Providing clean water and flood-resistant shelter 
Sabiha Khatoon collects clean water from a pump installed in her village with funding from DFID / Vicki Francis/DFID

Achieving Lari-Levels of Resilience for Self-Reliant Communities

Community resilience through women-centered approaches for early warning systems, relevant knowledge, information and training, integrated approaches targeting the Millennium Development Goals, zero-carbon DRR- compliant self built structures, alternative livelihoods etc.

Case Study

Achieving Lari-Levels of Resilience for Self-Reliant Communities

HFA Priority

HFA Priority 2: Identify, assess and monitor disaster risks and enhance early warning.

HFA Priority 3: Use knowledge, innovation and education to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels.

HFA Priority 5: Strengthen disaster preparedness for effective response at all levels.


Pakistan is among the most hazard prone countries. Sindh has suffered flooding on an annual basis since 2010. Affected populations suffer from core poverty, ill health and illiteracy, and are highly vulnerable due to repeated disasters. Lack of transparency and poor governance has left rural communities helpless needing strength to deal with hazards themselves.


Sindh Province, Pakistan.

How was the problem addressed?

Rural women have by and large been ignored in the past.   However, under the strategy developed by the Heritage Foundation of Pakistan (HF) women have been trained to spearhead community disaster risk management programmes using a holistic model in order to become self-reliant.

Heritage Foundation of Pakistan works closely with local communities, especially women, to develop and promote integrated approaches to deal with disasters. It provides training to implementing partners, communities and artisans.

Major Partners

IOM (International Organization for Migration) scales up construction of safe, zero carbon footprint shelters. It also helps to provide training in DRR-driven green skills.

An award from the Islamic Development Bank Laureate in 2013 has enabled start up funding for alternative livelihoods for women.

An Emirates Award has enabled implementation of integrated approaches – video link:;

A Transparency International Award in 2013 has helped implement the pilot for turning dysfunctional government schools into functional entities, which will enable all children to be in school.

The main challenges in rural areas are core poverty and alarming deficits in social infrastructure. High levels of poverty along with high illiteracy levels, high rate of maternal and child mortality, open defecation, lack of hygiene, and a consequent apathetic state.

Most international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) have spawned a culture of dependency by giving largesse and donations without teaching communities “to fish” themselves. This approach is traced to the post-Pakistan Earthquake 2005 development by the Government and donor agencies. It relied largely on the construction of industrialized systems and engineered structures using highly energy consumptive materials that have been detrimental to post-disaster development, which seeks to minimize carbon emissions. It has resulted in loss of pride and self esteem, dependency on donor funding and loss of initiative among affected communities.

In the work by HF, this ‘beggar bowl’ syndrome is being countered with strategies that foster pride and self-reliance. Women centered community based disaster risk management is the plank which is promoted to make communities understand the issues of core poverty and other deficits with which they are confronted. The trainings promote the development of DRR-driven zero carbon footprints, low-cost/no-cost green products which are designed to provide resilience and the ability to withstand disasters, that can be achieved by families themselves, without relying on external funding.


The lessons of HF’s work are that if disaster preparedness strategies are women-centred, great strides can be made in developing integrated approaches to enable communities to rise above dependency and become self-reliant.

What could have been done differently and why?

The strategies so far adopted by UN/INGOs require careful analysis.

a.     Are shelter programmes contributing to higher levels of carbon emissions (due to promotion of burnt brick, concrete block or steel)?

b.     Do aid and humanitarian agencies analyze the environmental and social impact on communities due to introduction of alien forms and methodologies?

c.      Due to adoption of engineered structures, does the aid project, which usually costs hundreds of millions of dollars, regenerate local economy or help local enterprise?

d.     Are integrated solutions being followed? By each agency just targeting one sector, can community resilience be developed to withstand disasters?

e.     Is there any focus on women while developing disaster preparedness strategies?

f.      Are there attempts to develop local women role models in order to provide confidence and pride to local communities?

g.     How much attention is given to the intangible factors e.g. pride, importance of local traditions, encouragement of local artistic expression etc.?


