Last month, 17 teams working to mitigate resilience-related risks around the world submitted their solution statements for the Global Resilience Challenge (GRC), a grant competition to seek the most promising proposals for building resilience in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, and South and Southeast Asia. While the teams are tackling similar issues—climate change adaptation, livelihoods, natural resource management, and disaster recovery—their approaches are highly distinct.
The winning projects will be announced next month; however, here are a couple snapshots that highlight how challenge teams are addressing similar resilience problems in very different ways.
Agricultural Resilience in the Sahel
It’s estimated that 12 million people throughout this region are affected by food and nutrition insecurity, and over 75% of the Sahel’s total population relies on available and abundant natural resources and rainfall. Given the scope of this problem, it’s no surprise that the two Challenge teams in the Sahel—led by Groundswell International and Mercy Corps—aim to build the resilience of agro-pastoralist communities to chronic food insecurity. What may come as a surprise are the differences between their respective theories of change.
“12 million people throughout this region are affected by food and nutrition insecurity.”
Groundswell recognizes the environmental threats to the Sahel’s agricultural system, showing that scientists predict drastic decreases in agricultural production over the next few decades. To address these concerns, Groundswell aims to promote alternative farming practices by transitioning to an innovative agroecology (AE) farming system, one that is resilient to climate change, regenerates natural resources, and diversifies production.
— Global Resilience (@grp_resilience) July 31, 2015
Mercy Corps’ approach, on the other hand, looks at threats to agro-pastoralist communities through a financial lens, recognizing that many farmers throughout the region lack access to basic services like banks, MFIs, and insurance brokers. They are working to improve resilience by providing farmers with access to Financial Coping Mechanisms that will secure capital, better the management of financial resources, and increase investment in economic opportunities. A quick look at these teams’ partners illustrates the uniqueness of their approaches. While Groundswell has assembled a team of international and national NGOs working on organic agriculture and environmental management, Mercy Corps has merged local and global microfinance institutions with scientific and development-focused research centers. This distinction highlights the value in bringing together multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral partners in order to refine varying approaches to tackle similar issues.
Coastal Resilience in Southeast Asia
Of the Global Resilience Challenge teams based in Southeast Asia, two are working to improve the resilience of coastal populations. One team led by The Nature Conservancy cites that “the proportion of the world’s GDP annually exposed to tropical cyclones increased from 3.6% in the 1970s to 4.3% in the 2000s.” The other led by researchers at Ohio State University’s Mershon Center shows that each year, 30,000 people in coastal Bangladesh are displaced due to climate and ecological impacts. Moreover, their approaches factor in the drastic impacts of climate change, population growth, and coastal development on these heavily crowded communities.
The Nature Conservancy is taking an ecosystems approach to building coastal resilience, focusing on the restoration and conservation of mangrove forests in Southeast Asia. Recognizing that mangroves are instrumental in reducing coastal flooding, preventing social vulnerability to disasters, and mitigating climate impacts through carbon storage, their approach emphasizes the connectedness of human populations to natural ecosystems.
While The Nature Conservancy stresses the importance of mitigating impacts, experts at Ohio State University look toward building resilience through enabling coastal communities to better prepare for shocks and stresses. The team aims to use regional and local data-gathering methods to equip actors, from farmers and community organizers to NGOs and agencies, with flood and cyclone warning systems. They also intend to improve community participation in local water organizations.
Both teams share long-term visions in which coastal populations throughout Southeast Asia can recover from, and bounce back even strong after, shocks and stresses. Still, the diversity of these two projects highlights the complex systems-based approach needed in order to build resilience.
As the inaugural Global Resilience Challenge approaches the finish line, we begin a process of reflection to understand how the substantial research that went into identifying these problem and solution statements will lead to greater efforts at regional resilience building. Even before moving forward with any of the projects, we particularly want to acknowledge the time and effort by all of 17 teams that went into developing these proposals and how much we value the diversity of approach.