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 beginning to emerge from BRACED activities.

Some of the most prominent interventions focus on diversification of food production and adapting livelihoods; activities to manage access to scarce natural resources and mitigate potential conflicts over them; measures to enhance food security and reduce extreme poverty, promoting income-generation opportunities and access to appropriate financial services; promotion of 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 activities to strengthen 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 aims to promote adoption of climate-resilient farming techniques and increase the sustainability of agriculture. Activities such as agroforestry, improved water and soil management and storage facilities are increasing food supply and dietary diversity, and helping diversify incomes. To move beyond supporting subsistence livelihoods towards building resilience over the longer term, projects must ensure that any new activities are resilient to changes in climate, 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,1 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.2

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 change3 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 pressure on scarce water resources.4 

Diversifying food production and livelihoods 

For many years, practical support to build resilience at household level has focused on diversifying natural-resources based livelihoods, particularly around food production, and on managing natural resources better at the community level to increase access to them.

All 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. This can mean helping communities improve storage methods, so that food is more available outside the main harvest times. Another approach 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 proportion of the year.

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 are 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.

A number of projects are focusing on agroforestry. As well as aiding water retention and soil improvement, trees can provide shade and lower temperatures to allow other crops to be grown nearby, and of course some varieties produce fruit.

These projects focus on promoting varieties of tree that are well adapted to local climate, and ensuring that sufficient tree stock is available to the community.

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.

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.

A number of BRACED projects including Anukulan, BRICS and RIC4REC have reported5 that many farmers have been able to increase their harvests beyond their household needs and sell the surplus, so these activities to increase food supply and dietary diversity are also linked with increasing incomes (see below). Nonetheless, projects have faced difficulties, and on occasion crop activities have failed. For instance, one project trialled the use of seeds that had been improved to allow earlier planting, but this created a niche food supply for birds and other animals, resulting in no harvest.

Improving access to natural resources

Climate shocks and stresses can make resources scarce and increase competition (whether real or perceived). Livestock mobility forms a key strand of the resilience of pastoralist communities in the Sahel. Their livelihood includes moving with their cattle during the dry season to pastureland elsewhere and to trade. This practice, known as transhumance, is well adapted to a variable climate, but it is under increasing threat as access to land becomes more restricted. Pastoralists have suffered violence from farmers who see them as a threat. The BRACED Livestock Mobility project works at national and local levels to secure routes used during the transhumance.

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.

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.”

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.

A number of BRACED projects including Anukulan, BRICS and RIC4REC have reported that many farmers have been able to increase their harvests beyond their household needs and sell the surplus, so these activities to increase food supply and dietary diversity are also linked with increasing incomes (see below). Nonetheless, projects have faced difficulties, and on occasion crop activities have failed. For instance, one project trialled the use of seeds that had been improved to allow earlier planting, but this created a niche food supply for birds and other animals, resulting in no harvest.

However, some projects have experienced a number of problems including crop disease outbreaks, crop failure and difficulties in accessing markets. Lessons from the BRACED programme are beginning to demonstrate that to move beyond supporting subsistence livelihoods and towards building resilience, any new activities will have to be resilient to changes in climate, economically viable and socially acceptable. The successes shared above on 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. These ideas will be explored further in a ‘Challenging Assumptions’ report, due to be published in early 2018.

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 if they are linked to climate services that help households choose the right investments each season. Financial services such as loans should be sustainable in the face of climate shocks and take into account effects on economic development.

Between 1970 and 2012, BRACED countries were disproportionately affected by disasters, particularly climate-related ones such as drought, compared with other developing countries.6 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 reduction of 2.8% in the annual gross domestic product.7 Climate change is likely to exacerbate these 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% of income.8 A recent study9 assessed that unmitigated climate change could lower average incomes by 23% globally by 2100, and exacerbate inequalities. Climate change is expected to undermine economic development at all levels, from household to sectoral and national income.10 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.11 In BRACED countries, poor people often have little access to traditional financial services. Where non-traditional services exist, such as money-lending, interest rates can be extremely high, discouraging investment in climate adaptation and leading to greater debt burdens for poor households.12

In Nepal, public-private partnerships allow farmers in remote western areas of the country access to appropriate technology for climate-resilient agriculture. The improvements in water and pest management, coupled with training at local collection centres on varieties that are better suited to the current climate, have led to gains in household income.

Developing income-generating activities

Several of the BRACED projects aim to improve or develop resilient income-generating activities in a context of climate stresses and shocks. This includes supporting productivity by securing storage, upgrading processing, and improving access to markets and services.

