Risk and risk reduction has increasingly established itself in the rhetoric of government and non-government actors in Africa. As risk reduction activities have proliferated, we are increasingly held to account, has risk been reduced? It is a difficult question to answer. What is the evidence risk has been reduced or not?
Part of the difficulty is simply the confusion around the terminology. Risk and risk reduction have a precise technical definition which is often confused with more general notions of the word. This lack of clarity is reflected in the often asked question, what is the difference between community development work and risk reduction activities?
Distinguishing risk from general needs is important. Communities, removed from the cumbersome lexicon of the development sector, are clear on the risks they face. They are also clear on what must be done to reduce their exposure or vulnerability to those risks. Community risk assessment is a process intended to systematically identify those risks and actions to reduce risk. Our experience suggests that whilst community assessments comply with outlined methodologies, they do not in fact identify risk, but rather prioritise community development needs. In part, our difficulty in proving that risk has been reduced begins at this point.