Communities Rise Above Hunger and Poverty in Unlikely Areas of the World

Farming communities in Niger and Burkina Faso learn to build resilience and expand economic opportunities.

It’s a challenging time to work in agriculture. Weather related disasters — such as droughts, floods, and landslides — threaten to slow food security gains. Already-vulnerable communities across the world, from Yemen to Niger, face repeated challenges that threaten their livelihoods and upward mobility. And today, 80 percent of humanitarian needs — which were at unprecedented levels in 2017 — are caused by conflict.

Despite these challenges, agriculture continues to be the path to prosperity for many of the world’s poor, aided by efforts to increase the capacity of communities to manage and mitigate risks and bounce back and move forward, even amid challenging circumstances.

More than ever before, Feed the Future is prioritizing efforts that help vulnerable countries and communities build resilience. Here’s why.

A community garden in Niger that Feed the Future helped the women start in their village. Photo Credit: Mercy Corps

While we continue to make strides against hunger and poverty, the increasing frequency and intensity of shocks and stresses threaten to stall and even reverse that progress. Feed the Future’s work to build resilience helps protect and accelerate that progress, even among some of the most vulnerable communities in which we work.

For example, USAID is making promising progress on strengthening the resilience of chronically vulnerable households and communities in Niger and Burkina Faso. By expanding economic opportunities in agriculture and beyond, among other efforts, USAID is helping communities diversify and protect their livelihoods, which makes them less vulnerable to crises when they occur.

Findings from a recent midterm survey provide an early indication of this progress, with a full impact evaluation planned for 2020.

  • Analysis thus far indicates that households in communities reached by USAID resilience programs in these countries experienced a greater number and greater intensity of shocks in 2017 than in 2015, such as droughts, price spikes, disease and illnesses.
  • However, the analysis also shows that households in communities reached were better able to manage these shocks, maintaining and — in some cases — even increasing their assets, savings and access to markets in comparison to households in other communities. The households reached by USAID also had more diverse livelihoods and relied less on government assistance to cope with shocks.
  • What made the difference? Assets, savings, and access to markets were associated with the ability of households to maintain their food security during shocks, and then recover from them, suggesting that these are important sources of resilience.

These kinds of comprehensive programs — ones that help communities better protect their livelihoods against a range of risks — are key to helping some of the world’s most vulnerable people rise above challenges and continue in their development journeys.

USAID’s Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced (RISE) is a comprehensive set of USAID humanitarian and development programs aimed at expanding economic opportunities in and outside of agriculture, strengthening natural resources, conflict and disaster risk management and improving health and human capital in areas of Niger and Burkina Faso that experience recurrent humanitarian crises. Niger was recently selected as a Feed the Future target country.