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Humanitarian Aid on the move #11, special issue: Resilience

Increase the resilience of livelihoods to threats and crises that impact agriculture, nutrition, food security and food safety
Presentation by Patrick Jacqueson

For FAO, resilience is the ability to prevent disasters and crises or to anticipate, absorb, accommodate or recover from those that impact nutrition, agriculture, food security and safety and specific related public health risks in a timely, efficient and sustainable manner. This includes protecting, restoring and improving livelihoods systems in the face of threats that impact agriculture, nutrition, food security and food safety and related public health.

In terms of exposure to a threat, resilience and vulnerability are two sides of the same coin. Resilience reflects strengths and capacities to manage crises; vulnerability is the degree of susceptibility to shocks. The resilience of communities is particularly important when institutions are challenged, for example, in protracted crises, violent conflicts and post-crisis transitions.

FAO’s strategic objective focuses on specific hazards, risks and vulnerabilities related to agriculture and food and nutrition security:

  • Natural disasters (extreme weather events, geo-hazards such as earthquakes, landslides, etc.)
  • Food chain emergencies/transboundary threats
  • Socio-economic crises
  • Violent conflicts
  • Protracted crises

Resilient livelihoods systems withstand threats or adapt to new pathways in times of crisis. This resilience is the first – and sometimes only- line of defence for vulnerable smallholders when threats become crises. Those who have limited capacity to buffer crisis impact risk life-long, inter-generational consequences when the marginally food secure slip into malnutrition and the impoverished fall into destitution.

Capacities to absorb and manage shocks are depleted by the frequency and magnitude of crises and their cumulative effects. Recurrent, multi-faceted crises erode livelihoods and increase people’s vulnerability. This is compounded by inadequate institutional environments that otherwise should protect, preserve and promote the resilience of livelihoods.

Public and private systems that provide support and protect livelihoods and rights are often inadequate, especially in low income, disaster-prone and protracted crisis countries. The poor in rural and urban areas are disproportionately affected, with poverty serving as both a driver and a consequence of inadequate livelihoods. Malnutrition is both an impact of crises and of the related coping strategies households are compelled to adopt as well as a driving factor threatening the resilience of livelihoods. The inability of families, communities and institutions to anticipate, absorb, accommodate or recover from crises and disasters in a timely, efficient and sustainable manner is at the crux of FAO’s strategic objective. This weakness in resilience triggers a downward spiral – household livelihoods and national development gains that have taken years to build are compromised or at times shattered.

FAO’s resilience agenda encompasses strategic partnerships and direct action in four key, mutually-reinforcing areas for food and agriculture systems (including crops, livestock, fisheries and aquaculture, forests and other natural resources) at local, national, regional and global levels. Countries and regions have legal, policy, institutional and regulatory frameworks for disaster risk reduction and crisis management for food and agriculture systems. Countries and regions also deliver regular information and trigger timely actions against potential known and emerging threats to agriculture, food and nutrition security. Finally, vulnerable communities apply prevention and impact mitigation measure that reduce risks for food and agriculture systems.

This framework is more development than humanitarian oriented, focusing on the following areas:

  • Policy (at local, international and institutional levels, creating an enabling environment to ensure that resilience to shocks is considered).
  • Early warning and information management (ensuring that we are monitoring threats properly).
  • Being ready, anticipating the shocks.
  • Protecting and building livelihoods.

It therefore is based on three development pillars, and one humanitarian pillar.


Thematic pillars