The devastating drought in the Horn of Africa is, once again, exposing Somalia’s staggering fragility in the face of climate shocks like flooding and drought.
Decades of conflict, environmental degradation and weak governance means that in most instances communities are vulnerable and unable to withstand ‘shock’ events. Hazards can quickly become disasters that set communities back, or result in irreparable change as people are displaced from their land, losing livestock and livelihoods.
This report, however, examines how humanitarian organisations can work together through community-led programming to strengthen resilience and achieve transformative change in fragile contexts. Through the combination of smart and targeted humanitarian assistance, and longer-term investments in water infrastructure, economic inclusion, health, and social cohesion, the report demonstrates that resilience-building does work.
In this report Between a shock and a hard place: How BRCiS builds resilience in Somalia despite unprecedented challenges the Consortium highlights a range of learnings, insights and case studies, from its resilience approaches across the last four years, and future opportunities.
Though state building and economic development have progressed steadily in the last decade, it will take time for the benefits to reach the most vulnerable, and those suffering from social exclusion. For the foreseeable future, and in a rapidly escalating climatic context, community-led resilience is crucial to strengthen community capacity to withstand the shocks of today and tomorrow.
Key points include:
- Transformation / transformational change: Community-led resilience in context of fragility works – but it requires long-term engagement, trust building, decentralised, adaptive management and flexible funding.
- Early Warning and Early Action: Investments in real-time and granular early warning combined with flexible, crisis response funding are critical in supporting and protecting gains in community resilience, and building community’s risk appetite to invest in their own future.
- Drought resilience: As Somalia is hit by a historic drought, many of the communities which participated in previous phase of BRCiS are surviving – but with humanitarian assistance – primarily due to water infrastructure and other basic services as well as shock management capacities.
- Displacement: Resilience building proved effective in limiting shock-based/distress migration from rural communities to urban centres during the current drought, and provided temporary havens for people that had to leave their villages in hard to reach locations. These impacts on longer term resilience in Somalia cannot be underestimated. In a recent assessment of fifty drought-impacted villages, communities reported hosting on average 70 households (some up to 230), while on average only 20 had left (April 2022).
- Water management: Of 127 pieces of water infrastructure installed through BRCiS, 84% remained operational after three failed rainy seasons. Sustainable management of water as a natural and economic resource is at the core of concerns for Somalia’s most vulnerable, including, health, nutrition, gender, purchasing power, livelihoods and displacement. Tackling this issue holistically is the centrepiece of resilience building, particularly in the face of a changing climate.
- Social cohesion and women’s empowerment: Before BRCiS 2, nearly one-quarter of community members said they had no one to turn to for help, and were unwilling to help others. After two years, these figures had reduced by half. By working alongside communities on their resilience journeys, and investing in community structures and networks, social capital was improved, specifically so for women – whose voice and social capital in the community was boosted, reaching the same level as men. These gains are crucial for resilience improvements in Somalia.
The Building Resilient Communities in Somalia (BRCiS) Consortium of nine national and international NGOs supports communities in developing resilience to shocks. Since the Consortium’s creation in 2013 – primarily with support from UKaid, as well as the EU, the Federal Government of Somalia, the World Bank and USAID – it has implemented more than US$242 million of activities, balancing early response to short-term humanitarian needs with the longer-term aim of building community and household resilience against the many shocks Somalia has faced: conflict, flooding, drought, Covid-19, desert locusts and others.