Drawing on studies in flood-affected upland areas of Thailand and Vietnam, this chapter explores the complex interplay between collective, state and individual responses to disastrous flood events and subsequent mitigation strategies. Fieldwork was conducted between 2007 and 2009, employing a variety of qualitative methods, such as semi-structured interviews in flood-affected households, focus group discussions and narrative essays written by local people. Evidence suggests that farmers’ willingness to engage in flood mitigation is curbed by the common perception that flooding is caused by a bundle of exogenous factors. In the case study from Vietnam, state intervention in formerly community-based water management has alienated farmers from water governance and reduced their sense of personal and collective responsibility. Their lack of engagement in flood-prevention strategies could also be explained by the fact that their major cash crop was not affected by the flood event. In the Thai case study, where community-based water management remained largely unaffected by state influence, villagers agreed in a collective decision-making process to widening the riverbed after a severe flood, although this meant that some farmers had to give up parts of their paddy fields. Yet, following a second flood, these farmers opened up new upland rice fields in the forested upper watershed areas to ensure their food security, thus increasing the likelihood of future flood disasters downstream. We conclude that flood mitigation and adaptation policies need to consider (1) local people’s own causal explanations of flood events and (2) the potential trade-offs between collective action, state intervention and individual livelihood strategies.
We are grateful to the villagers and all key informants in Mae Lana Watershed and Chieng Khoi Watershed for their hospitality and sharing of information. We would like to thank Pakakrong M. Williams and Pham Van Nghia for their support during the fieldwork in North Thailand and Northwest Vietnam. The study was conducted in the framework of the Thai Vietnamese German Collaborative Research Program ‘Sustainable Land Use and Rural Development in Mountainous Regions of Southeast Asia’ (The Uplands Program – SFB 564). The financial support of the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) is gratefully acknowledged.
Neef, A., Elstner, P. and Schad, I. (2014), "The Interplay between Collective Action, Individual Strategies and State Intervention in Mitigating Flood Disasters in the Uplands of North Thailand and Northwest Vietnam", Risks and Conflicts: Local Responses to Natural Disasters (Community, Environment and Disaster Risk Management, Vol. 14), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 109-130. https://doi.org/10.1108/S2040-7262(2013)0000014011Download as .RIS
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