Department of Environmental Sciences
Geography / Urban and Regional Studies
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CH-4056 Basel

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The project in brief

Country / Region

India / Gujarat / Tamil Nadu


All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI) and associated NGOs, local communities, government authorities, insurance companies.


India is a country at risk: Geo-climatic and socio-political conditions make the country vulnerable. In addition to natural hazards in the form of earthquakes, floods, droughts, tsunami and cyclones, man-made disasters (ethnic riots, terrorist acts) endanger the fabric of society in India. This directly translates into poverty in urban and rural communities. India has begun massive efforts in disaster management, establishing government and nongovernmental agencies, and linking up with international disaster management resource networks. Emergency response measures have been set up that include rehabilitation and preventive measures towards enhancing societal resilience to disasters. The main concern of this project is to find out how local communities adapt to disasters and how they can be assisted in their adaptive capacities. It focuses on how local communities and households can and do involve themselves in the co-management of disaster mitigation.

Aim of the project

The individual studies carried out under the Indo-Swiss Internship and Social Science Studies' Program deal with local adaptive capacities towards risk, with the ways local communities activate their disaster awareness in cooperation with local NGOs, and how households build up resilience towards the occurrence of disasters that individual stakeholders normally could not cope with. The studies focus on

  • Livelihood security strategies in the informal sector of disaster affected areas
  • Mitigating disaster impact - effectiveness, problems and potentials of selected technical approaches
  • Microcredit impact and effectiveness in livelihood security
  • Different responses to disaster and adaptability of disaster mitigation strategies.

Project target

Building up resilience and adaptive capacities, thus reducing vulnerability and poverty in areas of natural and man-made disasters. Education and capacity building for young Swiss professionals in the field of development work.

Target group

Local NGOs and communities engaged in disaster mitigation, young Swiss professionals interested in building up capacities for development work.

Funding Sources


March 2008 - March 2009


Department of Environmental Sciences
Geography / Urban and Regional Studies
University of Basel

Prof. Dr. Rita Schneider-Sliwa,
Claudia Saalfrank, M.A.

Overall concept





Environmental change and related disasters proceed at an alarming rate while practical approaches to respond to these issues do not. This applied research project draws attention to local initiatives to better handle the impact of disaster, to train for and obtain resilience to deal with the next disaster. The project is about poor people, farmers, fishermen and women and their livelihood strategies, but also about local NGOs and their creativity, commitment and initiatives in coping with disaster, about how they secure resources, how they choose to invest, how knowledge is being used and how investments are being made in common efforts to sustain livelihoods. The project is also about young Swiss researchers being trained in India by local NGOs to acquire local knowledge through field-based research embedded in NGO work and related community networks. As such, the project is as much about local capacity building from a viewpoint of learning from local people and local NGOs as it is about the capacity building of the new Swiss professional generation. The project adopts an adaptive resource management approach that focuses on Action Research and Policy Change in Development. Tentatively, eight research projects are being carried out.

Funded by the Commission for Research Partnerships with Developing Countries of the Swiss Academy of Sciences and the Swiss Development Corporation, and research funds from the University of Basel. The studies relate to:

I. Livelihood security strategies in the informal/unorganized sector of disaster affected areas

  • Impact of climate change on livelihoods of the poor among disaster victims in coastal areas of Tamil Nadu (Silja Ramseier)
  • Disaster recovery of small businesses in India's informal sector: difficulties and chances (Esther Gloor)
  • Business strategies of micro enterprises in disaster affected areas of Gujarat, India 2008. A study based on a pilot survey of micro enterprises organized in a Chamber of Commerce for Industry and Small Scale Businesses, as measured against a control group of micro enterprises not organized (Master's thesis Nadezhda Sliwa)

II. Mitigating disaster impact - effectiveness, problems and potentials of selected technical approaches

  • Setting up an emergency response guideline for local organizations (Christoph Schlumpf)
  • The flood of 2005 compared to the flood of 2007 in two communities of Kheda and Bhuj (Daniel Rufener)

III. Microcredit impact and effectiveness in security livelihoods. Analyses of recipients' data, problems and potentials in selected disaster impact areas

  • The impact of AIDMI's microinsurance scheme Afat Vimo in disaster-affected areas. Case studies from Gujarat (Claudia Wipf)
  • The impact of AIDMI's microcredit schemes - case studies about beneficiaries in Bhuj, Ahmedabad and Kheda (Basil Gilliéron)

IV. Different responses to disaster and adaptability of disaster mitigation strategies in different disaster impact areas - a synthesis. Analyses of the differential adaptation to disaster in earthquake, flood areas and urban riot affected communities

  • Micro Insurance and the Interface between Insurers and Insured Households – an Analysis of the Afat Vimo Partner-Agent Model of Micro Insurance in Gujarat, India  (Doctoral thesis Claudia Saalfrank, M.A.)

Strengths and opportunities


  • Social science research oriented with a special focus on the impact of global change on the poor, disaster mitigation and building resilience
  • Innovative option for small scale, Master's and doctoral studies
  • Strategy for professionalization - structured program
  • University of Basel curriculum oriented - research for specific Swiss labor market profiles in development work
  • Intensive University of Basel research preparation and coaching
  • Access to NGO field staff for micro level household studies
  • Regular work regulated by Indian labor laws


  • International internship opportunity
  • Gain early stage access to development work
  • International training
  • Cross-cultural learning experience
  • Enhance your resumé
  • Learn and study local best practice implemented to build up resilience
  • Apply your knowledge - acquire special skills
  • Make a difference
  • Strengthening of institutional cooperation