Resilience Exchange

What have we learned so far?

BRACED activities to build resilience

This section identifies some of the environmental and socio-economic processes challenging development and affecting individuals and communities in BRACED countries. Many of these are becoming more entrenched as a result of climate change. Working in consortia, BRACED partners are attempting to build the resilience of vulnerable and marginalised groups through a wide range of activities aimed at addressing different risks. This section is not intended to be a comprehensive review of all approaches and actions being adopted, or of actions needed. Instead we present information on a sample of areas where lessons are emerging from BRACED activities.

Some of the most prominent interventions focus on diversifying food production and adapting livelihoods; managing access to scarce natural resources and mitigating potential conflicts over them; enhancing food security and reducing extreme poverty, promoting income-generation opportunities and access to appropriate financial services; promoting gender equality; empowering communities to manage risk and target scarce resources; improving the use of climate information and early warning systems for drought, floods and other weather extremes; shock-responsive service delivery and programming; and strengthening risk governance by engaging with government at different levels and forming partnerships across sectors.

Natural resource management

Livelihoods based on natural resources are particularly vulnerable to climate change. BRACED promotes climate-resilient farming techniques and sustainable agriculture. Activities such as agroforestry, improved water and soil management, and better storage facilities are increasing food supply and dietary diversity, and helping diversify incomes. To move beyond supporting subsistence-based livelihoods towards building resilience over the longer term, projects must ensure that any new activities are resilient to changes in climate and are economically viable and socially acceptable.

Around the world, people living in rural areas rely heavily on natural resources for their livelihoods, health and well-being. The availability of natural resources can help to strengthen household and community resilience in periods of stress and shock, but livelihoods based on natural resources remain particularly vulnerable to climate change. In BRACED countries, the major crops on which many households and economies depend, such as wheat and rice, and already scarce water resources are highly sensitive to climate change.1

Many African and Asian countries are vulnerable because recent economic gains have been in climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture and fisheries, and systems are not currently in place to protect them. Demographic trends will compound the adverse consequences of climate change as population growth and urbanisation increase competition for water and food resources. At the same time, more severe and frequent drought and higher temperatures will reduce crop yields and put further pressure on water resources.2

Diversifying food production and livelihoods

Most BRACED projects include food production activities in agriculture and/or livestock, and they try to make these activities more resilient to climate shocks and stresses. In building resilient agricultural livelihoods within rural communities (where the majority of BRACED project participants are based), the level of exposure to these climate shocks and stresses must be taken into account, as well as the absent, thin or volatile markets in the region. Three major pathways were found to achieve this: diversifying agriculture-based livelihoods, enhancing existing agricultural systems, and diversifying into non-agricultural livelihoods.3

There are a number of approaches to diversifying agricultural-based livelihoods. One has been to encourage communities that have previously relied upon one or two main harvests of staple foods to grow a variety of crops instead, with more frequent harvests over a greater part of the year. The BRES project directly targeted women with agricultural diversification activities, along with training and awareness-raising activities, which led to more inclusive decision-making at a household level and provided the women with an independent source of income. BRES argues that all forms of income diversification represent a form of risk-spreading, enabling farmers to better cope with climate extremes.4

Another approach taken in Burkina Faso, Uganda and Nepal was to encourage market gardening, which has increased the incomes of the participants and improved nutrition levels.5

Enhancements to existing agricultural systems have included introducing improved seed, helping communities improve storage methods for food so that there is more availability outside the main harvest time, and improving the quality and presentation of food for marketing. The Livestock Mobility project has worked to improve conditions for pastoralists across multiple countries, which has increased livestock productivity. A number of projects are focusing on agroforestry to help make improvements to the agriculture systems in the local area. As well as aiding water retention, reducing soil erosion and improving the soil, trees can provide shade and lower temperatures to allow other crops to be grown nearby, and of course some varieties produce fruit.

It took a while for staff working on the IRISS project in South Sudan to persuade some community members in one village of the potential benefits of vegetable farming. One woman told them: “Here, we listen with our mouths,” and that if the staff had no food or other items to offer, the community had no interest in speaking with them. It took persistence to overcome this attitude… ”

Soil and water management have been particularly important in contexts like Burkina Faso, where people face the challenge of increasing agricultural productivity while the weather becomes more variable and extreme.

The arid climate of the Sahel is belied by the green field that stretches before one’s eyes in Boumtenga, in the rural commune of Zéguédéguin in Burkina Faso’s Namentenga province. In recent years a series of climate shocks and stresses including recurring drought, an early end to the rainy season and, in contrast, heavy rainfall leading to floods in July, August and sometimes September, have left the region’s farmers more vulnerable.

The final pathway, diversifying income away from agriculture, has been achieved by encouraging access to credit (such as through Village Savings and Loans Associations) and developing small businesses, either as individuals or cooperatives.6

Through multiple use water systems, Anukulan is helping farmers farm during the off-season, when higher prices can be obtained. Marketing and planning committees at collection centres are established for farmers to work together, leverage resources (e.g. not walking long distances, but pooling products and hiring a vehicle) and share lessons.

The BRICS project combines direct support to farmers (particularly women) with creation of tree nurseries and soil analysis to help them increase their resilience to drought. Better-adapted species are being grown and planted, such as Ziziphus mauritiana, also called ber or jujube. This fruit tree grows vigorously, copes with extreme temperatures and thrives under dry conditions, making it a suitable tree for eastern Chad.

In some remote rural parts of Ethiopia, it is difficult to break the cycle of being completely dependent on pastoralism, where the breeding and trading of animals provides many people’s sole source of income. The MAR project believes in investing for the future and has supported grassroots organisations to rehabilitate wells providing improved access to water.

Ongoing supply of tree stock is not a given, but without it agroforestry projects can have only limited impact. The BRACED Changing Farming Practices project has supported the creation of tree nurseries by training plant-growers, which also fosters small businesses.

Improving access to natural resources

Climate shocks and stresses can make resources scarce and increase competition (whether real or perceived). Ensuring access to these resources and the protection of local ecosystems therefore plays a key role in supporting resilience for the people who depend on them for their livelihoods and wellbeing.7

Pastoralist livelihoods are under particular threat in many BRACED countries, and a number of projects are working to ensure herders have access to the resources they need to support these economic activities, and are promoting mediation between pastoralists and farmers to reduce the risk of conflict. Examples of proactive management include local conventions, collaborative management plans, and joint steering committees to oversee resources.

A number of BRACED projects have undertaken awareness-raising steps in local communities on securing land tenure for agricultural activities, including specifically for woman. The PROGRESS project trained women’s advocates on land rights and inheritance, conducted land awareness events and legal aid clinics, and highlighted land rights for communities, as well as offering out-of-school clubs. PROGRESS also engaged with the county government on developing a “gender desk”. Making land available to women farmers groups enables their control over productive assets. Overall, securing land tenure was a key method of creating the enabling conditions for people to invest in climate-smart agricultural activities.8

The Livestock mobility project has been working to protect the livestock sector in the Sahel by setting up pastoralist corridors to ensure herders can safely cross national boundaries with their livestock. The project has worked with local authorities to formalise management and access arrangements to help pastoralists and settled farmers to co-exist in the same areas. Key factors in securing these agreements were mapping strategic routes along borders – taking into account water points, grazing areas and markets where pastoralists can sell their livestock – and extensive dialogue among community members, traditional leaders and landowners to facilitate mutual understanding and trust.9

Video: Corridor to the Future – Mauritania’s nomadic herders seek safe passage

Can negotiating safe travel corridors across national borders help the Sahel’s pastoralists survive intensifying drought?

The BRACED Livestock Mobility project works at national and local levels to secure routes used during the transhumance. One important element of this work is “training modules”; workshops that act as mediation between pastoralists and the settled communities through which they journey. Changing mindsets in a conflict situation does not happen quickly. Mamadou Amadou Ly of ARED, who runs the module, describes the approach: “We deliberately take things slowly. When we start we talk about challenges and the participants all say to me: ‘What’s the answer, then?’ I say: ‘Don’t worry about that now.’ Then we discuss some more, then they ask again: ‘What’s the solution?’ And I say again: ‘We’ll get to that later.’”

The Sudanese National Pasture Law was passed in late 2015. The BRICS team had been involved in drafting the law, based on guidance from the National Pastoralist’s Forum, and were initially pleased with the progress that had been made. Later it became evident from the experience on the ground that awareness of the law was low and implementation was slow. To address this the BRICS team, working with the Sudanese government, organised a series of workshops for decision-makers, the army, communities, state authorities and others, on the new law and how to apply it.

