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UNDP has been demonstrating innovation in its approach to supporting Uganda build resilient and sustainable communities by using the latest technology to support risk-informed development in refugee settlements.
The refugee settlements base maps, a first for Uganda, is an innovative tool to support communities make evidence-based development decisions by empowering them with information on the specific development challenges and opportunities.
Climate and disaster risk threaten self-reliance, the basis for Uganda’s world-leading ‘out-of-camp’ refugee hosting approach. Changing weather patterns, increasing risks of natural hazards, availability of water, soil degradation, and encroachment, among other issues, are some of the challenges facing residents
Once the image is developed, a community mapping exercise is undertaken to identify infrastructure, assets, natural features, and potential hazards. This information is then combined with the district hazard, risk and vulnerability profiles (also developed with support from UNDP), and overlaid with climate and disaster risk information and GIS/remote sensing data, such as flood patterns. This data is then presented in a large community map and together with an accompanying report to guide and inform the community and their leaders on future development and investment decisions, including on where to prioritize action.
The base maps and risk assessment have provided the Office of the Prime Minister (the government's coordinating entity responsible for refugee) with a tool to guide planning and future investment. For example, which road to prioritize for upgrading or where to install a new borehole. The assessment can also be used to identify areas where encouragement or unregulated land use is taking place. This has resulted in cost and time efficiencies and provided a more transparent approach to community investment decisions.
UNDP worked with officials from the Office of the Prime Minister responsible for the settlements, community leaders and other stakeholders including UNHCR and NGOs.
Several lessons were drawn from the first exercise, most importantly the need for community engagement. While permission was sought from security officials to fly the drones, the team neglected to sensitize the community which gave rise to unfounded fears of relocation. A second lesson was the advantage of getting buy-in from potential users, including the district government and local development partners, at the onset.
Risk-informed development requires an evidence base. This tool provides both a ready-to-use product and enables greater engagement of communities in their own development. This can be scaled-up to other vulnerable areas, such as national parks and protected areas, to address encroachment and support equitable planning.