BRACED projects report increasing commercialisation of agriculture through techniques that make farmers less vulnerable to climate stresses (typically drought), and that increase productivity and lead to surpluses. 

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.”

Developing innovative products

Product innovation can make scarce resources go further in difficult times, or make use of resources that are currently unexploited, saving money for other essentials.

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.13 Improved financial inclusion can help the poor to access savings and transfer services, as well as credit and insurance, at an affordable cost.14 A number of BRACED projects therefore provide financial services to support sustainable livelihoods or provide supporting services for more sustainable production. These include microfinance, village savings and loan associations,15 inventory credit (warrantage) systems, revolving funds, savings and credit cooperatives, 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.

Village savings and loan associations offer community-based savings and loan services in communities without access to formal financial services.

IRISS has reported a number of counterintuitive and rather surprising experiences with village savings and loan associations in South Sudan, where it appears that people will still save in, take out and repay loans from a village saving and loan association 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 village savings and loan associations making zero-interest loans.


It should be noted that IRISS put no start-up funds into the village savings and loan associations: 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.

IRISS project staff are monitoring the situation in South Sudan and trying to understand the observed behaviour and whether it is sustainable. Ongoing research into the PRESENCES project’s experience with village savings and loan associations in Niger suggests that participation in an association may contribute to bonding social capital by deepening relationships and reciprocities among members.

However, the research is not showing the creation of trust in areas where social cohesion was already weak – that is, village savings and loans associations seem to amplify social cohesion but not create it.16

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.

Challenges and opportunities for building resilience

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 their context. Indeed, if this is not carefully considered, financial services can have a negative effect on economic development. BRACED IPs are, for example, still exploring the ways to adapt their ‘traditional’ financial services to pastoral areas, where mobility of the actors presents high fixed costs for the financial institutions.

Provision of financial services should also consider the economic and climate sustainability of the activities that will be supported. Building resilience while require a complementarity of capacities and financial services providers will need to assess both the economic (beyond livelihoods support) and the climate sustainability of the loans or financial mechanisms that they are promoting. Other considerations include religious and social suitability of financial services (e.g. sharia-compliant services) and the use of technology to reach beneficiaries in remote areas.

Financial services can be more effective if linked to climate services, so households can plan investments and savings prior to the rainy season. In addition, KM-led ‘serious games’ carried out in partnership with the PRESENCES project on their support to VSLAs highlighted the importance of gender relations in determining how households and individuals access and use financial services. VSLAs can lead to changes in power relations at household level or at village level, depending on ownership of financial assets. All these factors need to be considered alongside the delivery of financial services.

Promoting gender equality and empowerment

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 women and girls, but also many rural communities. However, challenging and changing social norms –around access to land, information or decision-making – through resilience projects requires long-term, deep engagement with communities. All projects, whether they are gender sensitive or explicitly trying to bring about gender transformation, must take into account local customs and issues such as gender-based violence.17

Such exclusion, along with broader socio-economic and political inequalities, particularly affects women and girls due to discriminatory social norms that are present in all contexts where BRACED operates.18 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.1920

Enabling vulnerable and marginalised people and communities to gain more control over decisions that affect them, and increasing their access to services and opportunities, can help to 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.

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 compensate for gender imbalances to better achieve equality and 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.21 In other words, when activities aim to tackle harmful norms, this translates into a more transformative agenda.

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.22 Projects differ 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 gender (see above figure) ranges from gender-aware interventions to gender-transformative ones, while others aim to inform and modify development projects using approaches that are grounded in the local culture and that can be adapted to the regional context. For example, the participatory gender training for community groups implemented as part of the BRACED-Anukulan project in West Nepal aims to sensitise both farmers and field staff on gender norms, roles and relations.

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. 

At the end of BRACED, feedback from NGOs and data from monitoring and evaluation processes will be sought to reflect on:

  • The challenges faced in developing and implementing a theory of change to tackle unequal social norms, and how these were overcome.
  • Any strategies developed to ensure the sustainability of social changes that were initiated. There are success stories of women accessing key resources such as land or mobile technology, but how much control over these resources have they secured, at what scale and for how long?
  • Best practices for measuring and assessing social change (e.g. interview panels, financial diaries, gender-disaggregated surveys etc.). How can development practitioners verify that social changes lead to increased resilience to climate extremes and disasters?

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.

