Contributions for Addressing food insecurity in protracted crises: Resilience-building programming


You may also find this contribution usefull and overlook the delay I have read with interest the contributions made to the consultation and would like to highlight the fact that a key factor why there was no food crises post-Soviet Union collapse in South Caucuses and Central Asian countries after 1992, as seen in Sub Saharan Africa, was the Dekhon / Homestead farming practiced by each family. These farms provided most of the immediate nutritious food needs of vegetables, meat, milk, eggs, fruits, etc., even when inflation was rife. The NARES, Regional and International research orgs/ stakeholders have not and are continuing to follow a top down approach, thus ignoring to meet the AR4D needs of the rural poor smallholder producer community ( 85% of farmers) to reduce costs, hunger, malnutrition, poverty, suicides and the effect of climate change whilst improving farm production of homesteads, quality of on farm produced low cost inputs in terms of improved livelihoods, seeds, compost, bio mass, water and irrigation, cultivation techniques, housing of livestock and their upkeep, net income and purchasing power etc. Many out of the box interventions like the funding for the setting up of producer orgs/ company (PC) GOI doc attached, staffed by professionals (rural youth trained as general practitioners [GPs]/ MBAs in agriculture to take over all responsibilities, manage risks, leaving their members to on farm activities producing nutritious food for their communities and accessible at farm gate price), creating local human and institutional capacity (knowledge/ know how/ technologies/ ICTs and material sciences to manage water, etc., can contribute significantly to increased productivity of nutritious food by homesteads. Link to an article about smallholder agriculture contributing to better nutrition, by Steve Wiggins and Sharada Keats, Overseas Development Institute (ODI), UK - commissioned by The Hunger Alliance (March 2013): A couple of excerpts: Public agricultural research needs to focus on smallholder needs, with technical innovations that are sparing in their use of capital, but which emphasise labour and the skilful application to local circumstances: reflecting the relative endowments of smallholders. For very small, part-time farms there is often a call for intermediate technologies that raise yields of food crops without heavy demands for labour or external inputs. Farmer-to-farmer learning, especially of agro-ecological approaches with considerable local specificity, can be facilitated and promoted by innovative extension services; research on conservation of soil and water need to recognise how and where local innovations function. Recommendation: Develop and promote innovations for marginal farms, focusing on higher yields for staples but using few external inputs and where possible saving labour. These will allow these farms to achieve the self-provisioning in staples that is often a primary objective of the farm, as well as potentially allowing some of the land to be switched to more diverse, nutrient-rich fruit, vegetables and small-scale livestock rearing. Responsibility for this lies with agricultural research systems, although for some researchers taking up this challenge may require setting aside the search for optimal yields. There is scope here for NGOs to foster exchange of experiences from local innovations and NGO research.

Jessica Hartog HelpAge International, United Kingdom

Many interesting insights have already been provided in this discussion. I would like to pick up on the last discussion point on demographic changes and its impact on building resilience. It is rightly noted that demographic change is probably one of the most predictable factors that has to be taken into consideration when building resilience. In humanitarian and development programming and especially in protracted crisis contexts a lot of emphasis is put on youth bulges and vulnerable groups like women at reproductive age and children. While this is valid, we should not lose sight of world-wide population ageing and its implication for resilience building. The demographic changes that are taking place will create a significant vulnerability nexus for the ageing population in a context of climate change, increasing land pressure, migration and many other challenging factors.

Ageing is not only happening in high-income countries. Quite on the contrary, aging is happening fastest in developing countries. Already today, there are more people over 60 than children under 5. By 2030 people aged over 60 will outnumber children under the age of 10. Therefore, population ageing is a trend we cannot ignore.

An ageing population has far reaching implications for building resilience. Older people are already facing challenges to maintain their livelihoods in ‘normal’ circumstances because of health issues, reduced mobility and strength, impaired sight or hearing but also because of exclusion from innovative livelihood support and financial services.  When on top of this they are facing stresses and repeated shocks, older people are at high risk to be plunged into poverty with no prospects to recover let alone to ‘bounce back better’. Given the large number of elderly headed households with large numbers of dependants in contexts where there is a high level of HIV & Aids and/or rural-urban migration of adolescents and young adults, building the resilience of older people will have strong intergenerational effects as well.

Therefore, it is encouraging to see that the introductory note by Malcolm Ridout mentions social protection as a crucial element for building resilience. Social protection floors would ensure that people with limited labour capacity and/or access to income opportunities would always be able to meet their basic food and other essential needs and this would also provide the minimum basis for being able to recover from and adapt to change brought about by shocks and stresses.

At the same time, it should be recognised that older people can and do engage in livelihood activities and should therefore not be left out of livelihood programming – which is unfortunately the rule rather than the exception. We need to increase our understanding and evidence on the actual and potential role of older people in sustainable livelihoods to build resilience. Meanwhile livelihood programmes should increasingly include older people with labour saving considerations in mind while designing the activities. With this we have a pretty straightforward but important element in building the resilience of a group that tends to be overlooked.

