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Evidence from Mercy Corps’ PRIME Programme in the Somali region of Ethiopia (Lessons learned)

This study Enhancing resilience to severe drought: what works? Evidence from Mercy Corps’ PRIME Program in the Somali region of Ethiopiaposted today on the public group on Capacity4dev Resilience Building in Ethiopia (RESET) by Luis Lechiguero, was published by the Mercy Corps, USA, in January 2017. 

With the onset of the 2015-2016 El Niño drought in Ethiopia, Mercy Corps took advantage of the opportunity to rigorously evaluate interventions implemented under the USAID-funded Pastoralist Areas Resilience Improvement through Market Expansion (PRIME) project. The research focuses on answering whether core PRIME interventions implemented since 2013 have effectively enabled households to quickly recover, maintain, or improve key food security and wellbeing measures in the face of drought – i.e. to be more resilient – when compared with statistically similar households in nearby areas not targeted with PRIME interventions. The study was conducted in May 2016 and focused on four heavily drought affected woredas in northern Somali Region’s Fafan Zone.

The results are encouraging for proponents of a resilience approach: they show that PRIME had a positive impact on important wellbeing outcomes during the worst drought in decades to affect the area. In the months following the drought, households in PRIME communities were able to consume a more diverse diet, were less likely to be impoverished, and more likely to have greater household asset bases than their comparison group counterparts. Positive effects were also observed with respect to livestock ownership and management, with PRIME households having smaller, healthier, and more productive herds. These overall positive food security, economic, and livestock management outcomes are particularly significant given the sheer intensity of drought these areas faced. This study also finds that for certain outcomes, there may be complex, non-linear interactions between project impact and the intensity of the shock experienced. Depending on the intervention and shock type, benefits of project activities may be negligible at low drought intensity and overwhelmed completely at high drought intensity. Understanding this relationship is a critical methodological and programmatic question as impact evaluations of similar projects increase in number. The new evidence from this study has significant implications for future donor and national government investments in programming in the Horn of Africa and similar contexts frequently beset by recurrent drought and other climate-related shocks. The results lend support to the efficacy of multi-year, multi-sectoral approaches aimed at strengthening systems (markets, ecological, livelihood) that enable households and communities to respond and adapt to the major shocks and stressors they face. Therefore, it is recommended that donors, governments and development agencies:

1. Increase multi-year, flexible investments in strengthening resilience in contexts experiencing recurrent crises, which enable programs to pursue long-term development goals and be responsive to meeting emergency needs.

2. Provide greater support to “systems approaches” that can bring transformative changes in the market, ecological, and governance systems that underpin people’s ability to effectively manage shocks and stresses like drought.

3. Dedicate sufficient time and financial resources to effectively evaluate complex resilience-building programs, including to analyzing the impacts of specific components of multi-sectoral programs. Ensure both the methodological innovations and evidence generated influence future resilience investments.

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Sarah Cummings
|
1 February 2017

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