Re: Addressing food insecurity in protracted crises: Resilience-building programming

Christophe Tocco USAID , Senegal
18.06.2013

While it is true that there are a few different definitions of resilience it is clear that the ability of individuals, communities, states and systems to adapt to and recover from shocks is common to all.  The bigger issue raised by your first question is "resilience to what?"  And that is a key question before you move forward. Very quickly resilience can come to mean nothing if it means everything. In the Sahel resilience to terrorism is often discussed. While I believe that in the Sahel the type of resilience we are trying to achieve is resilience to climactic shocks which occur repeatedly and lead to large humanitarian responses on a repeated basis. So yes, "resilience to what?" is a key question and we must agree on the answer if we are to move forward together. 

It is clear that there are types of programming that improve food security in protracted crises.  It always comes down to multisectoral programming that looks at the most vulnerable in a multifaced way buidling their knowledge and skills in the area of off farm income, health and nutrition awareness, access to finance, inclusive governance, social protection, etc.  That's what makes resilience hard. It is so very multifaced.  Another key constraint is "food security for whom?" Only the most vulnerable? Or the most vulnerable and rural poor? The key aspect of resilience is that it brings the humanitarian and long term development communities back together with a focus on the most vulnerable. It needs to be the center of our efforts if it is to be meaningful. 

If we do focus on the most vulnerable one of the most meaninful indicators will be to see the humanitarian caseload decrease overtime when the caseload is normalized for the severity of the drought and population growth.

International development work remains largely focused on specific sectors which makes multisector programming focused on the most vulnerable difficult to justify. The resilience agenda is helping to change that. International development is also characterized by a large divide between our humanitarian and longer term development actors. Again the resilience agenda is fostering change.  To do better in the long term we need a way of bridging these constraints institutionally and through resource allocation.

Demographic and ecological changes are certainly big causal factors but they can be addressed. In many parts of the world demographic growth was reduced significantly over just one generation. It is possible in the Sahel. It needs to be part of the discussion tied to safer motherhood and stronger livlihoods for ones family. Through Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) we are seeing whole parts of Niger become green again in spite of the ecological changes. This is clearly happening as seen through satellite imagery looking at the same villages over 30 years. So people can adapt and react to ecoological change. When it comes to causal factors we can address them. Our role is to help scale up the successful adaptations that people in the Sahel are already undertaking.

In sum, resilience aims to reduce exteme vulnability but will never eradicate it. Even in weathly societies there are vulnerable populations. But if resilience can make a signifcant dent in the size of the most vulnerable populations in the Sahel we'll know we have achieved something significant.