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1.1   Background of the Study

Right from creation, communities have been faced with interminable occurrence of disasters. This is because “hazards of nature and vulnerabilities of socio-economic conditions” (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, SAARC, Disaster Management Centre, 2008: 126) coupled with “insufficient capacity or measures to reduce the potential negative consequences of risk” (United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction [UNISDR], 2004:17) have made communities extremely prone to disasters. Regular floods are one of such disasters that have become part of people’s lives in various regions of the world, recurring with varying magnitudes and frequencies to which people have adapted for centuries (Rahman, 2014). The Holy Bible (Authorised King James Version AKJV) gives account of the destruction of the first world through the great floods due to the continuous rainfall for forty days and forty nights (Bible Society of Nigeria, 2004: Gen. Chap.7 V 10-23).

Schramm and Dries (1986:122) define flood as too much water in the wrong place, whether it is an inundated city or a single street or a field flooded due to a blocked drain. Flooding is a natural characteristic of rivers while floodplains are normal dry land areas along rivers.  Floodplains are integral part of a river system that acts as a natural reservoir and temporary channel for flood waters. If more runoff is generated than the banks of a stream channel can accommodate, the water will overtop the stream banks and spread over the floodplains.

Throughout human history, flood has been shown to be beneficial as well as a threat to mankind.  Floods have brought enormous wealth and prosperity to civilizations, and yet at the same time, they have caused tremendous losses and resulted in untold suffering for millions of people. Flood risk has been part of peoples’ lives in various regions of the world. The heavy settlements along the lower reaches of Egypt’s Nile, India’s Ganges, Bangladesh’s Brahmaputra-Padma, the Yellow River and Yangtze of China, and the Tigris and Euphrates of Iraq are examples of floodplain civilizations (Schramm and Dries, 1986: 122). Human populations are attracted to the floodplains for a number of reasons. Schramm and Dries (1986) noted that rivers deposit the topsoil (alluvium) picked up elsewhere on the floodplains thereby making the land very fertile.  Also floodplains are both flat and near water, so irrigation, ploughing and transport, usually aided by the river, are made easier. They therefore conclude that floodplains are desirable places to live, not only in agricultural societies, but also in industrial countries where the floodplains often host large capitals that use the river water for industry and its mouth as a harbor for shipping. Despite these benefits, flood remains a major threat to human development. Nott (2006) correctly points out that a flood event is not considered to be a natural hazard unless there is a threat to human life and/or property and concludes that it is the high human population densities that inhabit the floodplains that have made floods to become a major natural hazard.

Globally, flood is the most universal of natural hazards that have affected people since time immemorial. It occurs on every continent and is a potential threat wherever there is rainfall or coastal hazards (Schramm and Dries (1986).  According to Dewi (2007), “floods account for approximately 40% of natural disasters and may become more frequent and severe due to global warming”. For example, between 1982 and 1991, more than 20, 000 people died and 73, 000 000 suffered from flood effects (Febrianti, 2010). From the year 1990 to 2000, the death toll rose to 170 000 people around the world per year (Birkmann, 2006).

The rate and magnitude of floods have doubled over the years. The number of people at risk has been growing each year and the majority is in the developing countries with high poverty levels making them more vulnerable to disasters (Living with Risk, 2006).  For instance, EM-DAT data show that flooding caused the majority of disasters between 1994 and 2013, accounting for 43% of all recorded events and impacted more people than any other type of disaster, accounting for 55% of the total people affected (nearly 2.5 billion people) in the period 1994-2013 (Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters [CRED], 2015).

Pilon (2001) pointed out that extreme flooding events are not relegated to the least developed nations, but can also devastate and ravage the most economically advanced and industrialized nations. In the last decade, there has been catastrophic flooding in China, Germany, Poland, the United States and elsewhere. However, when floods occur in less developed nations, they can effectively wipe out decades of investments in infrastructure, seriously cripple economic prosperity, and result in thousands of deaths and epidemics. This is because the poverty level of less developed nations affects the resilience and process of recovery from disasters. Grunfest, (1995) argues that due to high poverty levels, people have become more vulnerable because they live in hazardous areas including floodplains and steep hills. They have fewer resources which makes them more susceptible to disasters. They are less likely to receive timely warnings and even if warnings were issued, they have fewer options for reducing losses in a timely manner.