Other livelihoods are also under threat, as the Decentralising Climate Funds project has found in Keur Mboucki municipality in the Kaffrine region of Senegal:

In Keur Mboucki municipality salt collection is a common source of income. It’s a tough place to work, and in recent years salt collectors’ incomes have dropped as sand swept by the wind across the denuded landscape has silted up half the inlet. But the salt gatherers hope that efforts to reforest the inlet’s shores with salt-tolerant trees will make life easier for them. “With these trees that we have planted, we can reclaim the land and carry on with our activities,” said Mbayan Fam. “We will have shade where we can sit down and rest a bit. And we can also use the trees to treat illnesses.”

Climate smart technologies and innovations

With longer-term climate change and increased variability in climate, farmers must now contend with farming conditions beyond what previous generations have experienced. To better understand these changes and improve resilience, farmers have started using “climate-smart” approaches to agriculture. These try to increase agricultural productivity and incomes, while at the same time building resilience to climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. An example is the PRESENCES project in Niger, which developed an interactive, multi-stage scenario-planning activity to help farmers plan their work. Communities and individuals worked with technical staff to integrate the farmers’ understanding of climate change with seasonal forecasts and information on climate risks.10

Other examples of innovations that have emerged from or been used by the BRACED projects include seed security systems, dairy hubs (linking smallholders directly to dairy processors), digital soil maps for sub-Saharan Africa, mobile phone applications for advice on livestock and agriculture, and new feeding and corralling systems for livestock.11

As a result of training provided by BRACED, the Anukulan project successfully promoted the uptake of climate-smart technologies and innovations to manage natural resources and farm systems.

Challenges and opportunities for building resilience

Diversification of livelihood activities and income streams has long been a strategy for reducing poverty in development programmes. There are many examples from across the BRACED programme, in addition to those shared here, of livelihood diversification activities, including those that have occurred through peer-to-peer learning: by visiting and seeing how other communities are experimenting with new crops and finding additional sources of income, farmers can experience the potential of diversification. Important factors that future resilience programmes should consider include supporting project participants to engage with and access markets, as well as ensuring access to services such as loans and insurance. This was illustrated by the PRESENCES project, which addressed livelihoods along the full value chain, from training beneficiaries in alternative agricultural production techniques to setting up and training community-based institutions such as livelihood cooperatives.12

The successes described here in improving access to natural resources are all activities that support predominant production and livelihood systems; they do not introduce unfamiliar or inappropriate livelihoods, which are more likely to fail due to climatic extremes, poor access to markets or lack of skill or interest from communities to participate.

BRACED projects have shown that by combining climate information with social and economic information to estimate potential impacts, NGOs can also play a role in strengthening understanding of changing risks and can help different groups of end users by clarifying what action can be taken. Farmers in particular can benefit by making better-informed decisions at the start of the growing season, managing the risks associated with extreme weather events, and adapting to change (Challenging Assumptions, forthcoming). Overall, lessons from the BRACED programme are beginning to demonstrate that to move beyond supporting subsistence livelihoods and towards building resilience, any new activities must be resilient to changes in climate, economically viable and socially acceptable.

Mr Kifle Takeno has lived in the Gatto neighbourhood in Derashe district of Ethiopia since childhood and is a member of the village committee. He recounts the damage to the environment: “The soil was eroded, it seldom rains, and our forests were destroyed. With the environment degraded, the bees have disappeared. It was our actions that destroyed the environment. We agreed and began mobilising the community to start rehabilitating the environment. We formed a committee to coordinate our efforts and activities. Training was provided to committee members. Once we saw the impact, we replicated the project’s activities in neighbouring districts.

Supporting local economic development and access to financial services

An increased and stable income, supported by access to appropriate financial services, can help build people’s capacity to manage hard times, particularly when households are linked to climate services that help them choose the right investments each season. Improvements to financial services and access to credit and loans, particularly through Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA) groups, is being seen across BRACED projects.

Between 1970 and 2012, BRACED countries were more affected by disasters – particularly climate-related ones such as drought – than other developing countries.13 In most cases, the economic development of the country concerned was set back by several years. For instance, drought in Kenya in 2008–2011 led to a 2.8 percent drop in the annual gross domestic product.14

Climate change is likely to exacerbate such losses. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report estimated global annual economic losses for temperature increases of ~2.5°C above pre-industrial levels at 0.2–2.0 percent of income.15 One study states that unmitigated climate change could lower average incomes by 23 percent globally by 2100 and exacerbate inequalities.16 Climate change is expected to undermine economic development at all levels, from household to sectoral as well as national income. This means that local resilience and adaptation measures need to be closely linked to a country’s overall economic development. Financial exclusion is also seen as an obstacle to development.17

In BRACED countries, poor people often have little access to formal financial services. Where unregulated services such as informal money-lending exist, interest rates can be extremely high, discouraging investment in climate adaptation and leading to greater debt burdens for poor households.18

The World Bank and G20 recognise the importance of financial inclusion to achieving SDGs 7 and 17, but it continues to be a challenge, varying widely around the world and being highly correlated with development.

BRACED projects have been effective at promoting financial inclusion, with the majority of projects facilitating access to savings, credit and other financial services for large numbers of project participants. The most common intervention has been support to group-based savings and loans collectives (including Village Savings and Loans Associations or VLSAs), but projects have also linked participants to microfinance, mobile banking and microinsurance. Many of these activities target or focus exclusively on women.19

Working with local communities to explore alternative livelihood opportunities, the Anukulan project identified the production and processing of essential oil crops as a way of increasing the income of smallholder farmers and community forest user groups, based on the success of similar projects in nearby areas.

Developing income-generating activities

Interventions to diversify agriculture-based livelihoods in BRACED intervention areas include expanding the range of crops grown and linking beneficiaries to new markets. Market gardening has helped increase income in Burkina Faso, Uganda and Nepal. In Nepal, communities were supported to engage in high-value (off-season) vegetable production, made possible by interventions to support irrigation throughout the year. The project has also supported diversification into essential-oil production, a high-value product that farmer groups can grow on more marginal land and under forest cover and process locally. Enhancements to existing livelihoods included introducing improved seeds, as well as work to improve conditions for pastoralists in multiple countries by the Livestock Mobility project.20

Diversification of income includes providing support to help farmers develop small businesses, either as individuals or cooperatives. With adequate credit access (such as through VSLAs) and business training provided by the project, individuals and small groups have developed or expanded small businesses. In Ethiopia, the CIARE project directly supported the creation of women’s income-generating groups, including cooperatives that produce and market cooking stoves, moringa flour and aloe soap; while in Uganda PROGRESS has supported solar-light adoption and sales.

In Ethiopia, under the MAR project, VSLAs combined with basic business training have provided new livelihood opportunities by supporting micro-businesses (typically producing and selling local food and drink), petty trading and animal fattening for sale. This is sustainable, but taking it to scale faces some constraints.21

Community members feel that profits generated from VSLAs have made them significantly more resilient to drought. More general results show that women members have gained autonomy, recovery from the drought has been faster, and the benefits of income generated are nearly five times project costs, even with very conservative assumptions. There are some challenges in scaling VSLAs in this context, including:

  • The need to find a financially sustainable model for VSLA creation and support.
  • Graduation of VSLAs to rural savings and credit cooperatives (RuSACCOs). Laws on minimum group size for cooperatives, and loss of flexibility over loan purposes, are likely to be constraints.
  • The potential need for additional business training when VSLA loans become larger, longer-term and lower-interest as a result of RuSACCO or linking groups with microfinance institutions.

In Myanmar, climate-resilient sustainable agriculture is leading to improved farming practices, increasing incomes and supporting resilience. Win Than receiving agricultural inputs as well as pamphlets on making and using natural fertiliser and pesticides, climate smart methods for growing vegetables, and the disadvantages of using non-biological pesticides. Vegetables from his farm are thriving and are even sold at the market. As a result of the improved crops, Win Than remarked: “Although I had to take loans for work in previous days, I don’t need any loans now.”

Sustainable market-based approaches are creating an alternative source of animal feed in Ethiopia, lessening the need to import feed during times of drought. The MAR project has encouraged plantations to harvest – rather than burn – sugar cane stalks, and mix them with molasses to create animal feed. These are both readily available by-products of the sugar industry that would otherwise be wasted.

Providing financial services

In the context of climate change, access to financial services could help vulnerable groups in developing countries become more resilient to climate extremes and global warming.22 Improved financial inclusion can help the poor to access savings and transfer services, as well as credit and insurance, at an affordable cost.23

A number of BRACED projects therefore support the provision of financial services to strengthen sustainable livelihoods and more sustainable production. These include savings and loans through microfinance institutions, savings and credit cooperatives or VSLAs, inventory credit (warrantage) systems, revolving funds, mobile banking, and insurance schemes.