Concern Worldwide and their partner Al Massar established a Nomadic People’s Forum to better understand the challenges pastoralists are facing. In early 2015 the team developed an advocacy campaign aimed at Sudan’s Department of Pasture,  to raise awareness of pastoralists’ rights, concerns related to land access, and the contributions of pastoralism to national development. Through this, the team met with other advocates and Department representatives, and were invited to help contribute draft a law on pastoralism, the National Pasture Law, which was passed in 2015.

In the case of infrastructure and urban planning, decisions can have impacts lasting decades. Here it is especially important that climate shocks and stresses are considered. The challenge for these community-level and community-driven initiatives, however, is to look beyond the local context to understand what wider action is needed to build resilience.

Most BRACED projects operate in rural areas. The Live with Water project is different: the areas where it works used to be sparsely populated, but now they are peri-urban parts of Dakar, Senegal’s capital, and suffer from flooding during the rainy season. The project engages the community in finding solutions to their problem. As neighbourhood representative Adama Thioub says: “The first success was to push us to work together through the Management Committee of the zone. All the community was involved at all stages, we all knew what the project was aiming to do. It’s as if we were rolling out the project ourselves because our opinions and suggestions were all taken on board.”

Challenges and opportunities for building resilience

Challenging and changing social norms through resilience projects requires long-term and deep engagement with communities. All projects, whether they are gender sensitive or explicitly trying to bring about gender transformation, need to take into account local customs – for example, facilitating women’s access to land in Mali requires working closely with village elders and local authorities is needed to gain the community’s trust.

There may also be specific gender issues hampering progress on building resilience that will need to be addressed for progress to be made in other areas, such as gender-based violence. In places where gender-based violence is prevalent and is a social norm, resilience programmes will need to adopt a human rights-based approach: arguably, simply being sensitised to gender issues and inequalities is not enough. The challenge for these community-level and community-driven initiatives is also to look beyond the local context and understand what wider action is needed to promote gender equality.

Using climate information in decision-making

Climate shocks and stresses can be more easily managed with on-time, reliable climate and weather information. However, information is often hard for users to access, understand or use to inform decisions. Some BRACED projects have helped better translate and communicate this information, tailoring it to community needs. Building trust in forecasts and their continued provision has been central to BRACED; now a key challenge is ensuring user-oriented climate services are invested in at national and international level to avoid service disruptions that erode that trust.

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.”23 Pastoralists’ livelihoods are intrinsically linked to seasonal cycles, as the agrarian base of the food economy is affected by the rainy season, depending on the availability of pasture and the ability to plant or fish in the river basins and great lakes. With increasingly erratic rainfall, it is difficult for pastoralists to develop a consistent adaptation strategy.24

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.

Access to weather and climate information in Africa and Asia produced by the National Hydrological and Meteorological Services and regional agencies is increasing, but when it comes to applying the information they receive to decision-making, end-users face several challenges. These include the quality of information, not having it at the appropriate scale, and difficulties in communicating and interpreting it.25 To overcome some of these problems, Some BRACED partners are taking on new roles as “climate knowledge brokers”, combining climate information with information from other relevant sectors to tailor knowledge products and services to users’ needs.26

BRACED projects have employed a variety of methods to communicate climate and weather information to communities.

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.

However, it is not just a matter of being clear and accessible. Individuals and communities will not necessarily use climate information to make adaptation-related actions and decisions, even if they receive the information. For communities unused to modern scientific forecasting, there is an important role for trust. Existing social structures may help:

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 of agro-pastoral field schools and farmer field schools.

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 they may make uncoordinated attempts to move into the climate services sector, while at the same time those agencies are also being tasked to be more user-driven. The changing roles of NGOs in supporting climate services proposes five areas of interaction and engagement to help to address these risks: improving knowledge-sharing; enhancing coordination on planned activities; enhancing collaboration across systems and scales; focusing on knowledge co-production; and emphasising learning processes.

These areas require new actions not only from NGOs, but also from national meteorological and hydrological agencies, national and local governments and international funders. Projects have reported some difficulties in setting up suitable partnerships, such as national meteorological organisations not seeing their role as providing information to the public.

In Ethiopia, the BRACED MAR project is promoting the World Meteorological Organisation’s Climate Services Framework,27 which sets out clear principles and describes the interactions and different roles required for an effective system.

Some BRACED projects are engaging communities in the production of climate information, e.g. through the use of rain gauges, provision of mobile phones and participatory scenario planning. This facilitates exchanges, and builds trust amongst different stakeholders about communities’ ability to contribute.