Tim Waites DFID, United Kingdom

I want to mention 3 elements of building resilience to disasters which DFID is interested in:

Multi-annual humanitarian funding: Until recently humanitarian aid instruments have been designed assuming need is transitory and short-term. Humanitarian project cycles have been 6-12 months with budgetary processes to match. Yet the majority of humanitarian aid (estimates are 70-80%) is spent in long term protracted crises where need extends beyond 5 years. Long-term financing has been difficult to get because of political and security issues have limited the use of development instruments. This has led to the much talked about ‘gap’ between relief and development. Secondly, timeliness of response to spikes is constrained due to the inability to get funding quickly from capitals to people in need.

To address these 2 challenges, DFID has been developing multi-year business cases in 5 countries (e.g. Somalia, DRC and Ethiopia), designed to support both timely humanitarian responses and interventions that can help to build resilience. This approach combines 2 key elements. The first, predictable 4-year funding, enables partners to meet acute needs as well as finding new and longer-term strategies to help communities build resilience. The second, is innovative pre-approved internal risk financing arrangements, or contingency budget, which allow UK to early warning/ action, preparedness activities and rapid response should there be a disaster. In effect we are giving our funding partners the space to innovate and address the underlying causes of risk and chronic poverty whilst also having the resources to respond to the inevitable spikes.

Building resilience in fragile and conflict affected contexts: Efforts to address the risks resulting from natural hazards, fragility and conflict have tended to be operationalized separately within distinct Communities of Practice (CoP). On the one hand, DRR practices have tended to work ‘around’ conflict and fragility, seeking to ‘do no harm’ but not actively addressing conflict dynamics. Humanitarian actors (particularly those working on protection) and conflict prevention and peace-building actors, on the other hand, have worked more directly ‘on’ conflict albeit without applying a natural disaster lens. Donors, UN agencies and NGOs typically have separate departments and processes to deal with disaster and conflict risk; this has often translated into siloed policy and practice at the global level in conflict-affected and fragile states.

The concept of resilience offers an opportunity to connect the different policy CoPs working on these different types of risks, including humanitarian, stabilization and development actors; actors working on disaster risk reduction, conflict prevention and climate change; and those working on social, economic and institutional resilience. In doing so, it provides an opportunity for these actors to join forces to understand how risks can be identified and addressed; and to strengthen the resilience of those people and systems (i.e. at different scales) who need it most – households, communities, the private sector and governments.

In recognition of this, the UK Government’s new humanitarian policy (DFID, 2012) puts humanitarian action, conflict prevention and DRR at the heart of its work on resilience. In order to take this forward and conceptually explore further the links between disaster resilience and conflict prevention, DFID commissioned a study titled – When Disasters and Conflicts Collide in 2012. The study found that conflicts can increase a population’s exposure to additional hazards and erode coping mechanisms whilst, at the same time, the occurrence of natural disasters during or in the immediate aftermath of conflict can exacerbate conflict’s humanitarian consequences. The relationship between conflict and disasters can, therefore, be mutually and negatively reinforcing. The study concluded that, where feasible, integrated programmes should be designed to reduce the impact of both natural disasters and conflict – or where there are separate interventions, they should be more coherent. The common denominator for both CoP’s / disciplines is the need to focus on the multiple risks faced by vulnerable people.

However, it is extremely difficult to identify what this may ‘look like’ in fragile and conflict states because each context is different and even in a particular country there may be varying levels of conflict and fragility in different areas of the country. So far, conceptual studies suggest that a mix of humanitarian, risk sensitive development, and state-building initiatives will be required. The key requirement is to ensure there is robust contextual analysis with a strong focus on fragility and conflict. Other key operational requirements might include:

  • The need for common analysis that supports a coherent approach to managing multiple risks
  • Financing mechanisms that allow predictable and sustained commitments
  • Early warning systems that lead to early action
  • A stronger interface between development and humanitarian actors and principles

Programmes that flex: Emerging lessons from Ethiopia and Kenya suggest that social protection may offer a more cost-effective approach to protecting lives and livelihoods than humanitarian aid. However, the evidence base is relatively weak on the effectiveness of social protection in responding to additional needs as a result of stresses and shocks, particularly in LICs and fragile and conflict affected contexts. There is limited guidance for practitioners and policy makers on how to design and implement social protection programmes/ systems that can respond to shocks, particularly how to assess where and when they offer best value for money.

Beyond the Horn of Africa, there are relatively few examples of social protection programmes in LICs and fragile and conflict affected contexts that can rapidly scale up to meet the additional needs of either existing beneficiaries or newly affected populations following a crisis or shock.

This is because a social protection system that can rapidly scale up in response to a shock has a number of requirements that are unlikely to all be in place in these contexts, including:  

  • Longer-term programmes and broader social protection systems in place for the poorest and most vulnerable before shocks and crises hit;
  • Existing programmes and systems (and complementary programmes) whose design and implementation focus on all key stresses and shocks;
  • Existing and/or additional counter-cyclical programmes or programme components that, when a shock hits, can:
  • immediately address additional crises needs of existing beneficiaries;
  • capture the newly poor and vulnerable (e.g. through flexible eligibility mechanisms and effective appeals mechanisms);
  • be introduced to protect the newly poor and vulnerable (such as public works and unemployment insurance); and
  • Financing for crisis response (including rapid-response lending instruments and insurance mechanisms).