In northern Kenya, where the population is largely Muslim, Sharia-compliant financial services – such as those that prohibit the payment of interest or that are not related to businesses like gambling or alcohol – have been non-existent. As part of the PROGRESS project, Mercy Corps has partnered with Crescent Takaful Savings and Credit Cooperative to open a new member-owned financial cooperative. The primary objective is to mobilise savings and give members access to Sharia-compliant loans on competitive terms, in order to enhance their well-being.

However, financial services cannot act as stand-alone tools to achieve a multi-dimensional goal of poverty reduction and resilience-building to climate extremes. A layered approach should be taken. This is reflected in a growing pool of literature that embeds financial inclusion in a broader classification of disaster risk reduction or disaster risk management activities. A portfolio of financial instruments can increase the effectiveness with which risks of varying nature, frequency and intensity are managed.

Partnering with a wide range of institutions has allowed the MAR project to support a number of different types of financial services in its intervention areas. By establishing continued engagement and trust, the delivery of multiple products such as savings, loans, insurance and mobile banking services has become more cost- and time-efficient. It has also allowed for better integration of products, because they are supplied through the same channels and available on the same mobile money platforms (BRACED Working Paper, forthcoming).

The approach to layering various financial services by BRACED projects is mainly target-group oriented. The MAR and PROGRESS projects in particular focus on reaching different socio-economic groups of people and actively drive the vertical integration of services. Both support VSLAs through training and complementary activities and link them with semi-formal services provided through micro-finance institutions or Savings and Credit Cooperative Organisations (SACCOs). However, projects also express a need to better understand how people use the financial services they help provide; this includes, for instance, whether these services successfully support people   in times of crisis and in reducing vulnerabilities through investment in new business opportunities when times are good.

To be effective tools for resilience, financial services must be tailored to the economic, social and ecological environments in which they are operating and several BRACED projects have been supporting this process (BRACED Working Paper, forthcoming).

Index-based livestock insurance is already available in countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya and Mongolia, and initial research has demonstrated its potential for supporting pastoralists in coping with rainfall-related shocks. However, assessments under the Livestock Mobility project have also shown the variety of non-climate risks faced by pastoralists in west Africa. These include first and foremost livestock theft, but also injuries, illness, road accidents, predators, excessive rains or off-season rains, drowning, broken boreholes, bush fires or snake bites (Thebaud, 2016). This has raised questions about whether index-based livestock insurance is the most relevant product to meet pastoralists’ need for risk financing in the region, whether traditional insurance or mixed products could provide better value, or what other market-based or social protection instruments would be effective alternatives to support pastoralists in times of crisis. Furthermore, climatic patterns differ between East Africa, with two rainy seasons, and West Africa, with its one rainy season, which requires modification of the indices that are currently used. Key informants pointed to a need to re-assess and test whether the relationship between rainfall, pasture availability and livestock mortality at the core of index-based livestock insurance products in Ethiopia and Kenya would equally apply in Senegal (BRACED Working Paper, forthcoming).

Specific project support and adjustments were commonly needed in remote BRACED project locations, for instance the scarcely populated arid and semi-arid zones in Ethiopia or Kenya. Another common barrier was culture, including financial behaviour, (financial) literacy, or needs and preferences for specific products related to faith or past experiences. This meant that products had to be tailored to context and integrated with technical support and training.

Limited financial market development, and the varying policy and regulatory environments, required further innovation or adaptation of financial services to make them work in the BRACED projects. BRACED project partnerships with private-sector financial service providers, experts in financial product development and sectoral specialists have proven vital to ensure that financial services are reflective of socio-economic and environmental context and thus help build resilience and strengthen adaptation to climate extremes and disasters.

IRISS has reported a number of counterintuitive and rather surprising experiences with VSLAs in South Sudan, where it appears that people will still save, take out and repay loans from a VSLA even in a context of hyper-inflation (>800 percent). One association set an interest rate of 50 percent for loans, which initially shocked the IRISS team, but people continued to take out and repay short-term loans, with no defaulters. IRISS has also noted examples of VSLAs making zero-interest loans.

It should be noted that IRISS put no start-up funds into the VSLAs: they are all funded by the community. However, they do not operate in a vacuum: the members are in agro-pastoral field schools set up by IRISS, and have received support from the project for farming activities (such as knowledge transfer and tools) which increased their incomes.

Inventory credit schemes (warrantage) offer credit against agricultural produce held in storage. They are intended to allow producers to manage their cashflow better, not necessarily bringing their produce to market immediately on harvest, when supply is high and prices are lowest. The loan obtained can be invested in other income-generating activities, with the aim of facing the hunger gap with some money put aside. The PRESENCES project in Niger has promoted warrantage for non-wood forestry products to make credit more accessible to women, and to people generally when harvests are poor.

Meanwhile, in Burkina Faso, as part of the Zaman Lebidi project, Action Contre la Faim has developed a social form of warrantage targeting the most people in the most vulnerable situations, adding additional support such as an initial credit equivalent to a sack of grain, and capacity building on stock management, to facilitate access.

What does this mean for programme design and implementation?

Financial inclusion can be considered as a means of building resilience, but support offered to develop economic activities, including the provision of financial services, must be tailored to economic, social and environmental contexts. If this is not carefully considered, financial services can be ineffective, unsustainable, or have a negative effect on climate-resilient economic development, for instance by increasing debt burdens or setting incentives that undermine adaptation efforts. BRACED implementing partners are still exploring ways to adapt “traditional” financial services to pastoral areas, where mobility of the actors results in high fixed costs for financial institutions. Considerations include the religious and social suitability of financial services to increase demand (e.g. Sharia-compliant services) and the use of technology to reach beneficiaries in remote areas.

Across projects, sustainability seems most promising where financial service providers have identified an economic interest in developing and delivering the services they were supported with under BRACED. Projects are also striving to collaborate with local and national governments to take on some of the financial support for service delivery or to link services with public safety nets, but these options are so far less developed.

Promoting gender equality, empowerment and social inclusion

Enabling vulnerable people and communities to gain more control over decisions that affect their lives, and increasing their access to services and opportunities, enhances their livelihoods and wellbeing. This is particularly true for rural communities, and especially for women and girls within these communities who are often discriminated against. However, challenging and changing social norms – around access to land, information or decision-making – through resilience projects requires long-term, deep engagement with communities.

Socio-economic and political inequalities affect women and girls in particular, due to discriminatory social norms that are present in all contexts where BRACED operates.24 Traditional gender roles that confine women to reproductive tasks, low-yielding agricultural practices and climate-vulnerable livelihoods mean their activities are more likely to suffer from climate variabilities. In parts of Uganda, Kenya and Myanmar, women’s lack of control over productive assets, including land, restricts their ability to cultivate more varied crops, manage their access to natural resources or diversify their livelihoods.25 26

Enabling marginalised people and communities to gain more control over decisions that affect them, and increasing their access to services and opportunities, can help them develop more secure and resilient livelihoods. To achieve this, projects must generate greater awareness of the social-equality dimension of environmental problems and help resilience programmes to include marginalised groups.

Spectrum of gender approaches in NGO projects

Gender aware/accomodating

Projects recognise the economic/social/political roles, rights, entitlements, responsibilities, obligations and power relations assigned to men and women but work around existing gender differences and inequalities.


Projects adopt gender-sensitive methodologies (a gender analysis is undertaken, gender-disaggregated data are collected, gender-sensitive indicators are integrated in monitoring and evaluation, etc.) to address gender differences and promote gender equality.


Projects facilitated a ‘critical examination of gender norms, roles, and relationships; strengthened or created systems that support gender equity; and/or questioned and changed gender norms and dynamics’ (Muralidharan et al., 2015: V).

Different approaches to gender were explored in a “writeshop” with representatives from four BRACED projects.27 Projects vary in the extent to which they recognise gender-based differences, target needs related to gender, aim to transform gendered power relations, and monitor and evaluate gender-related outcomes. The spectrum of approaches to promoting gender equality (see Figure 2) ranges from gender-aware interventions to gender-transformative ones.

In Myanmar women have traditionally been responsible for looking after the home and children, and excluded from accessing economic opportunities, but self-help groups are changing that. Across the country, women are joining these groups to increase their knowledge and skills, save and borrow money and become empowered.

“This women’s network is the way for poor women to work together, hear women’s voices, share knowledge, identify the problems and find solutions collectively,” she said.

It is rare in Mali that a woman owns her own land. But after attending a training programme on land management techniques, Malado Cissé is putting her new skills and knowledge to use, as well as accessing mobile weather forecasting over the phone. Her husband gave her a piece of rocky and uneven land to tend. She was nevertheless able to adopt these farming practices with real success.  Cissé is also part of a women’s association where she provides training and advice to others on climate-resilient farming practices, acting as a model farmer in her community. 

