Written by Prisca SODEGLA, Junior IWRM and Monitoring & Evaluation Expert
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The flood is an annual event for the communities of the Lower Ouémé Valley, who are accustomed to saying "With the flood, it's a problem, without the flood it's still a problem; let's stay on alert".
To remedy this problem, the PSL Eau project, as part of the implementation of the Community EWS (Early Warning System), installed monitoring beacons painted in green, yellow, red and orange warning bands to track the water level. As soon as the beacons were put in place, and despite the early arrival of the 2021 flood, the communities followed the evolution of the water level, and took many anticipatory measures. Children, men, women and young people organised themselves: most of the crops in the fields were saved and houses were raised.
After a review of the existing information and communication systems on hazards in general, and floods in particular, a mobile application was developed. Accessible to communities at the local level for community pre-warning on floods, this application allows to further strengthen this state of alert. It allows communities to communicate on water levels, and receive alerts from the national and communal level in real time, in order to live through a period of flooding with less damage and loss. This modernisation mechanism currently concerns the communities of Zè, Sô-Ava, Abomey-Calavi and Sèmè-Podji.
It is a simple, practical application that is accessible to the greatest number of people at the local level, thanks to its adaptability to illiterates. It was designed with, to a large extent, ideas from the grassroots communities and the contribution of certain key players from DG Eau and ANPC, not forgetting the focal points of the target communes. It is being developed by a team of consultants recruited by the PSL Eau team.
In order to launch a pre-alert, it is compulsory to do so with at least a voice message, a text, a photo or even a video. The existence of beacons with coloured alert zones is a condition for the functioning of the application. When the application is opened, a search is carried out to geo-reference the nearest beacon (within a perimeter of about 1 km). It appears with green/yellow/orange/red colours, with messages describing the water level and the attitudes to adopt. In order to avoid false pre-alerts, a person outside the perimeter of the beacon cannot send a pre-alert.
Once the application was launched, local platforms and other stakeholders were strengthened in its use and ownership, and are now able to help others use it. All these steps have allowed the operationalization of the mobile application available on Play Store under the name "Pré Alerte Inondation". After installation, in less than three gestures, the pre-warning is launched.
After the initial training phases, over 200 pre-alerts have already been received. To keep up the momentum, information boards are being put in place next to each beacon to provide guidance to users on how to use the mobile application. In order to ensure the sustainability of the application, training is planned with the actors of the communal and national platform to facilitate the handling of the application.