Integration and Community Leadership Needs More Than Just Funding Changes

Screen Shot 2018-02-07 at 5.57.12 PMThe nature of our world is multi-nodal and, with technology, today’s means of accountability, collaboration, communication and fulfillment of responsibilities are evolving to reflect integration. International development needs to catch up – quickly. Locus, Pact, Church World Service, and The Hunger Project – all members of the international Movement for Community-led Development – addressed this in a comprehensive discussion at the United Nations during the 56th Commission on Social Development.

In looking at respective research and successes from integration, panelists and attendees identified a shared belief that integrated, community-led development is the effective and most dignified approach needed to achieve sustainable development for all. What ensued in discussion around means toward implementation was not typical banter about shifting funding streams and enabling conducive policy environments. Yes, of course that came up. But, robust discourse focused mostly on how development professionals should carry out their work by helping community members live authentically as thee leaders in our collaborative work toward the SDGs.

“When people tell me they will build capacity of communities, I say, ‘Who told you the community doesn’t have capacity?'” MacBain Mkandawire, Executive Director, Youth Net and Counseling, revealed the most obvious “secret” to development professionals: communities already have the capacity [and thirst] to incur their sustainable development. Our work should aim to compliment work already happening at the local level through collaboration with community leaders, not competition or programmatic control over them.

“People say, let us give voice to the voiceless. Well, they are not voiceless. We just haven’t talked to them.” Oyebisi Ohuseyi, Executive Director of Nigeria’s Network for NGOs, revealed the second “secret”: community members already behold opinions, grievances, solutions and priorities. In order to foster true ownership and agency, community partners should be the ones prioritizing which development issues matter most to them. And inarguably, communities have the deepest knowledge of their context and can offer the best insights on [most appropriate] ways forward.

Mkandawire added “Before we go to donors, we should be asking ourselves what do we need to change [in our work as development professionals]?” He was acknowledging that there are multiple layers of power and privilege toward realizing community-led development.

Therefore, the development community and its many stakeholders are called to move from the less helpful “outside expert-driven” tendencies and donor pandering toward budgeting and programs with a bedrock of fostering community agency and expertise. Ultimately, this means we need a new kind of capacity development professional: one able to convene, befriend, facilitate, energize, accompany, co-learn, and co-create with community members “with [sincere] reverence and respect.”

The discussion also brought attention to unrealistic time constraints and reporting windows that strap capacity, ultimately hindering sustainable change. Even incremental progress is valuable and worthwhile, as was described by a woman from and working in Nepal. She detailed an extensive self-managed cooperative thriving with over 1,000 members—but mostly after 18 years of incremental progress.

In reflecting on the discussion, the panel moderator, Ellie Price, Coordinator of Locus Coalition, noted “It is easy to get bogged down in the technicalities of our work, or the limitations imposed by global power structures.” This makes it near impossible to represent and act on views or experiences other than your own.

The event’s discussion shed action-oriented light. Members of the Movement for Community-led Development are dedicated to mobilizing and collaborating with local community leaders. Bringing government ownership to community-led processes is the Movement’s current priority to achieve sustainable development.

Rattling top-down power structures among stakeholders and influencing strongly devolved political systems will not only garner community leadership, but also community ownership and due dignity as people – rightfully so – steer their own development process.

Bracing for Impact: Proposed Budget Cuts to USAID and the State Department

By: @alovelyimperfection

President Donald Trump released his first formal proposed budget to Congress on 16 March 2017. As promised, the “America First” budget is proposing $54 billion in cuts throughout different federal government agencies and programs to offset an increase to the defense budget. Here is a snapshot of some departments that will be experiencing budget cuts: President Donald Trump’s Proposed Budget Cuts.

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Department Cuts. n.d. CNN Politics. CNN. Web. 17 Mar. 2017.

President Trump wants to reduce foreign aid, and has reflected this by proposing a 31.4% cut to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a 28.7% cut to the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). If Congress approves this budget, it would cut funding for international development programs and the World Bank. It would also remove funding from programs aimed at combating climate change, therefore, lowering U.S. support to the United Nations’ climate change programs.

