Seven ways to build resilient local economies in fragile contexts

Approaches developed in Mali, Senegal, Kenya and Tanzania offer insights for building resilience in areas facing risks of climate change, disasters and conflict.

Clare Shakya's picture
Insight by 
Clare Shakya
Clare Shakya is director of IIED's Climate Change research group
24 August 2016
Learning route participants interact with local communities in Isiolo, Kenya (Photo: Timothy Mwaura/CGIAR)

Learning route participants interact with local communities in Isiolo, Kenya (Photo: Timothy Mwaura/CGIAR)

IIED has been working with a consortium of partners – led by Kenya's National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), the President's Office Regional Administration and Local Government (PO-RALG) in Tanzania, and the Near East Foundation (NEF) in Mali and Senegal – to build local institutions that are resilient to a range of risks from drought to conflicts between local groups.

Communities agree how they will work together and the consortium supports local governments to understand and endorse these agreements, and invest government resources and climate funds for additional resilience work.

Emerging insights from the field

  1. Authorise inclusive agile local institutions to deliver long-term resilience: By enabling responsive decision making, local institutions can layer and sequence interventions (development, climate and humanitarian) to suit their context and tackle the underlying drivers of fragility.

    In homogenous communities, working with customary institutions – such as the grazing committees of the Boran people in Kenya – brings legitimacy to the process. More heterogeneous societies require hybrid institutions; in Mali and Senegal agreements are negotiated between pastoralist and settled communities, and endorsed by local government.
  2. Invest in local capabilities – time consuming but offering wider and more sustainable benefits: This enables communities to agree what will create resilience, drawing on their knowledge of resources and interventions, and successful policies.

    In Kenya's Isiolo County, GIS-enabled participatory resource mapping led to solutions – such as agreeing which water sources and grazing land should be used during the dry season and those to be kept in reserve for periods of drought – that were recognised in country policies. Governments recognising the role of local institutions in this way gives these institutions legitimacy, and with that the authority to make changes that work for them.

    It is vital to know who is included and excluded, who wins and who loses. So gender, social inclusion and conflict analysis is critical, as is looking for unintended consequences (good and bad), tracking the process and continually adjusting approaches.
  3. Build a shared vision of long-term resilience: Understand what is needed to tackle slow-onset events (such as persistent drought or long-term decline in rainfall) and fast-onset events (such as intense rainfall), looking at incentives and social policy, not just infrastructure.

    Fast returns would reduce immediate vulnerability, but longer-term investments, such as education in Mali, are important for offering young people a sense of hope and opportunity. (However this is difficult in radical Islamic schools, the only ones in many locations.) 

    In Kenya, the work of the Hunger Safety Net Programme supports the work under the county's climate funds. The former provides cash transfers to reduce the vulnerability of the poorest, the latter reduces overall exposure to drought risk through improved management of land and water. The layering of these interventions were by chance, but would benefit from testing given their potential.
  4. Create space for collective action and shared use of resources: This includes an explicit and transparent process to better govern the landscape as a whole for resilience.

    Bringing together the different stakeholders – pastoralists, farmers, businesses – to map resources and agree rules for use, tackles underlying drivers of conflict. And building reciprocal agreements of support between communities further increases resilience. The process builds trust between communities and with local government.
  5. Provide flexible finance enabling local institutions to invest in their own long-term vision for resilience: In all four countries, this is in the form of district climate funds and enables local governments to endorse local agreements and provide resources for their enforcement.

    Trust built between government and the community institutions then pays additional dividends, such as grazing wardens reporting movements of criminal gangs to police in Kenya.
  6. Maximise opportunities through existing resources, not just protecting against risk: Local economies are interlinked, so improving livestock productivity, for example, increases opportunities for other businesses. Expanding credit access in Mali using Islamic banking codes could enable households to rebuild livelihoods (including helping to prevent distress selling of children to jihadists).  

    Improving climate information services has enabled local governments to climate-proof their land and water infrastructure investments, and helped communities increase livelihood resilience.
  7. Transparent and  accountable  public funds and the services provided: By knowing what to expect from the climate funds and from government and donor funded services, communities can hold service providers to account, stakeholders can monitor who receives support and ensure equity between groups, and donors can get feedback on what really works.

Trust takes time

GIS-enabled participatory mapping is the foundation for developing local, transparent agreements on resource use both within and between communities, and provides a robust framework for local governments to recognise emerging agreements. And as noted above, this can lead to livestock and water policy change and mobilise line agency investment.

In Isiolo, where these local institutions have been functioning effectively for a while – protecting dry season grazing and water sources, for example – communities report less need for humanitarian interventions and fewer cases of inter-community conflict. 

Lessons for climate finance

Support mechanisms that explicitly work with local institutions that can build community agreements for land and water management

Provide untied local finance to enable communities to prioritise behind their vision for long-term resilience
Design programmes to empower local government to shape and layer the development interventions in response to the local context and so maximising resilience

In Mali, conflict between pastoralists and settled farmers is being tackled after farmers settled on traditional pastoralist land (in part, due to climate shocks). But building trust takes time and needs explicit and transparent dialogue, or elites can undermine agreements to enhance their own access to resources.

It is an approach still being tested. But these four governments are showing strong interest and starting to accredit local government ministries with the Green Climate Fund, so they can access climate finance to scale up these approaches. And IIED is currently exploring scope to test these approaches in Lebanon.

Clare Shakya ([email protected]) is director of IIED's Climate Change research group. This blog was originally posted on the G7 knowledge platform.

The Adaptation Consortium is a partnership of six organisations, including IIED, and is funded by DFID Kenya's StARK+ programme; Tanzania-based PO-RALG is funded by DFID Tanzania's AIM4Resilience programme; the Near East Foundation's work in Senegal and Mali is funded by DFID's BRACED programme. This blog is a reflection following a recent dialogue event hosted by International Alert and the Overseas Development Institute in conjunction with the UK government's Department for International Development.