Building disaster resilient housing in rural Indonesia

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Having a home safe from flooding is something most of us take for granted. However communities living in Malaka district, Nusa Tenggara Timur,Indonesia, do not have this luxury. Situated both on the coast and the Benain River floodplain means communities are faced with multiple cases of flooding each year. Inspired by ACTED’s training on disaster risk reduction in her community, Maria Odja, has constructed an elevated house so that her and her family are safe no matter how often her community is flooded.

Malaka district in West Timor, is an area with risks of disaster being both coastal and the site of a river floodplain. Malaka’s coastal sub-districts of Malaka Barat and Malaka Tengah in the Benain River watershed face flooding every year, as well as seasonal high tides and tropical storms. Weather and tides on the coast have also become increasingly unpredictable in recent years and the breaking of a levee built by the Japanese government in 2011 has worsened the situation. Although some households have sought permanent resettlement in neighbouring sub-districts, the majority of households have chosen to “live with the flood” rather than leave due to generational and cultural ties to the land.

Village level disaster management committees

To strengthen affected communities to be prepared for and respond to floods and other natural disasters, ACTED, with local NGO, CIS Timor, has been working on disaster risk management since 2012. ACTED set up village-level disaster management committees and provided trainings on disaster assessment and disaster response as well as search and rescue and other topics.

Maria is Vice President of one of the village committees.

“I thought participating in the disaster risk reduction programs would be a waste of my time if I did not do anything with my position as vice president. Motivated by this thought, I started equipping myself with knowledge on disaster response I gained from trainings provided by ACTED. Knowledge in disaster is new for me as in my hometown which is on a different island, flooding has never occurred”.

Inspired by the trainings, Maria and her husband constructed an elevated house.

“After equipping myself and my willingness to help my neighbours, a few months ago, me and my husband constructed a semi-permanent two floor house. The house has been used for evacuating neighbours when flooding occurred a few months ago. Seeing the benefits of this type of house, some neighbours have also been inspired and they have been constructing the same houses for themselves”.

A community radio station has also been set up as an early warning system, as well as micro-projects to reduce coastal hazard risk through natural resource management.