Direct impact on Movement for Community-led Development (CLD):

Independent agencies, such as the U.S. African Development Foundation, U.S. Trade and Development Agency, Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the United States Institute of Peace have been suggested for elimination. These agencies provide economic support, childhood development, education and food security, amongst other development services to communities throughout Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Many CLD members’ programs rely on the financial support of USAID, the State Department and numerous independent agencies to support their missions.

It is imperative that Congress does not allow this blueprint to pass because of the negative repercussions it will have on U.S. foreign policy priorities and international development goals.

Additionally, CLD begins and ends with the empowerment of women for gender parity. These budget cuts – receiving strong criticism from both Republicans and Democrats – would jeopardize years of progression that development programs have achieved, particularly in the areas of reproductive and sexual health and gender equality.

The ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) rely heavily on investments and resources from the United States. The influence of U.S. foreign policy garners crucial support from communities and other donor countries around the world.

The Trump Administration’s budget proposal focuses on allocating the majority of federal funds towards defense spending. The international development community must stress to Congress that USAID and the State Department are critical implementers in protecting the United States from foreign attacks or additional immigration pressure.

Proposed Budget Cuts: Community-led Development at Risk

President Donald Trump released his first formal proposed budget to Congress on 16 March 2017. As promised, the “America First” budget is proposing $54 billion in cuts throughout different federal government agencies and programs to offset the increase to the defense budget. Here is a snapshot of some departments that will be experiencing budget cuts:

Picture Source: CNN Politics President Donald Trump’s Proposed Budget Cuts

President Trump wants to reduce foreign aid, and has reflected this by proposing a 31.4% cut to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a 28.7% cut to the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). If Congress approves this budget, it would cut funding for international development programs and the World Bank. It would also remove funding from programs aimed at combating climate change, therefore, culminating U.S. support to the United Nations’ climate change programs.

These budget proposals will have a direct impact on the movement for Community-led Development (CLD). Independent agencies, such as the U.S. African Development Foundation, U.S. Trade and Development Agency, Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the United States Institute of Peace have been suggested for elimination. These agencies provide economic support, childhood development, education and food security, amongst other development services to communities throughout Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The CDL programs rely on the financial support of USAID, the State Department and numerous independent agencies to support their missions. It is imperative that Congress does not allow this blueprint to pass because of the negative repercussions it will have on U.S. foreign policy priorities and international development goals, which have been the frontrunner for women’s rights.

Community-led development begins and ends with the empowerment of women. This budget proposal would jeopardize years of progression that development programs have been able to achieve, particularly in the areas of reproductive and sexual health and gender equality. The ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) rely upon investments and resources from the United States, as well as other donor countries. The influence the U.S. has over foreign policy cannot be overlooked. Their funding is crucial in garnering support from communities around the world to see the SDGs come to fruition. The proposed budget has received strong criticism from both Republicans and Democrats.

The Trump administration’s budget proposal focuses on allocating majority of the federal dollars towards the defense budget. It is important that the International Development community stress to Congress that the USAID and the State Department are important entities to protect the United States from foreign attacks against our great nation. It is imperative that both the United States and the rural international communities are backed by the USAID and State Department.

Feed the Future – How Food Security Impacts Gender Inequality

September 7, 2016- Gayle Smith, USAID Administrator announced a new report in Nairobi, Kenya today that extends the United States Government’s previous 2009 initiative on the promise of eradication of global hunger and poverty.  The new report outlines the strategy to end global hunger for the next 15 years.  “Bolstered by the strong bipartisan passage of the Global Food Security Act by the U.S. Congress, we cast our vision for how the world can come together to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals’ targets on poverty, hunger and malnutrition, and call upon the global development community to mobilize the resources and partnerships required for success.”  The goals will center on new agricultural technology to improve productivity and to ensure food safety.  The new strategy is focused on income increase, resilience, and improved nutrition amongst others.