Beyond social protection systems, what are the options for long-term health, WASH and food security and nutrition programmes to scale up in response to stresses and shocks?

Finally, measuring resilience and developing models to improve our understanding on predicting degrees/ levels of resilience. This will determine the flexibility needed in our multi-year programmes to address the degree of certainty of having the right outcomes.

With thanks to members of my team in Conflict Humanitarian and Security Department, the Growth and Resilience Department and Research and Evidence Department.

Desirée Quagliarotti Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Italy

My contribution wants to be a reflection of the consequences of the global food crisis in countries in protracted crises. The continuous spikes and volatility in the prices of agricultural commodities are having significant negative impacts, both geopolitical and socio-economic. According to Lester Brown, the ability to produce food is increasingly becoming a strategic variable and a new “geopolitics of food” is emerging, which is affecting the balance of power among countries. Food prices increases affect, above all, that part of world population still living in poverty and under-nutrition, and therefore also the countries in protracted crises in which the incidence of hunger is particularly high. But today the food security issue does not regard only poor countries. In a context of strong instability of agricultural prices, the loss of trust in international markets increases the perception of vulnerability of food-importing countries. Since the strategy of achieving the objective of food self-sufficiency does not appear as a rational choice in areas where fertile land and water resources are scarce, many countries have started to consider land acquisition abroad as the most effective option to satisfy the domestic food demand. The land grabbing phenomenon is leading to a paradoxical process in terms of food security, where poor countries with high percentages of undernourished people are leaving away their fertile land to developed countries so that the latter can produce food to export back home. Many large-scale land acquisition are taking place in countries in protracted crises, such as Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, etc. For this reason it is not possible to speak of resilience and food security in those countries without considering this phenomenon. Land grab amplifies the crisis factors in areas having low economic, social and environmental resilience. If we consider the instability factors that characterize most protracted crises, it is easy to hypothesize that land transfers could exacerbate weaknesses of these countries, particularly institutional corruption, poverty, forced displacements, disruption of traditional lifestyles, conflicts over lands and natural resources. These variables are likely to worsen further the level of domestic food insecurity. Other risks relate to the degradation of land, water and the environment and all have a direct effect on local communities. Small farmers and pastoralists understand how to manage agricultural and grazing lands, especially marginal ones, in ways that foreign companies often do not. Substantial environmental impacts are expected, since the agricultural projects in question are based on large-scale monocultural farming, which requires irrigation water and large amounts of fertilizers and pesticides. Large-scale land acquisitions and the transition from a subsistence agriculture to a modern one are presented by local governments and international organizations as a fundamental measure for improving productive efficiency, increasing food production and stimulating economic growth. But, as Piero Bevilacqua argues, what is too often overlooked is the deep environmental, economic and cultural strangeness of the concept of development compared to the realities of the South. The North has been able to rely for its modernization process on a series of economic and environmental factors that constitute serious obstacles to the economic growth typical of capitalism in many poor countries. As in all temperate areas, the North has benefited from a suitable climate for agricultural development and human settlements: regular rainfall distributed throughout the year, the fundamental role played by the alternation of the seasons, soil not highly erosive as a result of deforestation. None of this is found in the Southern countries of the world. In the poor countries the ecological resilience is low, the environment is fragile and more vulnerable than the western one. At those latitudes the land can not be transformed into monocultures and large-scale, capital-intensive production systems: investments which proved to be profitable in Europe and in the USA may have a devastating impact in those regions. Then as ecological, cultural and socio-economic contexts are diverse, the levels of resilience change too, and consequently the strategies and the tools chosen to achieve certain goals. According to the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge (IAASTD), we need a new approach that rethinks the role of agricultural knowledge, science and technology and diversifies it according to differences in agro-ecological, social and cultural conditions around the world. This heterogeneity can be achieved by promoting farm systems practicing ecological agriculture, preserving the livelihood of peasants, and producing healthy, safe and culturally diverse foods. This does not mean downplaying the role of science and technology in the improvement of agriculture, but only that the only way to feed the world population (especially in countries at risk) in the future will be to emphasize diversity in all its forms: diversity in crops, genetic resources, landscapes, cultural features, and agricultural and knowledge systems; in one word, agro-biodiversity. It requires the adoption of knowledge-intensive approaches in which science, technology and traditional knowledge complement each other in order to preserve the natural and cultural heritage. When the problem to be solved is hunger it is not possible to rely solely on market rules, because the “Invisible Hand”, by its nature, is insensitive to the common good.

Kind Regards from Naples


Greg Collins USAID, United States of America

Please find the following comments from Greg Collins on behalf of USAID Washington.

