Resilience is not just a buzzword. It has new meaning. It is about ability, capacity, and capability at the global level, the national level, the community level… to predict, prevent, cope with, recover, and even prosper after crises, after shocks
With these closing remarks, Sheggen Fan, Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), concluded IFPRI’s 2020 Conference on “Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security” held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia May 15-17, 2014. This conference brought together 800 people from many fields and sectors to consider what resilience means; what shocks we can expect in the coming years; how we can measure and build resilience; and, as the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals draws near, how we can incorporate resilience into the post-2015 development agenda.
As poor people and vulnerable communities face a barrage of increasingly frequent and intense shocks and the threat of new emerging shocks, we must consider technologies, policy solutions, and other areas for action that will help strengthen resilience so that food and nutrition security can be achieved for all.
Climate change: There are opportunities to mitigate climate change and increase resilience through sustainable land management and climate-smart agriculture, but that will require expanding research and extension services to increase tolerance to stresses like heat waves, droughts, floods, salinity, pests, and diseases. More broadly, coping with climate change will require interdisciplinary and community-based solutions as well as efforts on the part of governments to design investment portfolios for longer time horizons, assuming and promoting a culture of prevention.
Natural disasters: Options for increasing resilience in the context of natural disasters include building capacity for disaster response not only at the regional and national levels, but also at the local level, where the frontline response takes place and establishing national post-disaster reconstruction funds with flexible financing instruments. Shocks can also provide an opportunity to innovate and build new systems and institutions that will increase resilience to future disasters.
Conflict and displacement: Improving resilience in the context of conflicts and large-scale movements of refugees could involve supporting locally initiated coping mechanisms and linking humanitarian assistance to development efforts to strike a better balance between providing food aid and facilitating longer-term resilience to help limit the effects of shocks in the future.
Food price spikes: Coping with high and volatile food prices will require creating and maintaining efficient and well-regulated futures and exchange markets for commodities to help farmers and other agents mitigate and hedge against risks. Social protection mechanisms will also be necessary to help protect the most vulnerable people.
As the development community considers how to frame the post-2015 development agenda in the wake of the Millennium Development Goals, resilience may fit into this agenda in several ways.
Resilience could be a natural overarching theme of post-2015 goals, encompassing poverty eradication, food security, and nutrition security. It could also be seen as a way of connecting people-centered development goals with planet-centered sustainability goals. A resilience agenda could serve as the impetus to a commitment in the development community to eliminate emergencies that arise from recurrent shocks such as drought.
Improving resilience for food and nutrition security will require better data and information on risks and responses, better approaches to monitoring and measuring resilience, a commitment to including the most vulnerable people in decisionmaking, and extensive work across disciplinary and sectoral boundaries. There are roles for a wide range of actors:
Governments need to create an enabling environment for resilience that includes, among other things, disaster preparedness, safety nets, education and healthcare, infrastructure, and agricultural investment.
Communities and civil society organizations need to demand the tools for greater resilience.
NGOs need to do more to link humanitarian and development actions and measure resilience to strengthen monitoring and evaluation.
The private sector needs to look at resilience as a business proposition and provide goods and services, especially innovative financing and insurance instruments, that contribute to resilience.
Researchers need to improve their understanding of resilience and how to measure it; look at new methods and tools for modeling risks; identify resilience success stories; and improve the evidence base on resilience in ways that are useful for development practitioners.
Looking ahead to a future of continuing and even increasing shocks, we will need to get better at finding ways to cope—and even to thrive—in the presence of shocks. Achieving food and nutrition security for all will not be possible if each shock pushes people into poverty, hunger, or malnutrition. The post-2015 agenda must incorporate the aim of eliminating both sudden and chronic food crises, even as shocks strike. As Stefan Schmitz of BMZ said in the final session at the conference, “The more resilient people, communities, countries, and systems are, the more it is likely that we will achieve ambitious post-2015 goals and vice versa; the more we invest in achieving such goals, the more resilient people are.” (See more in the highlights video.)
This post draws from the 2020 Conference synopsis, “Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security: Highlights from the 2020 Conference,” prepared by Heidi Fritschel, Rajul Pandya-Lorch, Sivan Yosef, and Laura Zseleczky, available here. For more information about the conference, visit the full website. r.pandya-lorch@cgiar