Giving women greater voice and decision-making power at the household level and in local institutions

Resilience-building projects, including those in BRACED, that recognise the gender dimension of vulnerability are increasingly moving away from considering women solely as victims of climate change and disasters. Instead, these projects acknowledge structural inequalities (and the impetus behind them) that undermine women’s capacities to anticipate, absorb and adapt to climate extremes and longer-term climate change impacts, as well as the capacities of their household and community. For this reason, many activities implemented by the BRACED consortia are gender-sensitive – that is, they aim to address gender differences and compensate for gender imbalances to better promote equality and build resilience. Projects that aim to achieve gender equality and explicitly promote women’s empowerment tend to recognise the influence of social norms on people’s capacities to build resilience.28In other words, when activities aim to tackle harmful norms, this translates into a more transformative agenda.

As the Malian saying goes, “it’s the person who lives in a house who knows where the leaks in the roof are.” This idea is a driving concept behind the Decentralising Climate Funds (DCF) project, which operates in Mali and Senegal, supporting communities to become more resilient to climate change through locally controlled adaptation funds. Thus the communities who experience shocks and stresses can give input to investment decisions.

Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) are being set up across rural Ethiopia as a way of giving women access to finance, as well as helping them to develop good saving techniques and collective decision-making skills. The benefits of women joining VSLAs extend far beyond money. As a result of the training received, women like Hamdi are becoming literate in finance: “I had no idea about money in the past. Now, I am liberated.”

Tackling gender inequality to build resilience

Building resilience requires equality – projects must move beyond participation of the most vulnerable towards addressing the root causes of exclusion.29

In order to move towards resilient outcomes, gender inequalities must be taken into account. Although resilience programmes often systematically target women, strategies and approaches to tackle the root causes of gender and socio-economic inequalities are rarely integrated in projects in a systematic way.

Recent BRACED research in Chad provides a poignant example of the detrimental impact that gender inequality – and, to an even greater extent, violence against women – can have on resilience-building. It points to the need for more concerted efforts to address gender inequality in resilience programming. Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is a daily occurrence for many, not a problem that exists only in times of conflict and crisis. Recognising how VAWG creates barriers for women and girls to access basic services (education, healthcare, information etc.) and undermines their capacities to secure their livelihoods is essential to making resilience programming more tailored and effective. In Chad, an estimated 35 percent of women have experienced physical, psychological and/or sexual violence at the hands of their partners. Research reveals that the impacts of such violence extend beyond women and girls to the wider household and community, threatening the ability to build resilience to climate extremes and disasters.30

Violence against women and girls is a daily reality in many local communities. Well-established protection principles and processes exist to help address and prevent VAWG in times of crisis and conflict among refugee and internally displaced populations. Yet such interventions often fail to provide a long-term sustainable response to the daily violence experienced by women and girls in local communities. Resilience programmes such as BRACED have the opportunity to play a role in ensuring that gender inequalities are systematically taken into account in vulnerability assessments to inform the design phase onwards.31

In Kenya, the PROGRESS project worked with stakeholders and gender champions to support survivors of gender-based violence by setting up a gender desk and a toll-free line for victims to report any incidents. Through the creation of “safe spaces”, including after-school clubs for teenage boys and girls, the project held sessions to trying and shift traditional gender norms within local communities.32

The empowerment of women is a critical element in achieving resilience goals, and there is a greater need to promote and strengthen new and existing spaces for women to share their experiences and receive support, while also recognising the need to involve men and boys, who are paramount to changing traditional gender norms.

Increasing social inclusion and supporting communities to manage risk

Resilience-building decisions taken by external parties far from a community, without sufficient understanding of the context and the nature of their livelihoods, can waste resources or even impede existing adaptive and coping strategies.

BRACED projects are trying to give communities a say in at least some of those decisions

As the Malian saying goes, “it’s the person who lives in a house who knows where the leaks in the roof are.” This idea is a driving concept behind the Decentralising Climate Funds (DCF) project, which operates in Mali and Senegal, supporting communities to become more resilient to climate change through locally controlled adaptation funds. Thus the communities who experience shocks and stresses can give input to investment decisions.

Many BRACED projects have reported increased participation in their activities by women and other vulnerable groups.33

Building on the BRACED experience, there is a greater need for resilience programmes to identify and develop strategies to engage other socially marginalised groups and link them with formal decision-making processes. As with DCF, including these groups in decision-making through local government mechanisms has enabled important relationships to be established between local communities and government that have the potential to go beyond the lifecycle of the BRACED project. BRACED projects such as DCF, PROGRESS and Livestock Mobility that specifically targeted marginalised groups and implemented community plans that spoke directly to the needs of these groups were more effective in bringing about systemic shifts in decision-making.34

What does this mean for programme design and implementation?

Over the course of three years, BRACED projects have made progress towards increasing inclusion and participation of vulnerable groups in decision-making processes, both at the household and community level. This has largely been achieved through a combination of four key ingredients:

  • Supporting women’s income-generation
  • Multifaceted approaches to support inclusion
  • Encouraging female leadership roles
  • Linking with local governance to foster inclusion 35

Nevertheless, challenging and changing social norms through resilience projects requires long-term, deep engagement with communities. Socio-cultural barriers, in particular regarding the role of women in society, remain a key challenge restricting the participation of women in certain activities.

Using climate information in decision-making

Climate shocks and stresses can be more easily managed with on-time, reliable climate and weather information. But it is often hard for users to access, understand or use information to inform their decisions. Some BRACED projects have helped improve the ways information is translated and communicated, tailoring it to community needs. Building trust that forecasts will be accurate and consistently available has been a central concern for BRACED. Now, a key challenge is ensuring that there is national and international investment in user-oriented climate services, to avoid the service disruptions which erode that trust. BRACED projects have found that better use of near-term climate and weather information may be a more appropriate focus than long-term climate projections. At the local level, understanding basic principles of how the climate is changing – such as the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, and uncertainty about the future climate – is often enough to guide choices for adaptation.

One region that has experienced high levels of climate variability and extremes in the past 50 years is the African Sahel. In fact, “There is no such thing as ‘normal’ rainfall in the Sahel.” Pastoralists’ livelihoods are intrinsically linked to seasonal cycles through the rains, which dictate the availability of pasture and the ability to plant or fish in the river basins and great lakes. Increasingly erratic rainfall makes it difficult for pastoralists to develop a consistent adaptation strategy.36

Ethiopia is also highly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. The most well-known of these is drought, but the country also experiences severe flooding. Agriculture plays a critical role in the Ethiopian economy: it constitutes the largest share of exports, and more than 80 percent of the population is engaged in the sector for their livelihoods.37

Access to weather and climate information in Africa and Asia, produced by national hydrological and meteorological services and regional agencies, is increasing; but when it comes to applying the information, end-users face several challenges. These include the quality of information, not having it at the appropriate time, metric or scale, and difficulties in interpreting it.38

BRACED projects have demonstrated considerable achievements in brokering access to climate information, particularly short-term and seasonal forecasts. This increases anticipatory capacity: people can use the information to plan agricultural and livelihood activities and reduce losses from climate hazards.39

The effectiveness of efforts in this area is underpinned by work that links different scales to address supply and demand for information. Importantly, projects have focused not only on technology and information products, but on the institutions that shape how information is interpreted, communicated and used. This includes the relationship between scientific and traditional forecasting.

Community radio relies on people who are well informed about the realities of the area, and functions on the principle of participation. Involving village leaders helps ensure that programmes are relevant and transmitted in non-scientific language that is clear and accessible to the farmers – and in their own tongue. In Mopti, in the north of Mali, for example, radio programmes are broadcast in Bambara or Peulh, whereas in Senegal they’re in Wolof.

It is not just a matter of climate information being clear and accessible. Even if they receive the information, individuals and communities may not use it to make decisions about climate adaptation. For communities unused to modern scientific forecasting, trust plays an important role. Some BRACED projects are engaging communities to produce climate information, for example by using rain gauges or mobile phones, or by participating in scenario planning. This builds trust among stakeholders about communities’ ability to contribute.

South Sudan is highly prone to drought, with seasons becoming increasingly unpredictable. The general population ascribe weather fluctuations to religious causes: “It was because of God”. IRISS is trialling a new initiative to provide advice based on climate information to local pastoralists, communicated at group meetings held at agro-pastoral field schools and farmer field schools.

Other resilience-building activities have incorporated climate information into their design. For example, some Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) – in addition to their normal courses in financial and business management – provide training on the use of climate information.