Countries that have learnt to live with the risk generally expect and welcome these floods since they enrich the soil and provide both water and livelihoods (Rahman, 2014). In South Asia, Bangladesh is one of such countries where almost the entire riverine part of the country is a highly fertile floodplain. In this country, the floods are welcomed every year because it would neither exist, nor be as productive as it is without the annual floods continually renewing and extending its landscape (UNISDR, 2004: 6). In Nigeria, Aguleri is a flood-prone community in Anambra State that has learnt to live with the flood and utilize it for their own benefits. Byrne (1997) reported that in this community, the period of flooding is not a time for suffering. Instead, it is a happy time because the people can travel in their canoes to see relatives and friends in the other flooded villages. Fish is plentiful and when the floods are finished, it is easy to make mud blocks to build new houses. The land is very easy to cultivate because the soil is soft for planting. On the other hand, flooding has caused tremendous losses and resulted in untold suffering for millions of people in rural communities such as Ikwo in Ebonyi State that have not learnt to live with the inevitable floods in a way that minimizes harm and loss.

The Report of the Nigeria Post-Disaster Needs Assessment of the unprecedented floods of 2012 indicates that floods are the most common and recurring disaster in Nigeria. The Report shows that the severity and spread of these floods are increasing.  The flood affected about twenty seven states of the Federation. The total amount of losses was estimated to be approximately N2.29 trillion. The impact of the flooding was also very high in terms of human, material, and production losses, with 363 people killed, 5,851 injured, 3,891,314 affected, and 3,871,53 displaced (National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, 2013).

The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) has partitioned Nigeria into eight hydrological areas, designated as Hydrological Areas (HAs) I – VIII which serve as units for scientific assessments and management of water resources of the country (Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency [NIHSA], 2014).

Ebonyi State falls within the HA-VII termed East Lithoral. Ikwo Local Government Area (LGA) is one of the Local Government Areas in Ebonyi State that has been affected annually by seasonal flooding that has caused destruction of farmlands, farm crops and houses, displacement of people and destruction of the environment, injuries and loss of lives.  Reports of flood disasters in the affected communities produced by the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Ebonyi State and the Local Emergency Management Committee (LEMC), Ikwo LGA from 2003-2014 show that about 222,251 persons have been affected by flood disasters and caused damages in agricultural and housing sectors alone estimated at N970,922,590.00. These were recorded mainly in Inyimagu, Igbudu, Ekpanwudele, Ndiagu Echara, Ndufu Echara, Alike, Ndiagu Amagu and Ndufu Amagu communities in Ikwo LGA of Ebonyi State.  These rural communities have received humanitarian relief periodically from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and some development partners such as UNICEF to cushion the devastating effects of the flood disasters but the impact of the floods on the rural communities has not been empirically investigated. It is against this background that this study sets out to examine the impact of flood disaster on rural communities in Ikwo LGA of Ebonyi State of Nigeria with a view to formulating appropriate management and copping strategies.


1.2    Statement of the Problem

The Third World Water Forum (2003) emphasized that in recent years, floods have become more frequent and of increasing severity resulting into loss of life, injury, homelessness, damage to infrastructure and environment as well as impacting on other critical sectors such as education, economy and agriculture. The incidence and magnitude of flood disaster in rural communities in Ikwo L.G.A. of Ebonyi is on the increase. Most of the communities in the affected area are crisscrossed by Ebonyi River and also located along the Cross River floodplains.