1. All development and much of what is done under recovery by humanitarian actors enhances resilience if done well.  What seems to be new under the (re)emergent resilience agenda is a focus on areas with the greatest resilience deficits (measured by a combination of risk exposure and vulnerability and proxied by humanitarian spending over the last decade).  Along with this, there has been a more explicit analytic and programmatic recognition that shocks (and stresses) are not anomalies, but recurrent features of these landscapes suggesting that reducing risk and enhancing adaptive capacity to both acute shocks and longer-term stresses must feature centrally in any effort to build resilience at household, community or systems (ecological, social, economic) levels.  Resilience is best understood in relation to specific shocks and the focus should be on those that are recurrent (i.e. drought, rather than unpredictable political crises).  However, resilience itself is likely to be a more generalizable capacity.

2. Difficult to answer and dependent on the causes of protracted crises.  To the extent dynamic stability in the face of shocks and stresses is a necessary (even if, alone, insufficient) condition for resilience, conflict management will be central to improving the capacity of households and communities to manage through shocks and stresses.  This points to the important links between conflict and food insecurity - each as a cause and result of the other.

3. Measuring resilience is a challenge.  Topline measures such as reductions in humanitarian assistance needs (normalized by severity of shock/drought), depth of poverty, household hunger (HHS) and Global Acute Malnutrition provide important insights into whether outcomes of being resilient have been achieved.  However, resilience itself is better understood as a USAID's definition, 'the ability to mitigate, adapt to and recover from shocks and stresses in a manner that reduces vulnerability and facilitates inclusive growth'.  Measuring capacities, such as the ability to lean on others in times of stress, is more challenging than measuring outcomes for which  the state of  the science is fairly well advanced, particularly as such measures rely heavily on self-perception (as informed by measurement of resilience in social psychology).  Nevertheless, measuring these capacities is the only true means of gauging gains in resilience, particularly in the event that resilience is not being tested (i.e. no shock).

4. Much of the effort layer action across a number of sectors is informed by an understanding of the multi-dimensional nature and complexity of resilience.  There are modelling approaches that will allow us to predict the additive and multiplicative impacts of such efforts, however - given the paucity of data - investing in robust systems to evaluate the impact of investments being made now may be more critical to the learning agenda than modelling with incomplete data and overly assumptive assumptions.

5. The energy behind the current resilience movement is in many ways inspired by the intersection of 3 imperatives; a. humanitarian (lives, livelihoods, dignity), b. developmental (lack of resilience as a drag on economic growth as shown in the $12b in losses associated with drought in Kenya between

2008-2011 and c. an economic imperative as demonstrated by DFID's value for money research.  The last is particularly compelling in an era of austerity.  For example, the USG alone spent $1b in humanitarian assistance in the Horn in 2011.  It simply is not sustainble.

6. Scale is part of the equation.  However, it is the effective sequencing, layering and integration of both existing and new humanitarian and development investments that likely matters more.  If we can prove the value added of such a strategic approach at a local scale and humanitarian and development partners working on national strategies guided by effective government counterparts, we can build out a mosaic of effective resilience enhancing actions as a means of bringing it to scale. 7. We needn't look far and forward to see what happens when climate change and variability and population growth rates causally collide.  Niger provides a case in point.  While both suggest that any effort to build resilience is akin to swimming up stream, this only underscores the need to make these investments now.  It also underscores the need to factor in these longer-term stresses into analysis, decision making and - ultimately - responses.  The effective use of climate information is also an essential aspect of adaptive capacity (itself a pillar capacity at the heart of resilence), be it at the household, community or national/regional level. 


Moderator and FSN members

From my understanding it requires building resilience at multiple levels for addressing food insecurity in protracted crises. The levels can be ranged from household, community, regional, national and international. If the resilience measure fails at one level the measure of other level can protect at least from critical misery. The degrees of effectiveness of the measures vary with root causes of protracted crises.

The funding from external source can be a solution but I am concern with community institutions that have been destroyed by state and international agencies. For example, indigenous people have community institutions to protect from extreme misery. The institutions were established and function based on local practices of management of natural resources. The interventions of the external agencies have destroyed the opportunity to be hedged by the community institutions. For example, the livelihood supporting resources of communal uses of forest and pasture are destroyed by greedy agencies to increase high area of forest cover such as in India. It has seriously hampered various opportunities (from indigenous knowledge transfer, community interaction, and food security) based community resources and institutions. Some international forest policy analysts recklessly argued that the attachment of forest based people should be delinked  to conserve forest and environment. Please read the following articles.

1 Ferreira, J., et al. 2012. Forest biodiversity, carbon and other ecosystem services: relationships and impacts of deforestation and forest degradation. Edited by John A. Parrotta, Christoph Wildburger & Stephanie Mansourian. In Understanding Relationships between Biodiversity, Carbon, Forests and People: The Key to  Achieving REDD+ Objectives. A Global Assessment Report. IUFRO World Series Vol. 31. Vienna.

2. Kapos, V. et al. 2012. Impacts of forest and land management on biodiversity and carbon. Edited by John A. Parrotta, Christoph Wildburger & Stephanie Mansourian. In Understanding Relationships between Biodiversity, Carbon, Forests and People: The Key to  Achieving REDD+ Objectives. A Global Assessment Report. IUFRO World Series Vol 31. Vienna.