The RIC4REC Farms of the Future approach has given community members in Mali a chance to visit their “future village”– one that is currently coping with challenges that the visitors are likely to confront in years to come. This allows them to learn about new opportunities that are being adopted to tackle climate stresses. “It was important to find a community that has similar coping strategies, similar cultures and farming techniques,” says Bouba Traore, a scientist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics who manages the project.

NGOs are increasingly taking on roles as intermediaries for weather and climate information, operating between information producers, such as national meteorological and hydrological agencies, and the public. But there is a risk that their attempts to move into the climate services sector may be poorly coordinated, while at the same time those agencies are also being required to be more user-driven.

NGOs in Burkina Faso play a longstanding role as translators and brokers of climate information at the community level. This activity has continued to grow under the banner of resilience, building on strong personal connections between governmental and non-governmental actors working in this field. Over time, however, NGOs have expanded their range of roles and their capacities. This has led to valuable innovations across the climate services system, but also raises concerns about the coherence and continuity of national climate services. Read more in the paper Climate services for resilience: the changing roles of NGOs in Burkina Faso.

BRACED projects have reported some difficulties in setting up suitable partnerships, such as when national meteorological organisations do not see their own role as being to communicate forecasts to the public. The paper The changing roles of NGOs in supporting climate services40 proposes five areas of new interaction and engagement for NGOs, national meteorological and hydrological agencies, national and local governments and international funders: improving knowledge-sharing; enhancing coordination on planned activities; enhancing collaboration across systems and scales; focusing on knowledge co-production; and emphasising learning processes.

In Ethiopia, the BRACED MAR project is promoting the World Meteorological Organisation’s Climate Services Framework,41 which sets out clear principles and describes the interactions and different roles required for an effective system.

Led by IRD/Blumont in partnership with numerous partners, the BRACED RIC4REC project sources climate information from a Swedish private company, IGNITIA, which has developed a proprietary model for use in West Africa. The “off-the-shelf” IGNITIA product is accurate, localised, downscaled daily weather forecast. The information is shared with end-users via SMS by Orange Mobile. Farmers pay a small fee ($0.04) for it and are continuing to do so without subsidy from the project. 42

In the short term, the shift towards NGOs acting as knowledge brokers for climate information is positive, particularly where they have thought carefully about how forecasts are understood by communities (including translation into local dialects) and the challenge of unequal access to information (for example, between men and women) when communicated through meetings, phones and via radio. In addition, while the quality of climate information has improved in recent years. Competent intermediaries, who understand the technical nature of forecasts and can identify relevant information for livelihood decisions is crucial. These intermediaries can also start to fill the role of providing bottom up feedback from user to forecasters about what is needed to improve existing forecasts.

Questions remain regarding the long-term sustainability of translating and delivering this information and its effects on strengthening resilience. In particular, these delivery systems may not have sustainable funding models to provide continued support after the end of the project, or to hand over to local organisations to take up brokering activities.

Building trust in scientific forecasts and their continued provision has been central to the implementation of BRACED activities, and any discontinuation, or reduction in the quality, of knowledge-brokering functions after the end of BRACED could erode this trust and make it more difficult to re-engage communities in subsequent efforts. A key challenge for BRACED is therefore to ensure that efforts to get useable information to communities are complemented by work to build awareness at national and international levels of the importance of user-oriented climate services – and of investment in these services.

Delivering climate information directly to individuals (farmers and pastoralists) may not be the best way to promote its use; linking government agencies to strengthen climate information use in existing systems will be more efficient and sustainable. For example, by strengthening the links between hydrological and meteorological agencies and disaster-response agencies to support forecast-based contingency planning, NGOs can help reduce the impacts of extreme weather events on project beneficiaries.

When BRACED arrived in the commune of Korsimoro in Burkina Faso and began talking about resilience, and the use of daily and seasonal weather forecasts to plan agricultural activities for the rainy season, Karim Balima was one of the first to put himself forward for training. Karim became one of the 192 volunteers who support their communities with climate information across the four provinces where the BRES project operates.

Long-term vs. short term climate information for resilience-building

Experience from BRACED shows that addressing climate variability is often more important than providing long-term climate information. Evidence about rising climate risks is an important and valid element of the rationale for investments in resilience, including in the BRACED projects. However, this does not mean that long-term climate information must be an essential element in the process of building resilience.

An approach whereby accurate and timely short-term weather information is consistently made available, and people are supported to take the right actions based on this information over a sustained period of time, could enable adaptation to increasing uncertainties and extremes at the local level. In parallel, long-term information could focus particularly on decisions that play out on longer timescales, or affect larger geographic areas, such as infrastructure development or agricultural-sector planning, which can in turn have an impact on communities. This could more effectively link long-term climate information to the appropriate decisions and decision-makers.43

What does this mean for programme design and implementation?

Over the past three years, BRACED projects have made significant advances towards improving both access and use of climate and weather information, going from non-existent or rudimentary access to reaching some of the hardest to reach populations and informing livelihood decisions. Key to the successful increase in access to climate information has been the ability of BRACED projects to forge partnerships with, and create links between, forecasting agencies (e.g. national meteorological services and regional forecasting centres) and modes of large-scale communication, such as radio stations, mobile-telephone platforms, local level DRR or adaptation committees, and agricultural extension agents.44

The use of climate and weather information has informed decisions about preventing losses during climate shocks and stresses, as well as enhancing livelihood activities to promote positive outcomes, such as better agricultural yields or securing more pasture for livestock. Projects have played an important part in knowledge-brokering by strengthening the capacity of various actors within the climate-services value chain. This has included improving the ability of national meteorological agencies to understand user requirements and respond to articulated demand, building the capacity of users to understand and apply multi-timescale information, and making communication agents more able to interpret and disseminate climate and weather information in ways that are appropriate for the needs of users.

Key to programme success is translating climate information from a scientific forecast (e.g. a 55% chance of above- or below-average rainfall) into an advisory that includes a value judgement (e.g. this forecast warrant planting of drought-resistant seeds). BRACED projects often bring together actors who had not previously collaborated on interpreting or using climate information, such as forecast producers, government agencies, local disaster-management groups and NGOs. Together, these groups can much more effectively translate and disseminate the information. Many of the connections made during BRACED are expected to be sustained past the lifetime of the project, often through the role of the technical information providers.

Finally, the use of particular, long-term climate projections is not a necessary pre-condition for building resilience. In contrast, understanding basic principles related to how the climate is changing, such as increasing extreme events and uncertainty in the future climate, are enough to guide adaptation options. Given the level of uncertainty in climate-change projections, the influence of other factors such as climate variability, and the timescale of most decisions made at the local level, the approach to adaptation taken by BRACED partners has been to increase people’s ability to make appropriate choices.

Shock-responsive service delivery and programming

The presence or absence of public services can have a critical impact on the vulnerability of poor and marginalised groups. These groups are particularly reliant on systems of service delivery that offer them skills, healthcare and livelihood support to fulfil their basic human rights and help them succeed economically. In rural areas, remoteness can make coping with hazards more difficult. In urban areas, service is more complicated, often relying on interconnections with parallel systems such as electricity supply.

Examples of promoting resilience through basic services include adapting or updating technical norms and regulations in water and sanitation systems, enhancing management, and promoting resilient technologies such as including de-silting of water, household water filters, modified sanitation systems and re-engineering of sewer systems. In the health sector, disaster risk reduction and adaptation measures include malaria-prevention strategies such as the distribution of bed nets, contingency stocks of vital medicines, identifying alternative sources of energy and water in case of interruption of supply, hygiene and nutrition campaigns and training local health personnel in epidemiological surveillance. Finally, there are options for social protection that promote asset enhancement and skills development, as well as social funds for community-based adaptation such as weather-indexed crop insurance schemes.45

The delivery of these services and support to communities can be severely affected when a shock or stress – such as a drought, flood or conflict – requires emergency redirection of resources, which can erode the progress made on improving the resilience of communities. Development programmes often do not have the flexibility to rapidly reallocate funding to meet spikes in need, and humanitarian-funding constraints prevent longer-term engagement in vulnerability reduction. When localised shocks and stresses occur, the disconnect between long-term development work and short-term humanitarian response becomes evident.

BRACED projects adapting to shocks and stresses

There is good evidence not just of how anticipatory, absorptive and adaptive capacities (the “3As”) have been built by the BRACED projects, but also how these have been activated during climate-related shocks and stresses. Twelve BRACED projects demonstrated how interventions to enhance the 3As have supported households in dealing with shocks and stresses that occurred during the last year of the programme (listed in the below table).

