Sourcing and Enabling Traditional Disaster Risk Reduction Approaches for Rural Afghanistan and Somalia

36 Submissions
$15,000 USD
Challenge under evaluation

Challenge overview


The International Rescue Committee (IRC), the Seeker for this Wazoku Crowd Challenge, is launching an exploratory research project into integrating indigenous/traditional and modern approaches to disaster risk reduction – particularly those relevant to the environmental contexts in fragile conflict-affected states, with this Challenge’s context being Afghanistan and Somalia. 

Disaster risk reduction (DRR), or the way in which people systematically prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters, is an important part of sustainable development. In fragile and conflict-affected states (FCAS), additional factors result in increased community vulnerability to climate or weather disasters such as flooding, erratic rainfall, extreme heatwaves, and drought. This means people in Afghanistan and Somalia’s rural region’s lives, livelihoods, and ecosystems are at greater risk and developmental gains are lost through negative coping strategies.

In this Challenge, the IRC is asking for details around existing, effective, and transferable pieces of indigenous or traditional approaches for DRR, or the technological solutions and approaches that could be used to preserve, promote, and enable them.

There is a total guaranteed award pool of $15,000 USD, with Solvers being able to win prizes of minimum $1,000 with their submissions to one or both of the below categories:

  1. Indigenous or traditional approaches to disaster risk reduction (DRR);
  2. Modern methods and emerging technologies that will preserve, promote, and enable indigenous, traditional, and local approaches to DRR

This is a Prize Challenge which requires a written proposal to be submitted and the total guaranteed award pool will be paid, with awards to at least one submitted solution. By submitting a proposal, the Solver grants the International Rescue Committee a right to use any information included in their proposal.

Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on April 8th, 2024. Late submissions will not be considered.

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 The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is a global humanitarian aid, relief, and development non governmental organization. Working in more than 40 countries and over 20 U.S. cities, the IRC helps those affected by humanitarian crises to survive, recover, and rebuild their lives.

IRC’s Airbel Impact Lab aims to find and advance breakthrough solutions, delivering them at scale – with an emphasis on solutions that can shape policy and practice around the world and not only in local contexts.    

The IRC is supported in this project by SeaFreight Labs (, an open-innovation consultancy using global challenges to cost-effectively deliver breakthrough innovation. Participation in this project is a direct result of SeaFreight Labs membership in the Pledge 1% movement.

The employees of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), as well as their spouses or partners and their relatives up to the fourth degree, are not eligible for awards in this Challenge.

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Disaster risk reduction (DRR) or disaster risk management (DRM) is an umbrella term for identifying, assessing, and reducing the risks associated with disasters, spanning environmental, climate, and weather events. When floods, earthquakes, droughts, or any number of shocks or stresses occur, the effects are felt on many levels: human, economic, and environmental. For more information about existing strategies and activities for DRR, please see the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.

The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) has also estimated that every dollar spent reducing the risks of disasters saves fifteen dollars in post-disaster recovery. Reducing the risks of disasters before they occur is therefore a central tenet to sustainable development and ongoing humanitarian work.

The particular contexts for this Challenge suffer heavy droughts, extreme heatwaves, erratic rainfall, and severe flooding. Afghanistan and Somalia are afflicted with climate disasters: the former has suffered three consecutive droughts since 2020, increasing the risk of flash floods as the soil’s ability to absorb water is affected; and in Somalia,
human-caused climate change has increased the frequency and severity of droughts.


Figure 1: Muhammad Sadiq, 25, walks to find water in Sang-e-Atash district, Badghis Province, Afghanistan. Photo credit: Mahab Azizi for the IRC.

Figure 2: Stock imagery example of flooding in an agro-pastoral community in Mozambique, following Cyclone Idai. Photo credit: Bruno Pedro.

People in fragile and conflict-affected states (FCAS) like Afghanistan and Somalia may lack the local systems, communications, or physical infrastructure for effective DRR, with these gaps leading to increased vulnerability and promoting a cycle of environmental degradation, poverty, and conflict. In this case, infrastructure may include, but is not limited to: DRR systems, irrigation infrastructure, early warning systems, etc. States may not have the capacity or will to provide rural locations with comprehensive DRR solutions due to funding, infrastructure, and/or conflict or political dynamics. 

Those in rural, agricultural, or agro-pastoral communities in FCAS are at even greater risk. Individuals and communities who rely on growing crops and/or tending livestock are much more susceptible to long-term effects: their land may become unfarmable or their animals may not survive disasters.

Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS), Traditional Knowledge Systems (TKS), and local knowledge are terms, used interchangeably, to refer to “a body of knowledge built up by a group of people through generations of living in close contact with nature” (Johnson 1992). This knowledge is highly contextual, specific to a given region or local area, with each indigenous or local group having a system specific to their locale.

When used for DRR, Indigenous Knowledge (IK) is the use of local indicators and experience to inform approaches to disaster risk reduction. This may include cultural knowledge passed down through the generations, or observing any combination of biological, environmental, meteorological or other factors that are then used to mitigate or prevent the risks associated with disaster. In many rural or agro-pastoral communities, individuals often rely on IKS because these approaches may be more effective, trusted, or preferred for a range of reasons - both social and cultural. Or, IK is used for DRR due to a lack of provisioned climate information through modern technology, or disrupted access to systems and services in FCAS.

For instance, in Tanzania, when the datura plant grows an abundance of fruits and its leaves drop, this is an indicator of incoming high rainfall. However, when the leaves of the plant turn upside down, this is seen as an IKS indicator that the upcoming season will be too cold and destructive to certain types of crops. Farmers may use this piece of IK to plan their crop cycle for the year.

Transferring DRR approaches from other cultures and contexts may go some way towards increasing resilience in FCAS hampered by other contextual factors. Increased and effective DRR in communities in Afghanistan and Somalia would help to promote a more resilient ecosystem and landscape, providing a more enabling environment for people’s lives, livelihoods, and their ecosystem.

The Challenge

Solvers are asked to share information around indigenous approaches to DRR or the modern methods to promote, preserve, and enable them. The IRC plans to use this Challenge to resource further local interviews and fieldwork, with a long-term view to providing integrated/combined community approaches to DRR to their worldwide clients. 

Agro-pastoral or rural communities in FCAS are often hampered by weak or fragile local systems for agriculture and livestock production, and limited to non-existent communications or physical infrastructure for DRR. The local systems and infrastructure mentioned refers specifically to actioning DRR, so solutions that solely respond to, for instance, revolutionizing educational systems with regards to knowledge about DRR are not of interest. Please take these contextual points into account for your submissions - for instance, providing information about how your IKS or TKS approach can affect the market systems, seed systems, infrastructure for irrigation, etc. of these communities.

This Challenge’s context of Afghanistan and Somalia means that DRR solutions suggested should be relevant to the following hazards: heavy or flash flooding from seasonal rain; erratic rainfall; extreme heatwaves; or drought.

IKS or TKS approaches from other countries with similar climate and environmental contexts could be transferred, accelerated, and made commonplace to lessen the effects of disasters on clients in these regions. These could be used by individuals, households, or by communities – but must be accessible and affordable.

This Challenge’s focus consists of exploring effective, transferable, and time-tested indigenous, traditional, and local knowledge and approaches to DRR (category 1), as well as how to leverage technology to preserve and action IKS/TKS approaches to DRR to reduce the impact of disaster (category 2). 

Solvers with knowledge or access to novel technology approaches that could be applicable to the Challenge contexts (but do not currently integrate IK approaches) are also asked to submit high-level details of your solution and how it might be applied to DRR. 

1. Indigenous or traditional approaches to Disaster Risk Reduction 

DRR approaches look different depending on your community, location, environmental context, or cultural practices. 

Local indicators from flora to fauna and lived experiences are used to observe, forecast, and respond to weather/environmental/natural conditions. Maintaining and cataloging effective instances of IKS from around the world will help to build a documented collection of transferable, valuable climate resilience.

As an example, your solution in this category could consist of informing the IRC about Practice A, stemming from Culture B in country C, that would be relevant and transferable to local contexts in Afghanistan/Somalia, because of reasons XYZ.

2. Modern methods and emerging technologies that could preserve, promote, and enable indigenous, traditional, and local approaches for DRR

Science, modernization, and the latest systems-based approaches allow us to assess disaster risks, hazards, and vulnerabilities in a much more programmatical way. Advanced technologies allow for accurate early warning information, such as satellite detection of tropical cyclones, or Big Data analysis of crop yield, success, and subsequent predictions.

In this Challenge, the IRC are also interested in category 2 solutions, with Solvers suggesting emerging technologies or novel approaches that could preserve (documenting), promote (increase awareness of, both locally and globally), and/or enable (increase timely action or application of the use of IK to lessen the risks of disasters and associated hazards). This should also include a particular emphasis on accessibility and applicability, including to those who may not be digitally fluent.