“Putting this vision into practice, Administrator Smith signed a memorandum of understanding with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to deepen USAID’s ongoing coordination with the organization.”  The  new agreement between the US Government and AGRA will increase cooperation in various local sectors on policy, and the new agricultural system that would support the global community to achieve  food security in Africa.  ” I’m thrilled to see the United States recommit their support and call on the global community to unite around a shared vision for achieving food security in the years ahead, and AGRA is eager to continue working with Feed the Future to make the vision a reality,” said Agnes Kalibata, President of AGRA”

Clearly Obama’s 2010 Feed the Future initiative has created not just hope but the realization of a very achievable dream with tangible results.  Today more than six years since its inception we see new faces in the traditionally held male dominated farming sectors.  Women have been called the traditional homecare providers, wives, mothers and now today’s bread winners and tomorrow’s leaders in many parts of Africa.

The most recent Feed the Future Progress report shows a rapid decline of poverty and child stunting in many of the Focus countries since 2010.  The value of empowering women by promoting self-reliance is enormous.  For once an initiative is actually producing live results and not just an empty promise.

The data below represents the concentration of efforts that Feed the Future focuses on geographically.  These numbers have been rounded to show growth between 2010-2015.

Ethiopia– Poverty Down 12%- 2013-2015

Malawi– CHILDHOOD STUNTING Down 14% – 2010-2015 – POVERTY 18% – 2010-2015

Cambodia– POVERTY Down 26%- 2009-2015 – CHILDHOOD STUNTING 23%- 2011-2014

Honduras-CHILDHOOD STUNTING Down 32% – 2012-2015

Liberia– Poverty Down 19%- 2012-2015

Bangladesh-Child Stunting Down 12%- 2011-2014

Rwanda – Child Stunting Down 14%- 2010-2015

Ghana– CHILDHOOD STUNTING Down 17% –  POVERTY 12% – 2012-2015

Our focus at the Hunger Project has been on women first through empowerment by a systematic community-led approach.  This method then transitions into creation of epicenters that leads to the eventual entrepreneurship for both men and women but mostly women.  The new farming techniques has balanced the large gap in gender inequality because women are more open to learning and applying new techniques.

According to the Feed the Future latest information about status of women in agriculture, “Women make up a significant proportion of the agricultural labor force in developing countries — up to 50 percent in sub-Saharan Africa. Women farmers are less productive than men due to less access to land, farming technologies, fertilizer, credit and training. If women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase farm yields by 20-30 percent. This increase in agricultural output could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by up to 150 million.”

Women are the future mothers of the world and that alone is enough to feed them first, so that they can feed the rest.  To accomplish this seemingly daunting but doable task a woman must become independent and self-reliant.  First, she must have the ability to make an informed educated decision and that means food security and access to healthy nutritious food that results in a healthy pregnancy.  Second, when she is strong she will instill that same spirit into her child.  Third, she will be able to operate her own business and not be reliant on male support.

The increased US Government focus in ending hunger, is mobilizing and uniting community-led efforts in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  One hopes that this unity filters into other areas that is in sore need of attention, but one step at a time.  Gender inequality, and child stunting  is lessening due to the increase in the food supply.  Women are empowered by trading their own farm grown products, and the ability to sustain the family.  The effect: less child marriages, less monetary dependency that allows more girls to stay in schools.  Self-empowerment means more confidence.  So far, the gender inequality gap decrease is one of the best example of a united effort that Feed the Future initiative has produced through food security.

USAID will unveil its strategy for the next phase to the Congress by early October, 2016.

For more information please visit the USAID  and Feed the Future websites.

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Visit for updates and to learn more about the Research Strategy

Together for 2030 – A Global Partnership Committed to Betterment of Humanity

At the Together for The 2030 Agenda–The Partnerships Playbook, seeks to share values in action with member countries, one that is humanity-based. The Partnership comes together in a renewed and focused manner through what unites us rather divides us. According to the 2030 Agenda “We are bound by our commitment to work together to support all people to achieve their full potential.  Our partnerships are based on the principles of national ownership, of mutual trust, of transparency and of accountability.” Achieving sustainability of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be accomplished through enablement of people on every level.  The creation of prosperous and self-reliant communities can in part be realized by maximizing and using all the available local resources.