Timing Climate Shock Region/Country Number of People Affected Project
May 2017 Cyclone Mora Myanmar Unknown Myanmar Alliance
May 2017 Floods Burkina Faso 5,129 BRES, Livestock Mobility, Zaman Lebidi
June-September 2017 Floods Mali More than 11,000 Livestock Mobility, SUR1M, DCF and RIC4REC
June-October 2017 Floods Niger 206,513 (including 56 deaths) Livestock Mobility, PRESENCES, SUR1M
June-August 2017 Floods Nepal More than 1.7 million (including 160 deaths) Anukulan
June-September 2017 Floods Sudan 99,000 BRICS
July-September 2017 Floods Myanmar 320,000 Myanmar Alliance
August-September 2017 Floods Ethiopia 129,490 MAR, CIARE
September 2017 Floods South Sudan 11,000 IRISS
March 2018 Floods Kenya 211,000 PROGRESS
2017-2018 Drought Mauritania 350,600 Livestock Mobility

The adaptive effects of rainwater harvesting and climate-resilient agriculture technologies, including higher-yield and drought-tolerant seed varieties, have been observed during drought episodes in Asia and Africa. For instance, the PROGRESS project in Wajir, Kenya reported that resilience capacities and drought-sensitive indicators such as food security and dietary diversity improved despite an ongoing and severe drought. Although high livestock mortality occurred, there were no reported case of human mortality as a result of the drought – which was unusual and encouraging. These results and observations would suggest that there has been an improvement in at least some of the resilience capacities.46

Every month in the commune of Ouallam, in Niger’s Tillabéri region, a group of local community members meet to review recent or upcoming natural incidents or disasters, as well as man-made risks such as security issues, and to prepare a plan of action. In this Early Warning Group, men and women share local knowledge to discuss solutions to disasters which are increasingly affecting communities in this region of south-west Niger.

Evidence from BRACED projects (Anukulan, BRICS, CIARE, Myanmar Alliance, MAR and Livestock Mobility) suggests that short-term weather information and alerts have been used to prevent losses during climate shocks and stresses such as floods, droughts and windstorms. In some cases the mechanism in which this was done was systematic – an early-warning system that was connected to a specific, pre-defined action, such as evacuation – while in others the decisions made in response to the forecast varied among beneficiaries. In Nepal, early-warning systems supported by the Anukulan project in two sites were activated when the Banara river rose above 2 metres in August 2017. The local government authorities and the Red Cross were informed and acted as planned, which led to 12,155 people being evacuated in advance, thereby significantly reducing loss of life.47

Innovative risk financing

Contingency funding for localised crises can be used to help protect development gains, particularly when based on forecasts and helping people prepare for foreseeable extreme events. Most humanitarian risk-financing work has focused on getting funding in place to respond immediately after a disaster occurs to support recovery, but the emerging field of forecast-based financing presents some unique opportunities to limit the impact.48 Flexible and innovative approaches to development and humanitarian funding could help agencies embed resilience in their programmes and into the systems in which they are working. For example, in 2017, the ICRC launched the first “Humanitarian Impact Bond”, an innovative funding mechanism to improve access to vital services for people with disabilities in conflict-affected contexts.

There is a suite of financing options for managing risk, and it is expanding rapidly. Some, such as insurance, have been longstanding components of risk transfer for some sectors. Others, such as forecast-based finance, are more recent innovations. What is considered “innovative” varies according to the donor and context. Below are a few of the more commonly cited risk-financing options being explored within the aid system.

The examples below are largely taken from the paper Crisis modifiers: a solution for a more flexible development-humanitarian system

Insurance is seen by donors and aid agencies as an important way to help farmers recover quickly from the worsening impacts of climate change in rural areas. In 2006, WFP awarded the world’s first insurance contract for humanitarian emergencies, making $7 million available in contingency funding in a pilot scheme to provide coverage in the case of an extreme drought during Ethiopia’s 2006 agricultural season. This was the first time such an insurance scheme was used to protect people against the consequences of drought. Since then, billions of dollars have been poured into insurance schemes that are designed to cover severe weather events.49Contingency planning and contingency funds have long been considered part of good humanitarian practice. One example is the START Fund: the START Network is funded by DFID and Irish Aid, to a value of up to £30 million over three years, and includes direct funding to NGOs, disbursed within 72 hours and spent within 45 days. Others, such as RAPID, an NGO-led fund in Pakistan funded by USAID, take nine to ten days and disburse to local through to international NGOs. Other variations exist, including pre-positioned funding and pre-negotiated drawdown framework agreements that use pre-selected partners for rapid contracting and disbursement of funds.

Crisis modifiers allow development agencies to respond quickly to anticipated crises, while continuing to invest in programmes that address the root causes of people’s vulnerability to shocks and stresses. They draw on pre-existing distribution channels and are easier to scale down when appropriate. A range of funding instruments fall under the term “crisis modifier”, although most have been used in East Africa to respond to drought conditions. Early attempts to deploy crisis modifiers focused on quickly reallocating development funding to humanitarian activities. The creation of a top-up fund was the precursor to the most recent crisis modifier model, in which an additional contingency fund is specifically set aside to respond to emergency situations.

Forecast-based finance is an innovation that automatically releases finance for preventative actions based on forecasts. The time between forecasts and a potential extreme weather event is a window of opportunity that can be used to help reduce risk for those likely to be affected. The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement (and other agencies) have been trialling forecast-based finance pilots around the world. The field of forecast-based early action is rapidly expanding, and consolidating the evidence, experience and lessons from early efforts to develop forecast-based action and finance tools can help improve the impacts and effectiveness of future investments.

Adaptive Programming

Adaptive programming has emerged as a means to work in more flexible ways in response to changing operating environments. While it is an approach rather than a financing modality, it does imply new ways of allocating and delivering finance, with greater flexibility to achieve an agreed set of results. The relationship and relative value of different financing modalities to adaptive programming remain an area for investigation.

BRACED partners working at the local level have been vital in brokering access to technical skills, organisational capacities and local knowledge, providing inputs and staff members even where project activities have been situated in hard-to-reach areas or during times of crisis or conflict. Recognising that a more flexible approach to fund management is necessary in the fragile and ever-changing contexts in which the programme operates, the BRACED Fund Manager has developed an “adaptive fund management” approach, which is applied to its oversight of BRACED projects. This involves working closely with project partners to support them to deliver and adapt in challenging operating contexts through flexible approaches to budgeting, work-planning and reporting, while ensuring accountability and achievement of results.

Social protection policies and programmes that aim to reduce poverty, deprivation and vulnerability are increasingly seen as an instrument to help households and communities manage climate risks. Social protection includes social assistance (cash, in-kind, food subsidies, pensions), social insurance (maternity benefits, weather-indexed crop insurance) and labour market interventions (skills transfer programmes, cash for work interventions)50 BRACED research on the role of social protection programmes in building resilience in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda finds that these programmes make a strong contribution to people’s capacity to absorb the negative impacts of climate-related shocks and stresses on their livelihoods. By supporting early action to mitigate the worst impacts of disasters, social protection can be seen as an important tool for risk management.

While social protection has the potential to contribute to the management of climate risks, until now experiences have focused on the ability of these programmes to support shock response. However, growing recognition of climate variability, increased risks and evolving vulnerability has led to the development of “adaptive social protection” interventions. This involves designing programmes that take into account climate risks, consider current and future vulnerability, and support flexible, multi-sector responses to different types of risk.

BRACED research51 explores how social protection can support better climate risk management and increase climate resilience by anticipating and dealing with shocks before they happen. Setting up early-warning early-action systems (triggers and contingency planning) to respond as soon as a shock happens – or even before it does – and linking forecast-based action with social protection programming can make better use of existing systems to protect people before disasters. This integration can make social protection systems more effective in managing climate risks, especially by supporting some key features:

  • Climate-sensitive social protection planning and targeting
  • Scalability of programmes at different timescales
  • Timeliness and reliability of support
  • More adequate interventions, earlier

The research finds that social protection has great potential to support anticipation, risk mitigation and overall preparedness at system level. By effectively integrating early-warning early-action tools such as forecast-based financing, social protection programming can build anticipatory capacity. In areas where climate risks are significant, the design of new social protection systems or programmes should therefore include a feasibility study for the integration of forecast-based action mechanisms from the outset.

Ensuring the continuity of resilience programming

Without targeted humanitarian support, climate-related shocks or conflict can derail a resilience project and erode any progress made. Timely contingency funding can help protect ongoing interventions and avoid resources being diverted to deal with the shock.

In recent years donors, governments and NGOs have been trialling a new set of innovative risk financing options to help deal with localised shocks and stresses that impede development progress. In November 2015, DFID decided to link a humanitarian fund Providing Humanitarian Assistance for Sahel Emergencies (PHASE) to the BRACED programme. Focused on the Sahel, this “crisis modifier” was designed to enable early action and rapid response to new humanitarian needs that arose in the project areas. It could thus help protect development gains BRACED projects had made.

