Professor Malcolm Anderson, from the University of Bristol has spent more than 20 years studying how to predict and reduce the risk of landslide disasters, in poor urban areas around the world. The software he developed, CHASM (Combined Hydrology and Stability Model), models the dynamic effect of rainfall and other factors on the stability of slopes, helping predict potentially devastating landslides and assessing ways of reducing risk through water management. He decided to test his model in the field.
Professor Anderson said: “We chose St Lucia as our lab because there is a high risk of hurricanes and landslides. We simply got on a plane and started working out there.”
Professor Anderson and his research associate, Dr Liz Holcombe, looked at the effects of vegetation, housing density, surface water and soil conditions and modelled these factors using CHASM, confirming their assertion that surface water management and drainage was the key to reducing risk. The Government of St Lucia endorsed this new approach and the MoSSaiC (Management for Slope Stability in Communities) project began.
Dr Holcombe explained: “In Skate Town, we advised where drains could go. Local people were involved throughout. They helped us produce ‘hazard maps’, they helped us plan; they tendered for the construction work; they learnt new skills through building the drainage and, of course, they benefited from fewer landslides.”
Promoting and funding MoSSaiC
The following year, the St Lucia government extended the scheme to a further six communities. SETsquared provided a £12,000 grant to the project in its 2nd year, through its Social Enterprise Fund, and offered consultancy support as part of the package. This included help with business models; how to work with NGO’s; gaining recognition and influencing government policy makers, in particular identifying ways to illustrate the financial benefits. Other funding streams included the World Bank, USAID (US Agency for International Development) and UNDP (United Nations Development Programme).
What starting as a self-funded trip by two academics has evolved into a global partnership over a five-year period, with MoSSaiC methodology being rolled out to St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, Jamaica and, potentially, areas of Latin America.
To date, MoSSaiC has helped 12 communities and approximately 3,500 of the poorest people living in unplanned settlements.
Risk reduction programmes such as MoSSaiC offer savings of $2-3 to every $1 spent. Utilising local people means that about 80% of the funding Professor Anderson obtains is actually spent in the community.