Champak Ishram
community based organization



Lors des précédentes crises politico-militaires qui ont frappé la Centrafrique, les stocks de semences ont été pillés ou consommés face à la pénurie. Les centres de production de semences sélectionnées ont été également pillés. Le projet de réhabilitation du système de production et de distribution de semences a été mise en place. Cela a permis de distribuer des semences et outillage aux paysans des zones sinistrées. Les réseaux de groupements des producteurs de semences ont été reconstitués pour constituer la banque de semences, afin d’assurer la diffusion et la pérennisation du système.

Toujours dans le même sens, un projet de développement des jardins potagers a été mise en place dans les écoles des zones sinistrées. Pour permettre aux enfants d’avoir des légumes dans leur alimentation.

En conclusion, pour améliorer la sécurité alimentaire dans les crises prolongées, je proposerai :

-la mise en place d’une banque de semences

-le développement des cultures maraîchères

Adèle Irénée GREMBOMBO

Ingénieur Agronome Nutritionniste

Naomi Baird Concern Worldwide, United Kingdom

This is a very interesting and stimulating discussion, with the diverse range of experiences and opinions being shared indicative of the wide ranging nature of addressing resilience building in areas of protracted crisis.  As we all testify, this is not a simple feat.  The growing understanding of the interrelatedness of systems, structures, processes, shocks and stresses is drawing together different schools of thought and practice in the public and private domains, in an attempt to address this challenge in a more joined up and systemic way.

I would like to echo the inputs already made by my colleagues in Afghanistan and Ethiopia, and build on them, predominantly drawing upon Concern's experiences in the Sahel and Horn of Africa.  

1.    What are the strategies that have been successful in building resilience? Can we build resilience in general or does it always have to be in relation to a (known) type of shock?

There is a consensus emerging on what needs to change in the delivery of aid including integrated multi-sector programming that brings together the different tracts of humanitarian, development and environment sectors, but this is a new progression requiring further research going forward.

Concern’s learning from projects in Niger includes; the importance of combining cash transfers and malnutrition interventions with interventions in other sectors that address the causes of malnutrition and food insecurity; and, the need to consider making cash transfer programmes conditional on certain health behaviours, or combining it with food aid or vouchers. To account for the diverse uses of cash transfers, it is also important to develop and monitor nutrition and food security indicators as a measure of the success of the programme.

In 2010, USAID’s Famine Early Warning System Network indicated that Moyale District in the Horn of Africa was at risk of becoming ‘highly food insecure’. This warning led Concern, in collaboration with the government and local partners, to begin an early scale up of High Impact Nutritional Interventions across Moyale District. This included recruiting and training health workers, supporting the Ministry of Health to open six new health facilities, the distribution of water purification tablets and a food voucher scheme for 3,000 poor households.

The result was that between December 2010 and July 2011, the rate of severe malnutrition fell in Moyale (from 3% to 1.5%) whereas in the two neighbouring districts it increased dramatically. In Moyale, the general acute malnutrition rate increased only slightly whereas in the other two districts it increased substantially; the rate in Moyale was half that in the other districts. Several factors combined to enable Moyale to fare better than neighbouring districts:

  • Resilience was promoted over time through contextually appropriate, multi-sectoral interventions. Government capacity to respond was strengthened.
  • There was an early, multi-sectoral scale up of food, nutrition and livelihood interventions. There was coordination among agencies, with Concern working with local government services, the World Food Programme and another NGO, World Vision.

In Concern’s opinion it is important to build resilience to specific types of shocks. The shocks to which people are highly vulnerable vary across contexts: for instance, in the Sahel and Horn of Africa regions it is drought, in the DRC it is conflict. However, people’s vulnerability to shock is not only determined by the types of shocks they face, but also by the rate of change and the interconnectedness of factors affecting change. It is the interaction of shocks and stresses that erode people’s options and ability to cope – and contribute to creating full-blown crises.

In the Sahel region for example, it took only a 3% dip of food production in 2012 to trigger a massive food and nutrition crisis. This is due to recurring drought cycles, price rises and disease. Therefore, efforts to build resilience must not only take into account the defining ‘shock’ but also the wider shocks, stresses, their pace and interaction.

2.    What programming has improved food security in protracted crises?

In the first place, it is important to stress that food and nutrition security must be addressed together. In turn, the causal framework that links food and nutrition security to a crisis must be understood from the outset. Although lessons learned from programming are context specific, there is evidence to support the following programmatic interventions to improve food and nutrition security in times of crisis:

  • Smallholder productive capacity: in order to have most impact on local food security, especially for the poorest
  • Agro-ecological practices: in order to restore degraded lands, boost yields, livelihoods and resilience
  • Climate smart programming: in agriculture and livestock to build and maintain people’s returns on assets in the face of climate change
  • Integrated programming: addressing all the underlying causes of food and nutrition security has greatest impact
  • Social protection and cash transfers: in order to ensure access to food for the poorest when food is available on the market and when access to food is a challenge
  • Early response to early warning: to scale up preventative activities in a timely manner so as to avert a crisis
  • Address the policy landscape: to build an enabling environment that supports the poor and marginalized and contributes towards their efforts to build their resilience to shocks.
  • 3.    How will we know we are on the right track to produce resilience?

