Annual Report 2015: Knowledge generation and use

Flood-Affected People Take Centre Stage as Knowledge Experts at Bihar Roundtable 

Bihar is India’s poorest state, and also the most flood-prone, with 73 per cent of its area routinely flooded by rivers from the Himalayas. Floods impact over three-quarters of the people of North Bihar. Yet all too often, the people who live through those floods every year aren’t treated as experts. At a typical development workshop, outside experts talk while community members listen.

ICIMOD recognized the need for change and pioneered an innovative approach at a roundtable on flooding in the Ganges plain where the power dynamic was reversed. On the dais were floodaffected people from five regions, half of them women, who told their stories, pinpointed the major issues as they see it, and shared their experience of what works and doesn’t work in flood response and adaptation. In the audience, the experts listened, asked questions, and synthesized what they heard.

The method drew new attention to issues such as sanitation in floods, garnered praise from the government and stakeholders, and points the way to a more truly collaborative way of engaging community members – not just as aid recipients, but as on-the-ground experts in their own right.

“We face extreme sanitation and drinking water problems during the time of floods. We don’t know where to defecate, and most of the time, we defecate in the same water that we drink, (leading to) diseases like diarrhea.“
Bela Devi, Saharsa District, quoted in times of India story on the roundtable