutritious food, educate her young child, not to mention the positive impact on her confidence as a budding entrepreneur.