The HF holistic approach has resulted in the following: 

a.     Build Back Safer with Vernacular Methodologies: Use of non-engineered structures based on local resources and sustainable materials by improving the households’ technical capability to build/produce DRR-compliant shelters and other green products.

b.     Training in Green Skills: Production of DRR-compliant products e.g. eco-toilets, fuel efficient smokeless stoves; compost making from animal and human waste; herbal soap; rainwater harvesting; green roofs (growing vegetables on roofs); wetlands from waste dumps; tree plantation and vegetation; raised bed farming, platforms for storage of food; safe drinking water; livestock and livestock fodder; methods for treating water before use along with other hygiene, health and literacy objectives. 

c.      Barefoot Village Entrepreneurs: Trained by HF, these are mostly women in partnership with their male partners. They market and promote DRR-compliant products within their own village as well as in neighbouring villages.

d.     Women’s DRR Committees: These committees have been provided training in well-equipped DRR centres, where they hold periodic assemblies to provide information on various aspects of early warning, mobilization of community and school volunteers, and preparation prior to disasters. 

e.     Maa (Mothers’) Committees

These committees are responsible for ensuring that government schools are functioning by ensuring that all school going children are in school. They have been provided with cell phones so they can report absent teachers to Transparency International or HF.

f.      Women’s Assemblies and Festivals

These are held to encourage women’s participation in disaster risk management as well as to honour local role models.

(Video link for Maa Jo Melo – Mother’s Festival:

Measuring success

a.     40,000 zero carbon footprint sustainable shelters built with earth, lime and bamboos (2011 to 2014), many of which have withstood floods in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

b.     Over 600 NGO personnel, professional architects, engineers and artisans provided training in the construction of sustainable safe shelters.

c.      1,700 village communities provided training in construction of sustainable safe shelters.

d.     10 DRR centres completed in as many villages with a population of 15,000.

e.     Green skill trainings provided to over 500 women and 50 men.

f.      Over 450 DRR compliant eco toilets with arrangements for roof gardens built by BVEs to prevent open defecation.

g.     Over 550 DRR-compliant fuel-efficient stoves built by BVEs.

Was the success/impact measured

Review carried out by IOM for shelter and ILO for green skills training.

Is so, what indicators were used to measure?

The evaluation report for one-room shelters commissioned by IOM from Shelter Cluster, Geneva, is due in mid-December 2014. 

Relevance to HFA

How have the results contributed to HFA progress in the country?

The HF programme has provided an understanding about the necessity of employing improved vernacular non-engineered structures both for flood- and seismic-resistant structures, thus providing safe self built shelters at a very low cost. Since 2011 funding  from the Department for International Development (DFID) emphasizes the need for use of lime. Also, a more integrated model is now being pursued by DFID-IOM e.g. by integrating HF’s fuel-efficient stoves. In some cases toilets are being constructed as part of shelter programmes. 

Did HFA OR Making Cities Resilient Campaign play a role in enabling this initiative?

HF strategies have been drawn from HFA and emphasize the need for DRR compliance at all aspects of development.

If yes, how / If no, what needs to be done in HFA2 to enable such initiatives?

Almost everybody is now working according to the guidelines provided by HFA. There is still need, however, to strengthen participative approaches, sustainability of materials, lower carbon emissions, improve the technical competence of communities so that safety can be built in all self-built structures, develop self respect and pride to encourage self help actions, and lower the cost of all actions to increase the outreach for concepts such as those promoted by HF.

Potential for replication

Can this initiative be replicated or has it already been replicated? If so, where?

HF’s model has not been replicated in other countries. It needs to be taken forward since it is designed for marginalized communities, which is the case in least developed countries (LDCs).

Provide a brief explanation on: how, and if there is no potential for replication.

There is huge potential for replication as communities can themselves become empowered to undertake various DRR activities themselves. HF Pakistan has developed facilities for large-scale training. It has three major training centers: for seismic resistant structures in HF Base Camp, Mansehra, North Pakistan; for Flood-resistant structures in HF’s Eco-village, Moak Sharif, Lower Sindh and HF’s DRR Theme Park, Kot Diji, Upper Sindh.

A large number of trainings are being conducted where models of various products, built with sustainable materials are available. HF’s DRR centres in various villages allow training in disaster preparedness as well as in green skills, thus providing communities, particularly women, with necessary tools to avoid displacement.

Since the methodology has been recognized (HF’s model is now among the finalists for World Habitat Awards 2015), it is hoped that international humanitarian networks will become aware of alternative methods of implementation.

Contribution by

Provide contact information of the key person(s) for this example of practice including yours:

Heritage Foundation of Pakistan (HF)

Ar. Yasmeen Lari

Ar. Mariyam Nizam

International Organization for Migration (IOM)

Ms. Ammarah Mubarak

Mr. Hasballah

International Labour Organization

Ms. Shama Maqbool

Mr. Alaf Shaikh