Modern approaches and emerging technologies may include, but are not limited to: Artificial Intelligence (AI), Drones, Metaverse, Digital Twins, Internet of Things (IoT), Machine Learning, Satellite Technology, Blockchain, 5G Technology, Smart Infrastructure, 3D Printing, Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Mobile Apps, Social Media, Robotics, and Predictive Analytics.

As an example, your submission in this category could detail one piece of IK you investigated that utilizes changing Factor A to indicate Result B, and your proposed solution that suggests leveraging Technology C that detects that change and alerts relevant members of a community would be a good fit for category 2.



Solvers are asked to provide information about DRR approaches applicable to one or more of: flooding, erratic rainfall, extreme heatwaves, or drought. Solutions should take into account the Challenge context’s, lack of systems, and lack of communications for DRR. 

The International Rescue Committee is primarily interested in solutions in one or both of the following categories: category 1, those sourced from indigenous communities or traditional knowledge; or category 2, those that use modern methods and emerging technologies to preserve, promote, and enable examples of indigenous knowledge on DRR. 

Please note, each category has different solution requirements.

1. Indigenous or traditional Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) approaches and solutions

What is the method? Where is it prevalent? Has it been successful over many generations? On which level does the DRR method have the most effect – on people’s lives and wellbeing, their livelihood and occupation, or on their local ecosystem and the environment?

Your submission should detail one or more indigenous, traditional, and local approaches or solutions to DRR. Please include a detailed description of the approach, including illustration, photographs, videos, and/or data, if available. IK approaches may be drawn from oral tradition and may not have explicit documentation. Please document where possible the origins, timelines, and use of indigenous knowledge for DRR, while remaining sensitive to cultural contexts and IK gathering frameworks. 

Please only submit IK approaches or solutions relevant to the environmental context of Afghanistan and Somalia (heavy flooding; extreme drought). Please note that there may not be IK approaches for a lack of strong local systems or for lack of communications infrastructure, so in that case, feel free to only submit regarding flooding or extreme drought. Transferable IK approaches from low-income countries are preferable, but not required in this Challenge.

Please only submit solutions that have continued relevance in today’s changing climate – for instance, do not submit IK detailing now-extinct animals or plants, or IK that was effective 50 years ago but is not today. 

Submissions to Category 1 must have:

a) Effective DRR approach Describe your stated IK approach, its effects, and how it has been applied both over time and in current contexts.

b) Implementable/applicable outside of original context IK solutions that rely on particular extremes are not of interest in this Challenge – for example, solutions only relevant in communities at extreme altitudes or with extreme water salinity. 

c) Maintains local skills and materials – IK often draws on local resources as well as their knowledge. Sustainability, circularity, and not using too many extra resources is important in this Challenge. Where possible, please note cost details, both up-front and over time, and how to use local skills and/or local supplies/materials in your proposed approach.

d) Emphasis on disaster risk reduction instead of relief – The IRC’s exploratory project will focus on promoting adaptable climate resilience, rather than relief post-disaster.

e) References – With links or references to its proven use in disaster risk reduction from climate events and the details of how and where it has been applied.

Additionally, your solution could fulfill these nice to have criteria:

i) Evidence of existing transfer to new contexts – whether your IK/TK solution has seen use in other contexts, and if so, detail how it was adapted to the new context.

In the second category for this Challenge, you could submit modern approaches to enhance IK application for DRR:

2. Modern methods and emerging technologies that will preserve, promote, and enable indigenous, traditional, and local approaches to DRR

Your submission should detail how you would use an emerging technology or modern method to preserve, promote, and enable indigenous, traditional, and local knowledge on DRR. 

Please include a suggested IK use case for your method and describe in detail how your application of emerging technology achieves preservation, promotion, and enabling of this DRR knowledge. Provide illustrative drawings, photographs, videos, and/or data, if available.

Suggesting further specific use cases or a technological use case for IK in general would give your solution extra consideration in evaluation.

Submissions to Category 2 must have:

a) Proposed effectiveness of preserving, promoting, and enabling IK please note the effects your emerging technology or modern approach may have on transferring and implementing IK in new contexts, particularly in Afghanistan and Somalia. Please use references or use cases for similar usage and why you believe it will be effective in preserving, promoting, and enabling IK.

b) Sensitivity – Indigenous and traditional knowledge and solutions are part of a process, not a product. This Challenge is not aiming to solve indigenous or traditional knowledge with modern approaches, but to understand more about indigenous solutions to DRR so that they might be preserved, integrated, and further enabled – but not supplanted. Please provide holistic and adaptable suggestions for integrating or engaging local systems.