Available records show that flood disasters have affected about 222,251 persons and destroyed farm crops and houses estimated at N970,922,590.00.00 from 2003 to 2014 (Ebonyi State Emergency Management Agency, 2003; Ikwo Local Government Emergency Management Committee, 2004-2014). Efforts by government (National Emergency Management Agency [NEMA] and State Emergency Management Agency [SEMA]), and some non-governmental organisations such as the Nigeria Red Cross Society for some years have been concentrated on providing relief to cushion the effects of the floods on the people. Despite the quantum of resources expended periodically in providing relief to flood victims in rural communities of Ikwo LGA, the challenge posed by flood disaster in the area still persist. In other regions of the world that are faced with similar problems of flood disaster, a lot of studies have been conducted on the impact of floods on rural communities. The resulting recommendations of those studies overwhelmingly suggested the need for much greater investment in “flood- proofing” societies by learning to live with the inevitable floods in a way that would minimize harm and loss, rather than trying to prevent the powerful forces of nature (UNISDR, 2004: 6). While developed countries currently manage floods based on research evidence, the problems posed by flooding in rural communities in Ikwo LGA have not been empirically studied. The current relief-driven approach to mitigate the suffering of victims of flood disasters in the area is only a short-term measure.

This study therefore sets out to fill this gap by investigating the impact of flood disaster on rural communities in Ikwo LGA of Ebonyi State. The findings of this study would provide the potential to make floods less harmful to rural communities in Ikwo LGA in particular and other flood-prone communities in Nigeria in general as they will learn “to live with their land as well as from it” (UNISDR, 2004: xiii).


1.3   Aim and Objectives of the Study

The aim of the study is to examine the impact of flood disaster on rural communities in Ikwo L.G.A. of Ebonyi, Nigeria. This aim will be achieved through the following specific objectives, namely:

  1. To examine the fundamental causes of flood in the study locations of the study area.
  2. To investigate the impact of flood disaster on the study locations of the study area.
  • To identify the vulnerable groups from the flood disaster across the study locations of the study area.
  1. To identify coping mechanisms employed by the rural communities during flood disaster


1.4   Research Questions

In order to achieve the above objectives, the following research questions were answered, namely:

  1. What are the fundamental causes of flood disaster in the study locations of the study area?
  2. What are the impacts of flood disaster on the study locations of the study area?
  • Who are the vulnerable groups from the flood disaster across the study locations of the study area?
  1. What are the coping mechanisms employed by the rural communities during flood disaster?

1.5    Research Hypothesis

Four null hypotheses were postulated in order to answer the above research questions. They are:

  1. Ho: There is no significant difference in the fundamental causes of flood disaster amongst different study locations in the study area.
  2. Ho: The impact of flood disaster on rural communities does not differ significantly amongst different study locations of the study area.
  • Ho: The vulnerable groups from the disaster do not differ significantly across the study locations of the study area.
  1. Ho: There is no significant difference in the coping mechanisms employed by rural communities during flood disaster.

1.6   Significance of the Study

The impact of flood disaster on rural communities in Ikwo L.G.A. of Ebonyi is on increase and of great concern. There is high incidence of loss of property, farmland, and economic facilities amongst others. The study will identify causes of floods, nature of losses and recommend measures to manage floods in the study area. The study will also help develop framework that will help in capacity building which will be useful to NGOs, LGA, World Bank- assisted projects, development partners such as UNICEF and NEMA.

The study highlights will be of necessity for policy makers to design effective and targeted outreach programme that deals specifically with flood preparedness and copping strategies.  The findings from this study are bound to be used as a reference point for future scrutiny as well as providing information on flood management strategies. The findings will also help environmental protection agencies to formulate policies for effective flood control as well as to strengthen indigenous approaches which the rural communities employed in the past to manage the floods.


1.7       Scope of the Study

The study is specifically to determine the impact of flood disaster on rural communities in Ikwo L.G.A. of Ebonyi State, Nigeria.  The perception of residents on flood incidence, magnitude, and associated impact will form the scope of this study.  The study area is Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi which consists of thirteen (13) autonomous communities namely: Ekpanwudele, Ndufu Alike, Ekawoke, Unwueka, Ndufu Echara, Okpitumo, Ndiagu Igbudu, Inyimagu, Alike, Echara, Amagu, Ndiagu Amagu and Igbudu (Ministry of Local Government, Chieftaincy Matters and Rural Development, MOLGCMRD, 2015). Eight communities which are most flood-prone are selected for the study. They are: Enyibichiri Alike, Ndiagu Echara, Ndufu Echara, Ekpawudele, Inyimagu, Igbudu (including Ndiagu Igbudu), Ndufu Amagu and Ndiagu Amagu. The time frame for the study is one year within the duration of the programme which is a maximum of five calendar years.