There are 10 values set out for this new global partnership to achieve via a sustainable and workable method by 2030.  The Together 2030  values are:

  • Country-Led Partnerships to Achieve Sustainability;
  • Right-Based Charter of the United Nations;
  • Inclusive Private, Civil, Academia, UN, and Government Partnership;
  • Transparency of Intentions;
  • Predictability and Mutual Accountability;
  • Evidenced-Based;
  • Conscientious Communication;
  • Action in Ethical Manner and with Integrity;
  • Mutual Respectability; and
  • Doing No Harm.

Adherence to these rule-based values and the discipline to monitor its ongoing progress by the partner countries, will be its biggest challenge.  “Doing no harm” and “action in ethical manner and with integrity” is huge.  At present, most of the ongoing world projects that seek to implement a responsible, ethical, and right-based behavior have failed to achieve its purpose. The members of Together 2030 face a daunting task when it comes to these values, but specifically the two listed above will be the ones that will test this Partnership’s commitment the most.

The 2030 partners have created an idealistic plan, but hopefully a realistic one, due to the harsh reality of a divided world that only unites during conventions and summits.  What makes these set of values any different than the existing ones under the United Nations (UN) today?  Same principles, and similar purpose, just written differently, or is there a new motivation gaining momentum around the world, centered on people’s empowerment and community-led movement?  The Partnership requires a serious dedication to these values, and a unified front in its actions and implementation.

The Hunger Project has spearheaded global advocacy that endeavors to mobilize communities in various developing countries to use its own local resources first.  It seeks to train, especially the youth, and individuals to act as animators that provide a workable roadmap to achieving people empowerment.

The current SDGs to end hunger by year 2030, and now the Together for 2030 Partnership are finally putting people first.  We realize that our resources are limited, be it money, manpower, education, or health.  Our governments, state and local level municipalities are often short on funding for the non-emergency community development programs.  Many nonprofits must choose and prioritize projects based on fund procurement.  It is for that reason that the global advocacy for community-led development is so appealing because it delivers evidence of the actual results that were achieved.

The Partnership Playbook‘s progress reports will hopefully distinguish between the merits of those values that will be realized by 2030 and those that needs a rethink or a shift in methodology.  Most importantly, the lessons learned within the various countries will be of enormous help going forward.  It can be a useful guideline for creating similar successful projects that are feasible.

To learn more information,please visit:

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West Africa and Decentralization

What is decentralization?  “The dispersion or distribution of functions and powers; specifically :  the delegation of power from a central authority to regional and local authorities.”

How does it happen in West Africa? Who gets the money and why?  Decentralization generally refers to the transfer of certain responsibilities away from the central level to the local level governance.  The top-down approach inherited from the francophone era is slowly being replaced with the bottom-up community driven method.  The process of decentralization varies greatly region by region.  The strength and weaknesses of a country’s political, environmental, social, economical, and fiscal government determines the smoothness of this transition.  “… effective decentralization, whether it is to administrative or political local actors, is about creating a realm of local autonomy defined by inclusive local processes and local authorities empowered with decisions and resources that are meaningful to local people.”

Decentralization and empowerment of local government, overcoming fiscal challenges, poverty, gender inequality and the difference in social values slows progress toward deconstruction and decentralization.  There are 16 countries that form West Africa that were  part of the original colonization under the Great Britain and France. They are Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Burkina Faso, Benin, the Island of Cape Verde, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.

West Africa’s local government will not easily receive the fund that it needs because like in many other developing countries,eradicating poverty and hunger is not the first priority. Usually, politics wins first, even if everyone knows the battle to stay alive starts with feeding the hungry.

The French speaking region of West Africa has gone through several attempts at decentralization–“after both World Wars, shortly after independence.”  Currently, Guinea, Burkina-Faso and Togo are experiencing the growing pains of decentralization and overcoming its many challenges. “Deconcentration can be a tool to establish central power in outlying areas.  In Francophone West Africa, Mbassi (1995:23-4) pointed out that due to the weakness of the state, governments recommended that decentralizations include deconcentration of services—in order to maintain a central presence in the local arena.”