Unlike other test cases, this crisis modifier was accessed by development agencies working long-term in the Sahel through BRACED. The funds could be used for early action to avert the negative effects of a looming stress or to respond to the immediate impacts of a shock. Evidence from the use of the PHASE crisis modifier suggests that crisis modifiers are one potential solution for a more flexible aid system, if they are accompanied by a fundamental shift in the way development actors design their programmes and respond to predictable risks.

In 2016, the BRACED SUR1M project in Niger successfully managed local pests and drought stresses without waiting for them to become emergencies through a combination of the systematic dissemination of key rainfall information and the use of the PHASE crisis modifier, which involved a standard template for funding applications and the relatively rapid approval and release of funds. This was credited as being “instrumental to the BRACED response initiatives”52

Lessons from combining humanitarian and development finance through BRACED

Eight BRACED projects applied to the PHASE crisis modifier in the first year. The funds were used for a diverse array of interventions, from refugee resettlement negotiations to cash-for-work programmes to offset food insecurity, and providing food aid and essential equipment after homes were destroyed in flash floods. An evaluation of the PHASE funding mechanism (Crisis modifiers: a solution for a more flexible development-humanitarian system?) explores the process and results of building humanitarian finance into a resilience-building programme. The report examines three of the interventions in depth, investigating each step in the process: observing a changing situation, designing an appropriate response, applying to the fund, the fund’s decision-making process, implementation of an intervention and how the “regular” BRACED programme carried on after the humanitarian support was provided. The study asks what the added value of a crisis modifier is to resilience-building programmes and synthesises the diverse case studies to draw recommendations about implementing a crisis modifier effectively.

The case studies featured in the report include managing conflict-related displacement in Burkina Faso, flooding in Mali and food insecurity in Niger. They demonstrate that, when employed effectively, crisis modifiers offer a practical means to enable early action and response to emerging crises. The report concludes with six recommended changes to maximise the ability of a crisis modifier to deliver effective support:

  • Make contingency planning a prerequisite. The first step to ensuring a project itself is resilient to shocks and stresses involves having a contingency plan in place. A contingency plan can include specific triggers for early action to embolden field staff to react to anticipated crises.
  • Act at a pace that reflects the urgency of the situation. For donors, crisis modifiers should be accompanied by more flexible processes that enable much shorter timeframes for decision-making and disbursal of funding. Crisis modifier interventions by their very nature mean that waiting too long could render the support ineffective by missing crucial windows of opportunity.
  • Prepare for transitions into and out of recovery periods. As the crises subsided, unique needs arose that pre-planned BRACED activities or short-term humanitarian assistance did not cover. In some cases, BRACED partners incorporated actions designed to improve recovery into their PHASE interventions.
  • Adhere to humanitarian norms when targeting. Without guidelines, BRACED partners encountered ethical questions about who should receive support from a crisis modifier.
  • Start responding to the right signals. Though only one slow-onset crisis was included as a case study in this report, PHASE interventions were initiated after people began enacting distress-coping strategies, such as distress migration or sales of productive assets when prices were low.
  • Harness existing social infrastructure. Evidence shows crisis modifier funding furthered BRACED consortias’ relationships and social standing with communities and government officials, which helped further collaborations that were important for BRACED interventions.

If projects are able to address shocks as they occur, by shifting to humanitarian finance and programming early action and crisis response into project activities, progress towards resilience-building is more likely to remain on track. To be effective, crisis modifiers should be deployed alongside adaptive programming approaches, to ensure there is sufficient flexibility to deal with transitions into recovery, and back from emergency to development programming.

What does this mean for programme design and implementation?

BRACED implementing partners are focusing on innovative ways to build the resilience and adaptation of communities, often through delivery of services on the ground such as water and sanitation, health, and social protection interventions. These experiences need to be scaled up: they should contribute to more strategic thinking on improving public services in these countries, including by assessing how they can build anticipatory, absorptive and adaptive capacities.

Research conducted by the BRACED Knowledge Management shows that social protection can increase households’ absorptive capacity, although evidence on building anticipatory and adaptive capacity at the system level is more limited.53 Social protection, if linked to forecast-based financing triggered before a disaster, can also increase anticipation, risk reduction and the overall preparedness of the system.54Forecast-based action based on pre-established contingency funds has helped people to prepare for foreseeable extreme events, and these actions could be scaled up through social protection schemes.

Experiences with contingency funds like PHASE are useful because they help implementing partners to think of emergency support as a top-up to ongoing work. This kind of flexible funding should also help agencies think about more adaptive ways of working more generally, focusing not only at the household level, but also on ways to embed resilience and flexibility into programmes and the systems in which they are working. Many of the BRACED projects give cash transfers to households in emergencies and to help them recover, but experience from social protection suggests that complementary interventions are needed if these are to help strengthen adaptive capacity.

Adaptive management approaches can deliver better development outcomes, which is especially critical in the face of climate shocks and stresses. When projects face shocks and stresses, this should be able to trigger changes in project delivery, facilitated by project M&E systems that go beyond traditionally rigid budgeting, work-planning and log-frame approaches. Good M&E and learning systems can show if interventions are successful when shocks and stresses occur. M&E frameworks also need to be flexible enough to accommodate how projects change over time and adopt learning as evidence emerges.

The wider debate is arguably about whether programme design and M&E efforts should focus on measuring resilience results or the processes and developmental outcomes that emerge in the context of shocks and stresses.55 Most of the BRACED projects provided examples of how communities and households have coped with shocks and stresses experienced during the programme period. However, reporting on how resilience capacities built by the interventions kicked in during the project period to mitigate the impact of shocks and stresses has been somewhat ad hoc. Even though most projects track progress via theories of change and log-frames, flexible monitoring mechanisms that kick in immediately after shocks would enhance the quality and breadth of insight on the degree to which project interventions are successful at building resilience. The BRACED Rapid Response Research56 provides an example such a mechanism that could be integrated across projects.

Over a longer timeframe, BRACED projects are likely to experience an increased number, or higher intensity, of shocks and stresses. Over this timeframe, we would be able to look at the outcomes and trace backwards to understand whether building capacities is enough in the face of a shock or stress; to what size, geographic extent (localised or regional) or even duration (short or long lasting) of shock or stress beneficiaries are resilient; and to what extent people recover from shocks and stresses in the long term.57

Strengthening risk governance

BRACED projects are working predominantly at a local level to advocate for changes in risk management and adaptation policy and practice. They have approached advocacy and influence using “insider track” approaches, focusing on influencing through good relationships with governments. These relationships have mostly been formed through strong project impacts and support at the local level being recognised by more senior government levels. The projects report that it takes time, persistence and meaningful engagement with government to secure its buy-in. There is no one correct entry point with government, but the projects have illustrated that the key to success has been to employ a strategy for influencing government policies and plans, working in partnership with all levels of government, and to involve governments in activities from the project implementation phase. These approaches have enabled governments to observe first-hand BRACED successes at the local levels and have led them to adopt BRACED strategies more broadly.

Many BRACED countries have developed decentralised risk management functions in recent years, creating opportunities for the BRACED projects to connect work at community level to subnational government planning. Senegal’s Rural Community Councils and Sub-prefects, and similar bodies elsewhere, have assumed authority for a variety of tasks key to disaster risk reduction, natural resource management and the provision of resilience-linked services.

Often, however, these institutions lack adequate support for greater inclusiveness, accountability or democratisation, not to mention financial and technical capacity.58 Frequently, customary or local informal institutions and governance structures are undermined without anything effective to replace them. There are often parallel systems that compete for resources and government time (e.g. uncoordinated donor projects).

Anukulan, for instance, is supporting the harmonisation of Local Adaptation Plans of Action and Local Disaster Risk Management Plans.59 In principle, a local risk-governance system should have the flexibility to make decisions regarding planning and service delivery and to change course in response to local conditions. 60 In practice, however, decentralising decision-making to the lowest level may not make it more sustainable or equitable unless there are mechanisms in place to promote financial responsibility and political accountability. 61 Several BRACED countries, such as Kenya, Mali and Nepal, are undergoing a decentralisation/federalisation process that is putting control and resources more in the hands of local government entities.

In March 2017 the Nepalese government announced the formal reorganisation of Nepal into seven provinces. This resulted in the restructuring of the country’s administrative system at the local level, involving the merging of 3,276 Village Development Committees and 217 municipalities into 753 local government units. Despite the obvious frustrations, Anukulan project staff and participating communities remained determined. Persistence and good communication kept committees together and saw new members nominated to chair the groups, despite the political changes. Committees also persisted with bank officials to convince them to permit the opening of new bank accounts.