Challenges and opportunities for building resilience

In the short-term, the shift towards NGOs acting as climate information knowledge brokers is seen as positive, in particular, 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.

Questions remain however 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 hand over to local organisations to take up brokering activities.

Building trust in 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 the BRACED is therefore ensuring that efforts to get useable information to communities is complemented with efforts to build awareness of -and investment in- user-oriented climate services at national and international levels. The quality of climate information has improved in recent years, but it remains too technical for many stakeholders to understand, including BRACED IPs, and continued engagement with producers is required.

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

Shock-responsive service delivery and programming

The delivery of development and resilience projects can be severely affected when a shock or stress – such as a drought, flood or conflict – requires emergency redirection of resources, which can erode project progress. Contingency funding for local crises can be used to help protect development gains, particularly when it is based on forecasts and helps people prepare for foreseeable extreme events. Flexible funding could help agencies embed resilience in their programmes and into the systems in which they are working.

The presence or absence of public services can have a critical impact on the vulnerability of poor and marginalised groups.28 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.29 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, including de-silting of water, household water filters, modified sanitation systems and re-engineering sewer systems. Specific examples of disaster risk reduction and adaptation measures in the health sector 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.30

However, the delivery of these services and support to communities can be severely affected by the direct impacts of a shock or stress such as drought, flooding or conflict, which in turn can erode any progress made on improving the resilience capacities of communities.

Deliverying robust services

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. They do so by providing well-implemented, regular cash transfers – regardless of whether the specific aim of these is to address climate shocks or lifecycle-based vulnerabilities (such as old age, motherhood or infancy). This highlights that, to achieve resilience outcomes, the focus should be on programme design and on evaluation of the quality of programme delivery.31 

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.

PHASE: Lessons from combining humanitarian and development finance32

Recognising the need for more flexible ways of delivering humanitarian support, DFID created the “Providing Humanitarian Assistance in Sahel Emergencies” (PHASE) mechanism, through which BRACED partners working in the Sahel accessed contingency funding to deal with localised crises that did not register in the international humanitarian system. 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. While PHASE funding retains the same core rationale as traditional humanitarian funding (i.e. to provide lifesaving support), it can also be used to help protect resilience gains made throughout the course of the BRACED programme.


The funds have been 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 (forthcoming) of the PHASE funding explores the process and results of building humanitarian finance into a resilience-building programme, assessing three case studies in the Sahel. Though the finalised case studies will provide more detailed about PHASE, the emerging evidence points to a few themes:

  1. BRACED partners applying for PHASE funding were considering medium- and longer-term impacts, designing interventions that could produce longer-term benefits (such as cash-for-work programmes that restored natural infrastructure, or proposing investments in protective infrastructure). While other humanitarian actors were restricted to short-term response activities, BRACED partners were oriented towards response and recovery, integrating activities into PHASE interventions that aligned with their BRACED objectives.
  2. The PHASE interventions could not be considered “early response” to slow-onset shocks. By the time partners intervened, they were generally arresting a crisis before it got worse. Though the BRACED partners were able to document the evolution of a crisis and design appropriate responses to deal with its effects, they did not have clear contingency plans in place describing when and how to intervene before negative coping strategies or negative impacts became apparent.
  3. BRACED projects that were in the early stages of implementation did not have “resilience gains” to protect, but PHASE helped them work with local authorities to establish a peaceful operating context which enabled them to move forward later with resilience-building activities. Responding to people’s immediate needs helped build trust and legitimacy with the communities that the projects worked with, and helped to strengthen ties and raise their profile with local officials.

If projects are able to address shocks nimbly as they arrive, by shifting to humanitarian finance and programming early action and crisis response into project activities, the progress of BRACED beneficiaries towards resilience will be able to remain on track.

Challenges and opportunities for building resilience

BRACED IPs are focusing on innovative ways to build resilience and adaptation of communities often through delivery of services on the ground, such as water and sanitation, health, and social protection. 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 KM shows that social protection can increase household’s absorptive capacity, although evidence on building anticipatory and adaptive capacity at the system level is more limited (Ulrichs and Slater 2016). Social protection, if delivered before a disaster, can also increase anticipation, risk reduction and the overall preparedness of the system (Costella et al, forthcoming). Forecast-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 IPs to think about emergency support as a top up to existing work/ piggybacking on existing activities. 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.

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 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 projects may need to work with national agencies in parallel to strengthening local Disaster Risk Reduction plans. Working with regional institutions can also support scaling-up of effective local practices.

