The conference provided a valuable opportunity to take stock of current understanding and actions around building a common agenda of resilience for food and nutrition security. Around 800 participants attended from 75 countries, though very few farmers and private sector stakeholders were present. Nevertheless the meeting provided many useful opportunities for connection with GFAR partners from other sectors, in particular research and extension and NGOs.
The concept of resilience is attracting much attention at present as development workers around the world seek to more effectively align humanitarian and development agendas. It was estimated that 1 in 3 development dollars has been lost due to shocks and stresses over the last decade, while the poorest are hit hardest by shocks to their systems. It is clear that agricultural development issues are directly inter-related with factors such as climate change, economic and food security shocks and the effects of human conflict and cannot be addressed in isolation.
This was well summarized by IFAD President Kanayo Nwanze, who highlighted resilience as the ability to bounce back from shocks and stresses. However, smallholder farmers, despite their productivity and the proven high returns from agricultural GDP growth, lack the asset base to invest in their farm businesses and create resilient systems. Developing resilience requires an understanding of local contexts, listening to people and understanding their systems, above all recognizing that “development is what people do for themselves” and “the job of development practitioners is to facilitate those processes”. Resilience is therefore built through partnership that respects the dignity of the partners.
Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the World Food Programme, echoed these sentiments, emphasizing that resilience requires that farmers are included directly in the conversation as clients, not as ‘beneficiaries’ and that success requires multiple actions and actors to work together in real partnerships. Ms Cousin also announced a new finance mechanism in WFP, the Food-Secure Climate Resilience Facility, responding to forecast climate shocks.
H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, outlined how, as host country for the Conference, Ethiopia itself provides a strong example of resilience development. After major past droughts and famines, Ethiopia is now growing economically and is on course to become a middle income country by 2025, with agriculture providing half of national GDP and 80% of employment and 15% of the national budget devoted to strengthening the sector.
Marie-Helena Semedo, FAO DDG-N, highlighted the need to take a value chain approach to sustainable management of natural resources and for advocacy to establish resilience in the post-2015 agenda. This calls for a sustainable partnership-based approach, with complementary efforts and actions on the ground. Ms Semedo also highlighted the role of the Agenda for Action on Protracted Crises of the Committee on World Food Security, a process in which GFAR has been directly involved.
The strong needs for multi-stakeholder partnership and for grounded actions were echoed via videos from a range of international figures, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary General’s Special Adviser David Nabarro and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. Clearly, the Global Forum’s multi-stakeholder constituency and farmer-centred focus provide an important and extremely relevant basis for addressing the resilience agenda.
The challenges of putting principles into action
While there was strong agreement on the challenges and needs, putting the resilience agenda into practice is clearly challenging. Sessions on metrics highlighted the complexity of measuring change across multiple parameters, in ways that could be readily grasped by policy makers and the wider public. Recommendations included better use of existing publicly available data and better integration of data sources, including attention to sampling challenges such as for long term sentinel sites. Combining diverse data forms presents major challenges in itself. Moreover, while measuring behavioural change can be done, it is difficult to attribute behavioural change to a specific intervention.
There is a need for capacities in all stakeholders to monitor and use the data so that data is gathered with a clearly understood purpose. In practice, much resilience data will be qualitative and could often be considered subjective, particularly in times of crises. Data also needs to go beyond the household level alone, as different factors operate at different levels and researchers are often starting from no measures of shocks and stresses at all. This requires a more dynamic foresight process with communities
, to understand what they see as viable futures and how shocks can affect pathways to desired outcomes. It was pointed out strongly that metrics of resilience may please researchers, but haven’t yet got to the root of preventing crises by anticipating their onset. There are underlying concerns that data and modelling are based on predictions for the population, which are themselves a moving trend and deal with adaptive management for the next wave of shocks. However, if situations are in crisis then the data cannot be gathered.
Resilience was well accepted as a need and the impact of exposure to shocks can harm peoples growth and development for life. However, there is also a recognized risk of resilience becoming the latest ‘buzzword’, with current hype and subsequent disillusion, as addressing resilience cannot, by its nature, lead to immediate answers.
Implications for sectors and regions
In some communities, such as pastoralists, resilience to stresses such as drought is already a way of life. Measures to enhance resilience face a number of obstacles such as access to resources, competition between NGO providers, short-term and top-down funding approaches and the separation of humanitarian support from growth assistance, even within aid Ministries. Resilience measures require changes in mindsets, and robust planning, with trust placed in the community concerned to take lead responsibility for their own recovery. However many customary institutions that have previously created long term resilience are now themselves being eroded by shocks. This brings a renewed focus on social capital and a careful stewarding of ‘the commons’ as key to resilience.
