ACF’s focuses on the prevention and treatment of undernutrition. We recognize that combatting the underlying causes of undernutrition will involve preventive interventions which range from food security and livelihoods protection and enhancement, to care practices, access to health and WASH facilities and social protection. Thus a comprehensive coordinated approach forms the basis of any action. Resilience building must focus on reducing people’s vulnerability to shocks and stresses and seasonal fluctuations while also addressing long term structural vulnerability affecting the nutrition security of the population, especially children under five.
For ACF, strategies which have been successful for resilience building encompass a number of programming conditions:
For ACF, priority areas to build resilience include:
Resilience programming has a lot to do with maximizing the nutritional impact of our interventions in different sectors. ACF has adopted a holistic framework in the fight for nutritional security, but this integrated, multi-phased and long term programming has mostly happened despite funding structures not because of them. Efforts by donors to provide a new financial framework, (which does not necessarily mean additional funding) will be key. Practitioners must have the flexibility to implement overlapping emergency response or rehabilitation or longer term resilience building activities at the same time, if the need arises. They are currently unable to do so due to the rigid funding mechanisms in place. Flexible, predictable and long-term funding strategies, combining a traditional development programming approach with pre-positioning humanitarian reserves to enable timely response are crucial.
Programmes improving food security in protracted crisis foster a longer term vision which brings together actions that are able to comprehensively address vulnerability to shocks and stresses and to seasonal fluctuations as well as the structural vulnerability, reducing impact at all levels of society (individual, households, communities and states’ system and services). Pregnant and lactating women, babies and children have heightened nutritional requirements, particularly between conception complementary feeding phase and age two. Resilience building strategies must therefore be planned and monitored in relation to how far they address these nutrition needs for children under five during ‘the window of opportunity’ of 1000 days to prevent impaired child growth, create healthy conditions for women during pregnancy and that put the growing child at a lower risk of suffering from chronic diseases in adulthood.
In the Sahel and Horn of Africa regions, where hunger and under-nutrition are highly seasonal, integrating seasonality into information systems and programme design is crucial. Income, food prices, health, care practices, all determinants of undernutrition follow seasonal patterns. By thinking seasonally, and planning accordingly, and by combining humanitarian and development efforts, governments, NGOs and donors can put in place predictable interventions to strengthen the resilience of populations in order to prevent seasonal peaks in undernutrition reaching crisis point. If stakeholders are serious about reducing the number of people affected undernutrition, if they really want to improve and save lives, to transform rhetoric into reality, a seasonal approach is imperative.
Innovative, flexible and context specific programmes are also key. One size does not fit all. We can make two examples, certainly not exhaustive. In Niger ACF’s food security and livelihoods teams are providing assistance which helps counter the negative effects of seasonal changes in food availability and food price fluctuations. Using a “warrantage” system, ACF teams help small farmers to access credit through micro finance institutions (MFI), using part of their harvest as collateral. The credit can be invested in other activities, while the harvest is stored until prices rise. At this point the farmer can buy back their harvest for the original price they sold it for and sell it on the open market for a higher profit. This system buffers small farmers against the effects of market price fluctuations and counters the vicious cycle where farmers are obliged to sell their crops at harvest time, at low prices, in order to purchase additional food and other essentials or to pay back loans taken during the lean season.
Another excellent example of resilience initiatives is the REPI program in Burkina Faso, which, thanks to flexible funding, has introduced safety net mechanisms to an existing development program following the 2012 drought crisis. This innovation has forced organizations to structure safety nets in way to reinforce and not harm the ongoing development program implemented with the same beneficiaries, and further enhance the climate change adaptation through land protection and rehabilitation.
Predicting and quantifying the effects of action across a number of sectors is essential. However the settings of specific impact monitoring systems should not be disconnected from our ultimate goal: the reduction of nutritional vulnerability, with particular focus on the 1000 day ‘window of opportunity’. We need now to include the reduction in rates of malnutrition as an impact indicator of successful resilience programming. For ACF, resilience will only be achieved when all interventions, in all sectors, measure their impact vis-a-vis the reduction of under nutrition.
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These discussions are led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP)
and facilitated by the Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)