The question of how to measure resilience is a work in progress. Concern Worldwide is committed to contributing towards the growing global evidence base on resilience. Concern is working in collaboration with Tufts University to assess the impact of programmatic work on community resilience in Chad. Our measures of impact and success are based on evidence of reduced inequality, risk and vulnerability.

Better nourishment can be evidence of improved returns on assets, reduced inequality, and reduced vulnerability since a well-nourished individual will be more resilient. We are also using livelihood, diversification and coping strategies indices to measure success. The real test will be to assess how indicators fare during crisis years.

4.    Can we predict and quantify the effects of action across a number of sectors in advance?   Do we need to?

In the context of climate change, population growth, and natural resource scarcity, programming for resilience will not take place in a static environment where impacts can be accurately predicted in advance. Thus, taking stock of external factors that shape resilience will have to occur on a regular basis.

5.    Why have we not done better to date?

Despite sophisticated systems to detect the onset of hazards, governments (both national and international) can lack political will to take preventative action.  The costs of this failure, both in human life and financially, can be colossal. Mitigating other factors that cause delayed reactions (agency decision making, accountability etc) can only be effective if political constraints can be resolved.  Foreign governments will weigh up a response with their own political agendas and their decision may not be determined by the humanitarian imperative.  National governments may not want to tarnish their international image, or perhaps show less interest if marginalised communities are most affected.  This means agencies must be more effective in their advocacy efforts.

Early response also falls through the cracks between the remit of the humanitarian and development sectors. This occurs in donor governments and other funding institutions, as well as within agency’s own approaches to programming and how aid workers even understand their job specs.  There is bifurcation throughout the system!  When early warnings are sounded the system is ill equipped to respond appropriately.  There is a call for a new paradigm, a fundamental shift in the aid architecture, that moves out of silos towards more integrated programming in order to build resilience and manage risk.  At a minimum DRR approaches need to be taken up by the development sector whereby long-term programming can respond to early warning triggers and adapt according to needs.  As mentioned previously, social protection will be vital to this.

The key question is “how” to create more holistic programming that integrates disciplines and communities of practice necessary to affect synergies for impact.  So far, DRR, CCA, Social Protection have worked in isolation, and are all fairly new disciplines. Continued separation leads to policy incoherence, ineffective use of resources, inefficiencies, duplication, and competition.

Communication, coordination and collaboration between institutions and government departments that deal with climate change, DRR, development etc pose serious challenges to tackling issues through a resilience lens.  Often governments own disaster management bodies and their climate change departments do not talk to one another, let alone do joined up planning.  At institutional level, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change only very scantily incorporates DRR strategies (due to political push back), and the Hyogo Framework for Action, as non-legally binding, struggles to be taken on board by non DRR bodies.  More functional ways of operating and connecting need to be established, something that needs to be taken up and addressed by the planners and budget holders.

The close association between DRR and humanitarian actors (responsible for relief response) is preventing this work being taken up by development and climate actors.  The perception of DRR as primarily a humanitarian concern is an anachronism that must be overcome.

Linked to this is the funding issue, whereby DRR interventions are largely funded by humanitarian aid.  This reinforces DRR as a humanitarian responsibility, rather than supporting it being taken up the development agenda.  Conversely taking on DRR with its more development style norms, can be seen to impact upon the humanitarian imperative and the ability of actors to carry out interventions based on humanitarian principles.  The funding of CCA initiatives from environmental budgets can also be seen to keep CCA from being taken up by development actors and keeps this climate work separate and isolated.  Funding through multilaterals only acts to enforce these divides and does not support integration.

The international aid architecture is not set up to promote resilience approaches.  Humanitarian actors specialise in response not prevention, and do not have long term sources of funding, yet they are now moving into longer term programming covering an ever increasing array of duties that stretch their mandate, principles and skills base.  Development actors on the other hand are still reluctant to see preparing for and mitigating shocks as part of their remit and generally wish to continue with business as usual, whilst also lacking the flexible funding needed to scale up activities to avert disaster.

Long term flexible funding is needed in order to strengthen resilience of communities. Programming needs to be integrated, and a body of evidence built up that examines the ins and outs, pros and cons of this approach.  Established best practice will support donors to put their money in the right places.

There is little interaction between the fields of expertise, practice and policy, of all these areas identified as necessary for resilience to develop.  There exist inherent scepticisms of one another’s fields as well as differing perspectives, tools and methods that all contribute to difficulties in building synergies between the approaches.  Demands from field applications for more joined up approaches will be necessary to bring together the thinking and planning for resilience, with back up given by bilateral and multilateral donors.