It was also recognized that many are excluded from greater resilience within communities on the basis of social constructs: gender, social group, religion etc. Experiences have shown that single interventions do not work. There is a need to increase trust between social groups, recognize the impact of denial of rights for certain groups and consider interventions that lead to benefits beyond the life of a project itself. There is a fundamental need to address the inequalities that exclude women from greater resilience and from benefiting from new measures and for gender and exclusion to be taken into resilience strategies, factors strongly recognized in the Gender in Agriculture Partnership http://www.gender-gap.net
Side events addressed issues such as the Middle East crises and their complex causes – food prices, governance, corruption and unemployment. In the region, 40% of poverty is rural and there is a very high rate of child stunting and food insecurity. These challenges demonstrated the need to always start from analysis of the context within which a crisis happens, not just address the effects and highlighted that many underlying root causes of conflict lie in food insecurity and rural poverty.
Addressing nutrition security also means an integrated multisector approach, translating desired outcomes to simple policy solutions and translating consumer nutrition security back to farmer and producer issues to shape production by nutritional needs.
Threats to the Horn of Africa have not gone away and there was a call for greater partnership with political will, policy support and practical measures to prepare for droughts to come, with the increased cooperation and funding required.
The sentiment of the conference was well summarized in the closing sessions, which recognized the value of the resilience concept in a new awareness of risks and shocks that can be addressed by absorption, adaptation and transformation. As stated in these sessions, “Resilience provides a mobilizing metaphor for a model of development in the 21st Century, one that requires overcoming the increasingly archaic divisions between developed and developing countries, between static and dynamic processes, between economics and environment and between concerns at community, national and global levels”. Bridging these divisions becomes a key focus for the new development agenda of the 21st Century.
The Conference recognized the need for more effective institutions at all levels, in particular in local and national systems and the need for more global sharing of knowledge and tools. Also highlighted were the needs to address long term requirements, not just short term gains; for data to support change; and for resilience thinking to include transformative measures, not just absorptive and adaptive responses to shocks. This also requires investment in associated research, extension, private sector and market institutions and the infrastructure for resilience and the greater engagement of youth in agriculture
. There is no shortage of policies in place, but common challenges are to deliver on these and to bring coherence between the policies of different Ministries.
Farmers also highlighted the need for specific measures to ensure resilience and self-reliance of their systems, including a strong call by Dyborn Chibonga of the National Smallholder Farmers' Association of Malawi for fair prices for their produce and national laws on farmers rights and development of community seed banks, measures strongly advocated through the Global Forum
. Prabhu Pingali of Cornell University also called for more attention to factors deriving from the political economy and for a move away from a ‘green revolution’ mindset, to look beyond production of staple crops alone and consider also resilience of local institutions and the actions and metrics required from production to processing, marketing and consumption.
The principles set out by speakers align strongly with the agenda for change set out by GFAR stakeholders. Enabling communities to realize a ‘resilience dividend’ must involve a people centred approach, participatory problem solving , learning and knowledge management to share and scale experiences. This requires fundamental re-evaluation of why some sectors are extremely poor and are kept poor through societal inequalities and lack of opportunities. This will itself require new tools, including: better foresight and predictive analytics; more flexible financing mechanisms; better resilience metrics, problem diagnostics and evidence of value for money; rethinking of measures to equip communities with greater resilience, such as universal primary education; addressing the challenges across a range of different scales of action and; linking disaster and development programmes to reduce vulnerabilities.
Dominique Burgeon of FAO highlighted the complexities involved in moving from resilience theory to resilience practice. Citing the example of Somalia, he emphasized the need to maintain investments not just in immediate emergencies, but also to secure the transition to more resilient systems. Karen Brooks of the Policies, Institutions and Markets Research Programme of the CGIAR called for clearer definitions of resilience, associated conceptual frameworks and metrics for these dimensions.
In conclusion, Joachim von Braun reflected that, while resilience principles were commonly shared, there was a significant gap in bringing these into measures such as the post-2015 Development Goals and institutionalizing resilience as a goal in itself, when clear concepts and measurements have still to be developed. Speakers reflected on the needs for national commitments to eliminate emergencies related to recurrent shocks, on the need for comprehensive agricultural policies and the underpinning data and analyses to support evidence-based decision making. These are difficult to achieve, but important and absolutely require a multi-stakeholder approach. As Gerda Verburg,Chair of the Committee on World Food Security put it: “We need a paradigm shift – if we do what we did, then we get what we have got” - there is a need for resilience not to be treated as a new buzzword, but to be integrated in all topics and with a view to greater investment in long term solutions, more farmer-led research and proof that findings can contribute to changes at grassroots levels.
In closing, Shenggen Fan, Director General of IFPRI recognized that although new metrics and considerations beyond household level are required, IFPRI aims to incorporate resilience considerations across its work and that fundamentally: “Resilience is about people”.