Language, religion, and diversity of social values plays an important role both in unifying resources as well as creating strife and instability.  The process of decentralization has not been easy nor complete.  Perhaps lack of transparency is an important barrier as is the case in many other regions.  But, so is the climate and possibility of the change in currency that will create more challenges, and hopefully positive ones for the region.

In addition, six of Western African countries (Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, and Cabo Verde) have formed the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) to create a new currency to compete with the French Franc. “Mr Kalilou Traore, ECOWAS Commissioner for Industry and Private Sector Promotion, has said that the commission is committed to implementing a single currency in West Africa by 2020.”  Mr. Traore believes that the “… frameworks for formulating regional automotive, pharmaceutical and agriculture industry programmes are part of processes toward achieving success of the common currency.”

In that last two decades, Africa and most other developing countries have been moving toward a more local governance.  However, funding the local government is the main challenge.  Various forms of tax collection have shown that this collection is not a long-term solution, and nor the most reliable.  There are many issues with the proper method of tax collection, especially with the property tax.  “Three major problems are usually emphasized concerning property tax in developing countries—valuation, assessment, and collection (Proud’homme 1989).  All three problems are compounded by the fact that land titles and cadastres are poorly developed in most of these societies. The idea that land is government or communally owned has only aggravated the problem.”

The collection of property tax is of the most important source of funding for the local government.  “The development of this tax contributes to the program of poverty alleviation in three critical ways.  First, it will make possible the diversion of more central government grants to the development of rural areas away from urban areas where the property tax will be primarily instituted (as is currently the case in South Africa). Second, the successful introduction of the tax will lead to greater progressivity of the tax systems in these countries, thus relieving the poor of the unfair heavy burden they bear presently of financing the development of their countries. Third, it will help transform much ‘dead’ capital—urban land—into ‘ living’ capital, to use Hernando de Soto’s (2002) terminology. These issues should constitute the cutting edge of an urban research agenda in West Africa in the coming years.”

The local committees govern many areas of education, trade regulation, health, people resources, land and property management, legal, policy and much more.  The local jails for petty crimes are also part of this local authority.  “As for the budget, local councils get their resources from a range of local taxes, fees for municipal services, dues for the exploitation of national patrimony, and, after independence, from state grants.”

There seems to be no long term permanent solution to the present road map to the West Africa decentralization process.   The transfer of power from central to local level requires knowledge of availability of not just money, but also the manpower resources.  Who and what sector of the local government can handle the transfer of responsibility?  And, will there be a long term source of fund to accomplish its goals?  The success of central transition to local governance will need both.

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African Fiscal Decentralization: A Means to Local Governance

A common problem of local community-led development efforts is that local communities sometimes lack the proper resources to accomplish their goals. Additionally, when central governments control the budgets of local governments, money disbursement can become unfair and untimely. This is where we begin to question the best methods of funding local community efforts, and this is where we turn to fiscal decentralization as a step in the direction of local governance.

Though a complicated task, the idea of decentralization is straightforward: it is the process of moving money from the central government into the hands of those in local government. The World Bank defines several different forms of fiscal decentralization, including local governments self-financing through taxes and other forms of revenue expansion as well as municipal borrowing between the central and local governments. Regardless of a country’s level of decentralization, central or local government may be better equipped to handle certain responsibilities. For example, the military should remain centralized because of its size and cost to the government, but education can generally be managed better in the hands of the local government.

The biggest questions of fiscal decentralization arise from where countries are in the midst of decentralizing. What approaches are countries taking to implement decentralization ? Why is there so little data on how much money actually goes to the local governments?

In 2014, the African Union adopted the “African Charter on the Values of Decentralization, Local Governance, and Local Development”, outlining what decentralized governments in Africa should look like. Concerning governance, the charter specifies several guidelines:

  • Local governments should have the autonomy to create their own laws and regulations, as well as the authority to enforce them
  • Transparency and cooperation must exist between the central and local governments
  • The money, whether disbursed from the central government or raised by the local government, must be used most efficiently for the people
  • Equal participation should be promoted for women, youth, disabled, and any marginalized groups in decision making.

