Droughts Can Damage Communities Back »

Image courtesy of USDA [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr

Corn twists in the dry cracked ground. Dugouts dry up. Grass turns brown in pastures. But what happens to communities in droughts? Research had been conducted seeking the answer to this question.

Community impacts may include:

  • Reduced social cohesion and community participation.
  • Continuous drought reduces the physical and mental health of individuals as well as the health and wellbeing of families and rural communities.
  • People who are experiencing ongoing drought have psychological, social and material needs, all of which can be sources of anxiety and insecurity.
  • The worsening of pre-existing problems.
  • Poor economic viability of local industries and economic stress.
  • Reduced farm safety.

Suggestions to mitigate these impacts include:

  • Local activities which encourage social interaction in the community help people feel valued and supported and contribute to their mental health and wellbeing.
  • Rural communities that are experiencing ongoing drought need different forms of assistance at different times during this experience. When planning community activities it is crucial to be aware of the community’s needs at the present time.
  • Many people involved in providing essential services – education, welfare and health care as well as staff working directly with communities and affected individuals, require support themselves. It is crucial for forums and workshops to be provided to train, support and nurture these people.
  • The formation of a Community Recovery Committee which represented all sectors of the community, particularly the different farming groups was important. Small working groups within these committees allowed members to focus on specific issues.
  • Local activities based on community vitality principles are an effective method of helping communities to recover from drought.

The above information was taken from a Drought Social Response and Recovery Plan published by The Shire of Gannawarra in Victoria, Australia.

The best way to mitigate impact is to prepare for the drought. The Drought-Ready Community guide is a community based preparation tool that uses community vitality principles to create a plan for drought events. The Drought-Ready Communities guide can be found on the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) website.

If communities would like help planning for drought events, please contact one of the SDSU Extension Community Vitality Field Specialists.

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