1.8       Limitation of the Study

This study investigated the impact of flood disaster on rural communities in Ikwo L.G.A. of Ebonyi State. Data was collected through administration of questionnaires.  The terrain was very difficult especially during the wet season. The flood itself was very frightening. These made the administration of 400 questionnaires very cumbersome.  There was not enough time for the study. The respondents were reluctant to give information hence the researcher had to reach them through their village heads. This involved extra cost to the study.


1.9       Definition of Key Terms in Disaster Management and Disaster Risk Reduction

DISASTER:  A disaster is a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society involving widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses and impacts, which exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources (UNISDR, 2009). To distinguish ‘disaster’ from ‘everyday disasters’ that do not require humanitarian assistance, the EM-DAT database requires at least one of the following four criteria to be met for an event to be recorded as a disaster namely: a) 10 or more people reported killed; b) one hundred or more people affected; c) a call for international assistance, d) and/or a declaration of a state of emergency (CRED, 2015; Twigg, 2004).

HAZARD:     A hazard is a dangerous phenomenon, substance, human activity or condition that may cause loss of life, injury or other health impacts, property damage, loss of livelihoods and services, social and economic disruption, or environmental damage.

CAPACITY: Capacity is the combination of all the strengths, attributes and resources available within a community, society or organization that can be used to achieve agreed goals; to resist the impact of a hazard or to bounce back after a disaster event. Capacity may include infrastructure and physical means, institutions, societal coping abilities, as well as human knowledge, skills and collective attributes such as social relationships, leadership and management. Capacity may also be described as capability (UNISDR, 2009).

COPING MECHANISM OR COPING STRATEGY: This is the application of indigenous knowledge in the face of hazards and other threats. It may also sometimes be known as an ‘adjustment’ mechanism or strategy and in some circumstances as a ‘survival’ strategy. (Twigg, 2004:131)

VULNERABILITY: The concept of vulnerability refers to the characteristics and circumstances of a community, system or asset that make it susceptible to the damaging effects of a hazard.  These characteristics or circumstances may be physical, social, economic, political and environmental factors. Examples may include poverty, lack of education, political marginalization that deprive people access to power, poor design and construction of buildings, inadequate protection of assets, lack of public information and awareness, limited official recognition of risks and inadequate preparedness measures, and disregard for wise environmental management, (UNISDR, 2009).

RESILIENCE: This is the capacity of a system, community or society potentially exposed to hazards to adapt, by resisting or changing in order to reach and maintain an acceptable level of functioning and structure.  This is determined by the degree to which the social system is capable of organising itself to increase this capacity for learning from past disasters for better future protection and to improve risk reduction measures (UNISDR, 2004).

RISK:  This refers to the combination of the probability of an event and its negative consequences.  The word “risk” has two distinctive connotations: in popular usage the emphasis is usually placed on the concept of chance or possibility, such as in “the risk of an accident”; whereas in technical settings the emphasis is usually placed on the consequences, in terms of “potential losses” for some particular cause, place and period. It can be noted that people do not necessarily share the same perceptions of the significance and underlying causes of different risks (UNISDR, 2009).

DISASTER RISK REDUCTION (DISASTER REDUCTION): This is the conceptual framework of elements considered with the possibilities to minimize vulnerabilities and disaster risks throughout a society, to avoid (prevention) or to limit (mitigation and preparedness) the adverse impacts of hazards, within the broad context of sustainable development.

DISASTER RISK MANAGEMENT:  The systematic process of using administrative directives, organizations, and operational skills and capacities to implement strategies, policies and improved coping capacities in order to lessen the adverse impacts of hazards and the possibility of disaster. Disaster risk management aims to avoid, lessen or transfer the adverse effects of hazards through activities and measures for prevention, mitigation and preparedness.

RISK REDUCTION MEASURES: These are various activities, projects and programs that the communities may identify after assessing and analyzing the risks that they face. These measures are specifically intended to reduce the current and prevent future risks in the community (Abarquez and Murshed, 2004).