Malawi Detailed Shelter Response Profile: Local building cultures for sustainable and resilient habitats (1st edition, November 2021)

Manual and Guideline
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The organisations backing this document (see back cover) have been working for several years on the elaboration and the dissemination of an identification method for local building cultures (LBC), especially in regard to their contribution to Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). The aim is to facilitate the identification of the strengths and weaknesses of LBC and the opportunities they offer, in order to promote them – in an adapted version if necessary – in housing reconstruction, retrofitting or improvement projects.

To achieve this, it is important to consider that beneficiaries live in environments that are often shifting due to several factors such as climate change, urbanisation processes, globalisation and the evolution of social attitudes as local practices are challenged. Still, it is advised that the solutions proposed are found locally and to keep innovations limited to improve their chances of being adopted and thus to contribute to long term development and increased local resilience capacity.

Finally, SRPs are part of a wider set of tools and documents, and are potentially one of the activities of the Step 1 Understanding the context of the Protocol Informing choice for better shelter, developed by the Promoting Safer Building Working Group of the Global Shelter Cluster.

Content and some suggestions for use

This document introduces reference data on local building cultures and local sociocultural resilient strategies. These references are to be considered as a basis for the elaboration of project-specific strategies and also as a grid of analysis with a first set of conclusions. Context and details will differ from one place to another and stakeholders will benefit from the collected data in order to make comprehensive and accurate decisions.

SRPs are not exhaustive and they do not replace localized assessments in particular contexts. Thus, it is highly recommended to complete the information gathered in this profile through the organisation of field surveys which will also allow to exchange with local actors on the specificities of each local context.


SRPs have several complementary objectives:

  • To help recognise the importance of understanding a context before proposing any action or project.

  • To favour the development of shelter and human settlements responses (preparedness, early-recovery or later phases linking with development stages) more focused on localization, reduction of climate change impact, and promotion of self-recovery strategies.

  • To help better take into account the existing construction sector, natural and human resources, local knowledge, solutions and good practices, and local cultural and social practices such as existing DRR knowledge, know-how and techniques at various scales (materials, building systems, house, compound, settlement organisation).

  • To give a non exhaustive overview of a country or territory: demographic, cultural, social and economic data; hazards, environment and climate change impacts; impact of crises in the population; HLP issues; legal and institutional framework; construction sector, etc., and so to help orient practitioners in new contexts.

  • To eventually become an advocacy tool for the shelter sector/cluster members, agencies, donors, or local authorities for more localized actions, more focused on promoting self-recovery and communities’ resilience.

Target audience

Local, national, international, governmental, non-governmental and civil society actors involved in the prevention, preparedness and response to natural and human-made humanitarian crises in the habitat and human settlements sector.

History of the series of shelter response profiles

This publication is part of the series of documents: “Local Building Cultures for sustainable and resilient habitats”. Several documents have been produced after a disaster (Fiji, Ecuador, Haiti) or before a disaster strikes as a preparedness tool (Bangladesh, Tonga, Malawi). Two profiles have been elaborated for situations of both protracted crises and disaster context (Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo). For more information, see section 7.4 (page 81).