c) Cost constraints – Your solution’s applications of technology should detail any relevant costs (including materials and implications), considering the proposed application in FCAS. Please note the value for money or return on investment (ROI) of your proposed solution, in order for the approach to be affordable and replicable by IRC clients worldwide. If your solution is particularly expensive, please note how this cost may pay for itself over time.

d) Accessibility – Your solution’s use of emerging technologies should take into account varying levels of digital fluency, and suggest areas where your solution could meet accessibility requirements. In the particular contexts of this Challenge, there may be a lack of enabling infrastructure (e.g. cell signal): please note in your submission any areas where enabling infrastructure may be needed for uptake and utilization.

e) References – Provide links or references to your proposed technology’s proven use in other contexts and how it can be applied for use in preserving, promoting, and enabling IK approaches for disaster risk reduction.

Additionally, your solution could fulfill these nice-to-have criteria:

i) Solvers who can provide details of mature technology organizations who could complete your proposed solution, or provide details of organizations with proven usage of technology to preserve, promote, and enable Indigenous Knowledge would also be of interest in category 2.

ii) If you have or know of novel technology approaches that could be applicable to the contexts of Afghanistan and Somalia and their disaster risks, but they do not currently integrate IK approaches, please submit high-level details of your solution and how it might be applied to DRR. Discussions around integration with IK approaches can be further discussed.

Things to Avoid:

In this Challenge, the IRC is not interested in coastal DRR solutions – such as around mangrove forests – for either the indigenous/traditional knowledge or modern methods categories. Solutions that rely solely on coastal DRR solutions will not be considered for award.

Solutions with Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) 1-9 are invited, for ideation solutions considering WHAT to do and for proof of concept solutions detailing HOW to achieve this.

This is a Prize Challenge, which has the following features:

  • There is a guaranteed award. The award(s) will be paid to the best submission(s) as solely determined by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and evaluators. The total payout will be $15,000 USD, with no award being smaller than $1,000.
  • The award distribution will be determined after theoretical evaluation of the proposals by the IRC.
  • By submitting a proposal, the Solver grants to the Seeker a royalty-free, perpetual, and non-exclusive license to use any information included in this proposal, including for promotional purposes. To receive an award, the Solvers will not have to transfer their exclusive Intellectual Property (IP) rights to the Seeker. 
  • The IRC may also issue “Honorable Mention” recognitions for notable submissions that are not selected for monetary awards. 
  • The IRC will make awarded solutions freely available to other non-profit and for-profit organizations to help improve the state of climate DRR approaches for agro-pastoral communities worldwide.


Please login and register your interest to complete the submission form. 

The submitted proposals must be written in English and in your submission form response and attachments, you should include:

  1. Participation type – you will be asked to inform us how you are participating in this challenge, as a Solver (Individual), Solver (Team), or Solver (Organization).
  2. What hazard(s) does your solution respond to? – Please choose from: heavy flooding; erratic rainfall; extreme heatwaves; drought; or One or More of the Above.
  3. Category of solution – Please choose either category 1 (Indigenous or Traditional Approach to DRR) or category 2 (Modern Method or Emerging Technology to Preserve, Promote, and Enable IK Approaches to DRR).

    Please note - if you want to submit connected ideas in both category 1 and category 2, please submit two separate submissions and indicate in both submissions that the two are related.
  4. Solution Requirements – Please ensure that you describe the features of your proposal and how they address the SOLUTION REQUIREMENTS in the fields relevant to your category (500 words for each of the must-have requirements).
  5. Solution Stage - please confirm the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of your proposal: TRL1-3 ideation, TRL4-6 proof of concept, TRL7-9 production ready.
  6. Experience - Expertise, use cases and skills you or your organization have in relation to your proposed solution. The IRC may wish to partner at the conclusion of the Challenge; please include a statement describing your expertise and indicating your interest in volunteering towards realizing your prototype solution (up to 500 words).
  7. Solution Risks - any risks you see with your solution and how you would plan for this (up to 500 words).
  8. How did you find this Challenge? – please indicate what drew you to this Challenge, including any relevant advertising or marketing that you followed to this Challenge.

Wazoku encourages the use by Solvers of AI approaches to help develop their submissions, though any produced solely with generative AI are not of interest.

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Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on April 8th 2024.

Late submissions will not be considered.

Your submission will be evaluated by the evaluation team first reviewing the information and content you have submitted at the submission form, with attachments used as additional context to your form submission. Submissions relying solely on attachments will receive less attention from the evaluation team.

After the Challenge submission due date, the IRC will complete the review process and make a decision with regards to the winning solution(s) according to the timeline in the Challenge header. All Solvers who submit a proposal will be notified about the status of their submissions.

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