Somalia’s crisis cycle
More than 20 years of civil war and conflict in Somalia – attributable to clan dynamics, resource distribution, the influence of the Islamist movement al-Shabaab and climatic conditions – have created a situation of recurring emergency and insecurity. Public sector systems that should provide support and protection to the population are almost inexistent due to the lack of a formal unified state and effective governance structures. In this volatile situation natural and man-made disasters have an immediate negative impact: the 2010-2012 famine claimed the lives of 258,000 Somalis, over half of whom were children under the age of five. This was a painful demonstration that resilience – the ability to anticipate, absorb and recover from external pressures and shocks – is essential for the survival of households and communities in Somalia.
There are no “quick-fix solutions“ for increasing resilience. These require longer term approaches to tackle the root causes of vulnerability. How does SDC support resilience in such a difficult and insecure context?
Approaches to resilience in a highly fragile context
The FAO programme reflects both this shift from short- to longterm involvement as well as the challenge of implementing the resilience programme across large parts of Somalia: the south-central region where Al-Shabaab remains partly in control, the politically volatile Puntland in the north east, and Somaliland, which has declared itself independent, in the north west. SDC has identified this project as a key element of its focus on food security in its new strategy for the Horn of Africa.
The project’s aim is to create multiple sources of income and livelihood options for around 1 million people among the urban poor, small-scale farmers, fishers and herders. One example is the building of needed skills in agricultural services such as water pump maintenance or setting up shops selling agricultural supplies.
The innovation lies in the partnerships involved, the link between humanitarian assistance and development cooperation as well as in the monitoring strategy and instruments.
UN agencies team up
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Food Program (WFP) join FAO in this resilience-based approach and have reshaped their activities to provide complementary support. Each agency collaborates in the “resilience package” with its own specialized activity: UNICEF supports basic services such as access to water, and WFP ensures minimal reliable social protection of the poorest through cash or food allocation in times of crisis. When needed, FAO continues to provide humanitarian assistance with a view to offering longterm support, e.g. by restoring animal health centres. This type of intervention paves the way for longer term projects.
Access and security
FAO has built an extensive network of local partners, at least 55 for all FAO projects, including government agencies, professional associations, local NGOs and the private sector. What sounds like a management nightmare in fact reduces potential risks and clears hurdles to reach the people in need. The partners’ work is welcomed even by populations that often reject outsiders. The projects are closely monitored: where problems such as misappropriation of resources or poor results occur, immediate corrective action can be taken. The monitoring is carried out with the use of innovative instruments like biometrics (a system for registering, identifying and paying beneficiaries through thumbprint recognition), remote sensing (comparison of satellite images to establish the progress of infrastructure rehabilitation), call centres or announcements on local radio stations.
No «zero risk»
Despite all the measures being taken, the project remains risky. With its decision to increase its commitment in fragile and conflict-affected states and regions and by joining the international efforts on aid effectiveness in fragile contexts, Switzerland recognizes that not becoming involved in such contexts can be more harmful. In fragile contexts like Somalia, SDC is testing new approaches and programmes like the FAO’s resilience programme. It may not always be possible to reach all goals; however even partially achieving some goals in such a volatile context benefits people living in dire need.