Engaging government at multiple levels

Connections between institutions at different levels are thought to improve community resilience to shocks and stresses. This integration helps to ensure that resources and information (including technical support) are channelled effectively to the local level,62 while lessons from local-level risk management can inform higher-level policies.63More specifically, in order for resilience projects to be sustainable and effective, they need to both engage at the appropriate national or regional level to effect change through top-down governance structures, as well as at the community level through context-specific approaches. Meaningful engagement requires reflection on the roles that different levels of government should take.

Experience from BRACED projects has found that while local governments can be best placed to enable and effectively tailor small-scale planning and participation, national governments have the authority and influence to ensure that climate change is mainstreamed across all governing systems and planning processes and that interventions continue beyond the short donor-funded project cycle.64

In Mali, through multilateral and bilateral meetings with the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Decentralisation, Decentralising Climate Funds (DCF) partners discussed with the government the option of direct access to financing from the Green Climate Fund.

To access the Green Climate Fund directly, applicant National Implementing Entities must receive formal nomination from a National Delegated Authority. In Mali this is the Agency for the Environment and Sustainable Development (AEDD), within the Ministry of Environment. Following tri-lateral meetings and discussions facilitated by DCF, the Ministry of Environment and AEDD agreed to seek direct access to the Green Climate Fund, and in May 2016 AEDD nominated the National Agency for Local Community Investments (ANICT), the financial arm of the Ministry of Decentralisation, as Mali’s first National Implementing Entity.

DCF is now working with ANICT, AEDD, and other government representatives to build capacity and navigate the Green Climate Fund accreditation process. The DCF team in Mali has continued to meet with national stakeholders and provide capacity-building and support for the accreditation process, including enhanced direct access (a process that speeds delivery of actual funds to accredited partners). It has also seconded a climate finance advisor to accompany ANICT through the accreditation process.

Once that process is completed, Mali will be able to access funding from the Green Climate Fund directly. Although only a first step, the implications of this are transformative. First, ANICT falls within the Ministry of Decentralisation, making it more likely that Mali’s central government will support decentralised climate finance. Second, in seeking accreditation of ANICT as a National Implementing Entity of the Green Climate Fund, Mali is poised to obtain direct access to the fund, rather than depending on the indirect (and sometimes uncertain) support of a multilateral agency, thereby increasing its control over funds and improving its institutional and governance capacity.65Where opportunities present themselves to gain government support for an idea, projects need to be nimble and respond to the doors that open. However, some BRACED projects also note that it takes persistence to secure government buy-in for policy changes in support of resilience to climate shocks and stresses.

The MAR project in Ethiopia has developed an approach to create animal feed from by-products of the sugar industry. The project now aims to involve the government in continued funding of the scheme. New techniques are often hard to sell to governments, but if you can demonstrate that they have the potential to create new markets, revenue and livelihoods, they begin to listen.

In Mali, activities to prevent soil erosion and promote crop diversity rest on collaboration between a series of actors: the beneficiaries, who are responsible for the initiative and the choice of sites; the committee of the commune (a unit of local government), who inform the community about the project; the mayor’s office, which plans the projects as part of the commune’s development activities; and the prime contractor, who carries out the works. The Near East Foundation, which leads the project, has coordinated the set-up of the system and holds the funds, but the longer-term strategy is for it to be able to withdraw.

Forming partnerships and engaging across sectors

Where effective local governance exists, projects can benefit from work within existing structures, an approach taken by DCF.66

Overall, partnerships with government and technical services have been extremely useful for increasing project credibility, generating buy-in and laying foundations for project sustainability. Some BRACED projects have demonstrated that partnerships can led to the integration of climate change and community resilience priorities into local planning. For example, RIC4REC worked with two villages in Koulikoro Region to create a 25-year future climate scenario to plan for the risks of slow-onset climate warming and its environmental impacts. After this exercise, local authorities and the Kolondialan Banamba community working group collaborated to set up a co-management process for forest conservation, and planned other interventions such as building a check dam.

However, the BRACED experience has shown that a number of factors can hinder the success and effectiveness of forming partnerships within governing structures, including high staff turnover, as new staff have to be re-trained and re-sensitised to resilience approaches. The size of a consortium can also affect the way a project engages with governments. Another challenge can be the type of partnership or contractual relationship and associated requirements that the government may not be set up to fulfil. This was found when partnerships were set up with national meteorological agencies to establish automatic weather stations. The government agencies were not able to supply financial and narrative reports with the frequency and detail required by the BRACED programme, despite success in the individual activities implemented.

Challenges and opportunities for building resilience

In an effort to scale up community-level activities, BRACED projects are experimenting in their engagement with governance systems at different levels. There is no correct entry point or scale of governance through which decisions on climate and disaster risk management and adaptation should be made, but it is important to understand how power is decentralised (or not) below the national level. Local governments in BRACED countries often have very little power to regulate activities or allocate resources, so it is important to work with national agencies towards deepening decentralisation in parallel with strengthening plans for local adaptation, disaster risk reduction or resilience. Ensuring that projects are aligned to these government structures is also important to avoid the potential duplication of resources or activities. This was clearly illustrated by the Anukulan project, which focused on scaling and embedding resilience-building activities into ongoing government processes. These activities were in turn adopted by government officials and applied to other locations.67However, it is important to consider that these systems can change and that the projects must adapt. In Nepal, the government is changing to a federal system with local, provincial and federal governments with more autonomy. This has changed the way Anukulan works with government and significantly increased the number of partnerships that need to be established.

BRACED projects are focused primarily on improving risk governance at the local and national levels, but the importance of regional institutions is also emerging. Several opportunities for scaling up resilience interventions have been identified for the Sahel, Horn of Africa and Asia that are embedded in multiple governance levels. For example, in the Horn of Africa the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) Drought Disasters and Sustainability Initiative (IDDRSI) is driving policy change in member states. Implementing partners have identified opportunities to leverage this mechanism in Uganda and Kenya.

Another important issue emerging from implementing partners’ experiences is the effect of conflict and insecurity on risk governance. In Mali, DCF and RIC4REC have faced national crises that exacerbate local community conflict and competition over resources. IRISS has experienced similar constraints in South Sudan, where local governance structures are largely absent. The project tried to adapt to this by following community systems and supported the establishment of Community Resilience Planning Committees that incorporated elders and senior community members. Sudan and Niger have also been sites of multiple levels of conflict during the lifetime of the BRACED programme. Violent extremism is an additional constraint on projects in Burkina Faso, Mali and Kenya, affecting particular groups disproportionately (for example women and some ethnic groups).

It is challenging to clearly demonstrate the sustainability of resilience outcomes within three years, but BRACED has been able to lay the foundations for transformation through scaling and embedding project approaches through governing structures and communities. Multiple projects have integrated with or changed government systems that will continue after the project wraps up. For example, PROGRESS has had far-reaching influence in Wajir, Kenya by supporting the development of the Wajir County Livestock Feed Policy, which was officially adopted by the government, as well as producing the Wajir County Gender and Resilience Strategy (the first county gender strategy in Kenya to be adopted by the government).68

Inclusive governance and decision-making

Inclusive decision-making in governing processes has been encouraged by many BRACED projects. Evidence indicates that systemic shifts in decision-making processes have been achieved by projects that specifically target marginalised groups and build relationships between them and local governments. These improved relationships have led to the institutionalisation of inclusive decision-making processes, as seen in the Livestock Mobility project.

The Livestock Mobility project brought together local governments, farmer groups and pastoralist groups – which are often in conflict with each other – and has enabled improved representation of pastoralist groups in decision-making processes through the use of social agreements. These agreements have concerned livestock corridors, pastoral resources and creating inclusive committees to manage resources. They have led local governments to integrate pastoral issues and priorities into development plans and strategies [p47 routes to resilience]. Nevertheless, this shift in power dynamics towards inclusive decision-making to build resilience will take longer than three years to achieve.69 The challenging assumptions paper on gender and social inclusion concluded that time and true participation (as opposed to representation only) are the key ingredients to making sure that resilience-building interventions are inclusive.70

Building capacity within governments

Investment in building knowledge and capacity within government entities has proven to be a successful way to integrate climate change and risk management into government planning and policy. BRACED projects were able to achieve this by contributing resources and capacity support within government agencies, resourcing respected national civil society organisations, and supporting “resilience champions” in national government. The integration of climate concerns into local planning more generally has also been proven to enhance the adaptive capacity outcomes of the projects.71 However, the transformative potential of BRACED projects is limited by a lack of strategy for influencing national policy. In BRACED this was supposed to be addressed in component D, which only started in the 18-month extension phase. This constraint has been addressed to some extent in this extension, where there is an increased focus on engaging multiple levels of government and on policy-related work to make further progress towards greater sustainability of BRACED activities and approaches