However, contrasts and conflicts do exist between the domains, and these cannot be ignored or left unaddressed.  To move forward in a constructive and effective manner a deep examination of the tensions and stressors in trying to align the approaches in a more coherent fashion needs to occur.  Resilience cannot afford to be pure rhetoric but must be underpinned by thorough analysis and research.  The pitfalls and trade-offs for moving these domains closer together in a more systematic manner must be determined and taken on board e.g. operating at different levels, short or long term perspectives, programmatic overload.  Unfavourable conditions for such a merger need to be identified immediately.

As well as identifying the political implications, costs, benefits and pay-offs of promoting a resilience agenda, strong leadership will also be required if it is to advance in a systematic way.  This is somewhat of a catch 22 as resilience cannot be led separately under a separate department or body as its very aim and strength lies in bridging and uniting all the different sectors that need to work collaboratively to ensure that development is sustainable and manages risk.

In many countries experiencing protracted crises the national and local government capacity is often too challenged to integrate different approaches to effectively build resilience.  This can also be said to be true of development agencies and NGOs.  Not only can institutional capacity be weak, but the capacity of individual staff also needs reassessing and people need to be able to wear several hats to be able to manage integrated programming.  If donors continue to promote resilience as the way forward, they will also need to put their money into building capacity to do so.

Designing resilient programming will require cross-disciplinary learning, planning and implementation, requiring new innovative ways of working.  Evidence for this way of working being more cost efficient, as well as effective, needs to be generated.  Scaling up such innovative programmes also poses challenges which must be tackled if significant impact is to be achieved.

Countries faced with food and nutrition challenges in a context of protracted crisis are also amongst the fastest growing in the world. However, often economic growth at the national level has not served the poorest groups in societies and has instead resulted in increased equality gaps between the poorest and the richest. Addressing inequalities at the national level is crucial, but global inequalities will also need to be addressed.

6.    Is it just about scale? Do we just need bigger programmes? Is this affordable?

It is about scale as well as coherent and integrated policy planning, not just about bigger programmes. Political will is necessary to achieve impact and scale, beyond resilience programming. In order to improve resilience, country governments cannot stop at producing a resilience strategy for example, they must commit to work on policies and investments that aim at reducing inequality and vulnerability. In the same way, donors cannot just fund resilience programmes without ensuring that their domestic and international policies are conducive to enhancing resilience in developing countries, and at the global level. In terms of funding, long-term commitments are required so that the life span of resilience programmes is longer than the typical 3-5 year projects currently being supported.

7.    Demographic and ecological changes are probably the most predictable causal factors that will have a major impact on resilience in the future -- how should we plan for this? Can we predict the consequences of inadequate action? Should we try to?

There is a wealth of evidence regarding the expected costs of inaction, trade-offs and lowest hanging fruits that take climate change and resource scarcity into account. However, there is a lack of decision-making or prioritization of tools that can enable countries to go from policy planning to action. In this sense, incentives and barriers to implementation of specific policies must be identified, and decision-making tools that can help policy-makers prioritize actions are needed.

Alessandro Villa European Commission (ECHO, DEVCO, EEAS), Italy

European Commission participation to the E-conference “Addressing food insecurity in protracted crises: Resilience-building programming”


Firstly, it is our opinion that building resilience is not an option but an imperative to increase the effectiveness of both development and humanitarian aid. The recent disasters in the Horn of Africa and Sahel illustrate clearly that development has failed to prevent the impact of recurrent climatic variation on vulnerable communities, and that humanitarian resources are not adequate to prevent widespread asset loss, erosion of livelihoods, acute under-nutrition and in some cases excess mortality during crises. In a context of increasing population and proliferating shocks, it is a requirement that different stakeholders join together to work in different ways - this is the underpinning raison d'être for resilience building.

Consensus has been reached on a series of conditions concerning resilience building in particular in protracted crises. For example,