Many BRACED countries have decentralised risk management functions in recent years, with equivocal outcomes for local development and resilience.33 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-resources 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.34 Frequently, customary or local informal institutions and governance structures are undermined without anything effective to replace them.35

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.36 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.37

Engaging government at multiple levels

Connections between institutions at different levels are thought to improve community resilience to shocks and stresses.38 This integration helps to ensure that resources and information are channelled effectively to the local level,39 while lessons from local-level risk management can inform higher-level policies.40

The main thrust of the BRACED projects is directly with communities, but some are also engaging with higher-level institutions, in particular government agencies, to advocate for changes in risk management and adaptation policy and practice.

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, provide capacity building and support for the accreditation process, including enhanced direct access (a process that speeds delivery of actual funds to accredited partners), and has seconded a climate finance advisor to accompany ANICT through the accreditation process.


Once the accreditation 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 potentially 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 support of a multilateral agency), thereby increasing its control over funds and improving its institutional and governance capacity.41

Where 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.

Forming partnerships and engaging across sectors

Despite operational challenges, collaboration and cross-sector engagement can bring benefits, including integration of climate considerations into planning, as well as a coordinated response to climate shocks and stresses from organisations, agencies, and local and regional governments whose activities aim to support or otherwise affect a community.42

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

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.

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 scales. 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 to strengthening local DRR plans etc.

BRACED projects are focussed 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 for leveraging this mechanism in Uganda and Kenya.

Another important issue emerging from IP experiences, is the effect of conflict and insecurity on risk governance. In Mali, DCF and RIC4REC have faced with 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. Sudan, Chad 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 Mali and Kenya, affecting particular groups disproportionately (for example women and particular ethnic groups).

  1. Resilient risk governance: Experience from the Sahel and Horn of Africa

  2. Climate change 2014: Mitigation of climate change

  3. Climate change 2014: Mitigation of climate change

  4. Climate change 2014: Mitigation of climate change

  5. Making progress: BRACED at the mid-term

  6. Disasters and national economic resilience: an analysis of BRACED countries

  7. Kenya post-disaster needs assessment (PDNA): 2008-2011 drought

  8. Climate resilience and financial services: Lessons from Ethiopia, Mali and Myanmar

  9. Global non-linear effect of temperature on economic production

  10. About the use of rainfall data in development economics

  11. Unbreakable: Building the resilience of the poor in the face of natural disasters

  12. Climate resilience and financial services: Lessons from Ethiopia, Mali and Myanmar

  13. Climate resilience and financial services: Lessons from Ethiopia, Mali and Myanmar

  14. Financial inclusion, regulation and inclusive growth in Ethiopia

  15. Financial services for resilience: How to assess the impacts?

  16. Financial services for resilience: How to assess the impacts?

  17. The future is a choice: The Oxfam framework and guidance for resilient development

  18. Gender and resilience: From theory to practice

  19. Assessing gender in resilience programming: Uganda

  20. Assessing gender in resilience programming: Myanmar

  21. Gender and Resilience

  22. Gender and resilience: From theory to practice

  23. Climatic perspectives on Sahelian desiccation: 1973-1998

  24. Climate extremes and resilience poverty reduction: Development designed with uncertainty in mind

  25. Climate Information and services in BRACED countries

  26. The Climate Knowledge Brokers manifesto: Informed decision-making for a climate resilient future

  27. Guidelines on frameworks for climate services at the national level

  28. Fragile states: Topic Guide

  29. Climate resilient planning: A toolkit to improve resilience of basic service delivery systems

  30. Climate resilient planning: A toolkit to improve resilience of basic service delivery systems

  31. How can social protection build resilience? Insights from Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda

  32. BRACED PHASE Evaluation paper (forthcoming)

  33. How can local governance systems strengthen community resilience? A social-ecological systems approach

  34. The concept of resilience revisited

  35. Response diversity and resilience in social-ecological systems

  36. Adaptation to environmental change: Contributions of a resilience framework

  37. Democratic decentralization of natural resources: Institutionalizing popular participation

  38. An integrated conceptual framework for long-term social-ecological research

  39. Adaptation to environmental change: Contributions of a resilience framework

  40. Disaster risk governance in volcanic areas: A concept note for Work Package 4 of the Strengthening Resilience in Volcanic Areas (STREVA) programme.

  41. A rough guide to the Green Climate Fund: Enhancing direct access in Mali

  42. Routes to resilience: Insights from BRACED year 1