Bosnia and Herzegovina

Engagement of a wider community in the planning of priorities and measures for prevention and preparedness in emergencies in the agricultural sector

Laying a foundation for long-term effective and targeted development of a disaster risk reduction (DRR) platform for agriculture in ten local communities in BiH

The territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina is highly exposed and vulnerable to meteorological and geological natural hazards and disasters, which have huge impacts on the agricultural sector. In order to undertake measures to protect this branch of the economy, the Joint Swiss and United Nations (UN) Programme “Disaster Risk Reduction for Sustainable Development in BiH” promoted the engagement of a broader BiH community in the planning of priorities and measures for providing a response in emergencies.

The programme laid a foundation for long-term effective and targeted development of a disaster risk reduction (DRR) platform for agriculture in ten local communities vulnerable to risks. Attempts are made to address hazards, exposure and ability to solve problems in the households that depend on agriculture through activities of the local DRR teams.

One of the cities in BiH in which communities are implementing the necessary activities to respond to the existing and future disasters is Trebinje. The DRR team in that city has been continually working towards strengthening the existing system which will contribute to reducing levels of exposure to hazards, vulnerability of people and property and an efficient land management.

According to Ms. Svjetlana Vuletić of the Agrarian Fund of the City of Trebinje, coordinator and member of the DRR working group in the agricultural sector, the development of a DRR programme for each local community represents concrete support to systemic disaster risk reduction and possibility to manage an emergency.

“Every local community has a chance to have all the plans, measures and stakeholders for both preparedness for, and actual response to, disasters that have already hit at one place. The importance of power and coordination of all local institutions in disaster risk reduction is visible even today, during the COVID-19 pandemic. A local disaster risk assessment in agriculture is a particularly important segment of DRR as this branch of the economy is particularly vulnerable even without natural disasters”, said Ms. Vuletić.

In view of the importance of agriculture in terms of livelihoods, Ms. Vuletić emphasizes that it is necessary to keep focus and to improve continuously the measures for mitigation of vulnerabilities, to prevent the consequences of disasters and to enable recovery of agriculture. This is the reason why the attempt is to define through questionnaires and workshops held in the municipalities which participate in the Programme all possible measures for mitigation, prevention and preparedness aimed at reducing the impact of natural hazards on agriculture.

Ms. Sanja Vuković, member of the DRR platform and DRR working group in the agricultural sector in Trebinje, thinks that new tools for identification of the necessary measures for mitigation of impacts of natural disasters in agriculture, presented through the DRR platform, made the priorities of actions in the field visible . As she said, the questionnaire was clearly completed just as the workshop was implemented among the local communities facing similar or the same problems.

“We maintained cooperation with all representatives of the local communities where we received the appropriate data required for the implementation of activities related to mitigation of consequences of disasters. We managed to fill out parts of the questionnaire referring to field survey, on the basis of gathered data”, said Ms. Vuković.

Members of the DRR platform from Trebinje have recalled the period of floods and landslides in BiH in 2014, which, as they said, should be an alarm to the entire society, from individuals to the highest levels of government, showing how crucial the preparation of a response to disasters is for the protection of agriculture.

“With negative climate change, natural disasters, like earthquakes, landslides, floods, droughts, fires and storms, will be happening increasingly more often. We cannot have a strong impact on their frequency but we can be prepared in the best way possible, we can have an adequate response and the consequences of such disasters mitigated by individuals and local communities”, said Ms. Vuković.

The role of local institutions in preparedness and coordination of a response in an emergency is the basic and most important level of preparedness since local communities are the first responders in all disasters, the DRR platform members from Trebinje added.

“The conclusion we inevitably draw after every disaster is that only when communities have capacities, knowledge, skills and resources will it be possible to reduce, or at least significantly mitigate, a disaster risk”, Ms. Vuletić said in conclusion.

This was shown in practice in the municipality of Kakanj, during the marking of the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, 13 October. The event which brought together representatives of the international donor community and local municipality highlighted the importance of building and connecting national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction through multi-sectoral linking policies in DRR related areas.

Participating at the marking, which included signing of the Declaration to implement Go Green Initiative, planting seedlings to prevent landslides, and an impressive preparedness simulation exercise, Mr.Nabil Gangi, the FAO Deputy Regional Representative for Europe and Central Asia noted:

“For us at FAO the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction which we celebrate on 13 October every year offers a unique opportunity to acknowledge the progress made towards reducing disaster risks and losses for the benefit of rural lives and rural livelihoods. FAO is proud of the results achieved under the joint initiative so far, and we with great enthusiasm look forward to continuing this successful work in close collaboration with our key partners, including the Government of Switzerland, and capacitating farmers from risk-exposed localities in 10 target municipalities to become more resilient socially and economically to effects of disasters and climate change through improved awareness of evidence-based good practices in agriculture and improved access to technologies”.