  • Joint Analysis: as a necessary starting point involving collaboration, coordination common vision, common strategy and programming, and common monitoring and reporting frameworks between humanitarian and development players is key to enhance aid effectiveness. Within the European Commission, the Joint Humanitarian/Development Framework provides a tool for better doing analysis, and the example of the US joint planning cells is a good one that implies some institutional or at least organizational changes
  •  Understanding risk and vulnerabilities: Resilience building requires ad hoc solutions that should be tailored to the specific situation in the field. This requires and in-depth analysis of vulnerability, livelihoods (existing and potential) and wealth groupings, exposure to shocks and coping capacities in order to identify who is vulnerable/ non-resilient to what. This implies shifting paradigms of government and development partners to focus on the most vulnerable (and less on conventional 'growth models'), and humanitarian actors to take into stronger consideration long term implication of crises management. This would be a major step towards 'doing business differently', as required to increase the effectiveness of aid.
  • Social transition and transformation: Many vulnerable communities are going through large transitions from traditional livelihoods to new or diversified livelihoods (e.g. pastoralists in the Horn of Africa and Sahel): it is imperative that governments and development partners understand the dynamics and the future aspirations of people in transition and social transformation, often needing a generational time horizon.
  • Short, medium and long term visions: The participation of all parties and stakeholders that share vision and strategy is necessary for long lasting interventions. Therefore, continuous dialogue among donors and strong relationships between partner countries and regional organisations are needed. Humanitarian action should as far as possible be aligned to longer term development processes, and avoid a start-stop modality.
  • Social protection and the provision of basic services: Both contribute to resilience through building human capital, and act as a foundation for more meaningful resilience to be built. Governments should continue to expand social protection and the provision of basic services to the most vulnerable while development partners should support this effort making it more sustainable. Along these lines, humanitarian action can potentially act to expand and contract social protection/ basic services in times of crisis to ensure that affected people are protected.
  • Ownership of local authorities is necessary and resilience programmes should be country- driven; however, for humanitarian interventions, humanitarian principles must be respected,
  • Stop thinking and acting in 'silos': multidisciplinary, multi-sectoral, multi-level, multi-partner, strategically and jointly planned, holistic approach is required
  •  Address social inequities: to build resilience in a sustainable way, social inequities need to be a focus of development and governance of national governments. Peace and stability is a prerequisite.
  • Common monitoring and measuring framework: to inform decision making which means to allow to be responsive to evolving needs and for accountability reasons /vulnerable populations targeted by the resilience approach and /EU tax payer (aid effectiveness, value for money considerations): This is an ongoing challenge.


However, although the overall theoretical framework of resilience building is quite developed and well defined, it is much less clear how to put those (and other) elements together in a real scenario making the complex mechanism workable.

The European Commission has been in the forefront of two initiatives that, from their conception, were meant to put together all elements that would contribute to the resilience building.

  • The Alliance Globale pour l’Initiative Resilience (AGIR) initiative, officially launched in December 2012 together by the Commission and the partner countries in the Sahel region, addressed the resilience building in one of the areas most exposed to recurrent crises. The initiative has been conceived as an opened forum in which different parties and stakeholders (national governments, regional institutions, donors, technical partners, UN, private sector, NGOs, farmers associations and other civil society players, etc.) have been put together around a table to discuss and agree upon a common vision on how to strengthen the resilience against the recurrent crises factors (drought, floods and other food crises leading risks such as economic and political vulnerability have been the main focus) of the most vulnerable populations in the region. The forum allowed to design regional priorities incorporated into a regional strategy in which all parties have contributed and now share.
  • The Supporting the Horn of Africa's Resilience (SHARE) initiative, which is a joint humanitarian-development approach to improve the ability of people, communities and countries to face persistent and acute emergencies. Built on the experience the EU has in collaborating with development partners in the Horn of Africa, the EU together with its Member States worked to develop a response to the drought that hit the region in 2011, the worst in 60 years. An increase in short-term development financing to support the immediate recovery phase together with a long-term structured approach to recover after the drought were put in place

As a next step, regional strategy is now being translated and adopted at national level by national players to mirror the regional one. The stakeholders of the resilience against food crises are discussing together with the objective to identify the strategies and the mechanisms to enhance the capability of vulnerable population to absorb shocks and to adapt to then in a sustainable manner. As far as we are aware, this is the first time that a so inclusive mechanism has been put in place. The added value of the mechanism is a political pressure and a cross check scheme where each party stimulates and control the work of the others in the framework a common vision, with a shared objective and adopting common indicators.

Concerning the dynamism of the resilience building, we believe that it cannot be achieved only looking back to the past, although it has to be built on good practices and lessons learnt. A clear understanding of the present and future risks, including the aspirations of vulnerable people undergoing livelihood transitions, should be in the centre of the radar of policy-makers.

Demographic and ecological changes are the main elements to be clearly taken into consideration while designing strategies of resilience building with a long term prospective. Demographic issues and their consequences are part of the precise responsibility of local, national and regional authorities. The underestimation of the demographic phenomena could clearly lead to the failure of resilience building policies designed on the basis of a status quo situation without taking into strong consideration the future possible/probable scenarios. On the other hand, ecological and climate changes are barely under control of policy-makers in protracted areas countries, therefore adaptation measures only can be in their agenda, while mitigation policies are under the responsibility of international communities. Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Agendas should be well coordinated to ensure adaptation and disaster reduction.

Concerning the issue of specificity of resilience building, we believe that a lot of interactions are possible among risks and, therefore, a population that reduce its vulnerability against a risk would most probably reduce its exposure to a combination of risks at the same time. However, while designing resilience building policies, the identification of the risks to be addressed should be clearly defined and policies should be as specific as possible. Yet, interactions between risks should also be considered and synergies among resiliencies to different kind of risks should be promoted. Multi-risk response mechanisms could also be explored, but improved policy design tools are needed to ensure effectiveness and efficiency of those response. Finally, concerning priorities for policy-makers, risks should be addressed depending on the probability of their occurrence and their potential impacts, both elements to be identified through risk analyses, built on an in-depth understand of vulnerability and livelihoods dynamics. Such analysis should jointly involve different partners coming from both development and humanitarian environment to ensure taking into consideration the different perspectives and needs.