The charter is thorough and relevant to many different decentralization models, but fails to set a standard of what percentage of central government budgets should be transferred to local governments. In other words, it provides a framework but does not deliver methods of application. Not only is there a lack of common methodology between African Union members, but we also lack accurate data that represents the percentage of central government spending going towards decentralization.

Though the charter promotes transparency between levels of government and the annual collection of decentralization data, we tend to only find helpful, but vague, data from international organizations rather than from the member nations themselves.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) released a working paper on “Measuring Fiscal Decentralization”in 2011 summarizing trends and measurement indicators of decentralization including revenue, fiscal burden, and expenditure. From the paper we learn that decentralization trends positively with “country size, income per capita, ethnic fractionalization, and level of democracy”, making countries like Sweden, Canada, and the United States some of the most decentralized at around 30% of central dollars going directly to local governments. We are able to see trends across time and find that once a country has committed to and implemented decentralization policy, the percentage of the budget that goes to the local governments stay fairly stable over time.

Below are examples of countries both of high and low decentralization status that have remained constant over time. The percentages listed represent the amount of the total budget of each country that was transferred to local government in 1995 and 2008.

1995 2008









Israel 11% *data  from year 2000


Most data sources we have on this issue tend to only report on the last 20 years. The measurements of decentralization are not standardized and not regularly collected by institutions like the African Union. The main barrier of measuring decentralization comes from using a difficult metric; in general, we use the ratio of spending at the local level compared to the spending at the central level to measure a country’s decentralization status. Tracking and reporting local level spending can be difficult in certain areas, which makes this metric inconvenient.

“A decentralization process with local governments relying on their own resources should be more efficient than a decentralization based on transfers”

Though the data is scarce on how much money local governments receive from their central governments, we can extrapolate the data we do have to similar areas to get a sense of where the world is with decentralization. We know that the developing world is still quite highly centralized and has a lot of work to do. Before being able to really tackle fiscal decentralization, governments must be have a sound revenue system, a measurement plan in place, and transparency between the local and central government decision makers. The more we see local people having an influence over their own budgets, the more we will see communities leading their own development.


View the African Union’s 2014 charter on decentralization here

View the IMF’s working paper here.  

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The White House Summit on Global Development: Celebration, Legacy, and Looking Forward

The Obama administration took July 20th to celebrate almost eight years of global development policies, strategies, and initiatives. The summit hosted six panels around youth, partnerships, governance, food security, energy, and global health. Each panel discussed successes and lessons learned, many of which hold the essence of the principles of community-led development. Practices like subnational government focus, empowerment of youth and women, and forging partnerships across sectors were well celebrated topics and panelists urged these trends to continue.

rajaniRakesh Rajani, the Director for Global Partnerships at the Ford Foundation, participated in the ‘Transparency, Accountability, and Open Government’ panel and spoke generously about strategic opportunities to work with subnational governments. In response to a question from moderator Ambassador Samantha Power about ways the United States government should use the next generation of Open Government Partnership action plans, Mr. Rajani emphasized the point that “people don’t live in national governments, they live in subnational governments: villages, communities, cities,” and urged that the next big opportunity for Open Government Partnership is to focus on the subnational level. This sentiment was echoed in a later panel on partnership, Partnering to Finance the Sustainable Development Goals, by moderator Marisa Lago who vocalized the importance of working with “municipalities, [and] states that have an interest and have their own domestic resources”. Experts from multiple panels spoke to the advantages of engaging local and regional governments: leverage local investment and utilize local resources to achieve broader goals. Community-led development is just that, development from within communities. A shift in focus from sovereign governments to municipalities is a step in that direction.

The Hunger Project recognizes the importance of engaging women in leadership roles as well as unleashing their economic potential. The panel on food security, ‘Feed the Future: Partnerships for a Food-Secure 2030’ mentioned often the importance of including women in the progress seen in food security and referenced the successes already witnessed with the improvements in women’s status and access to markets. The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has tracked, monitored, and published data on the empowerment of women in agriculture. Shenggen Fan, Director General at IFPRI, mentioned that the Feed the Future uses IFPRI’s Women Empowerment in Agriculture Index to track progress in women’s empowerment in nineteen countries. During the panel on global health, ‘Transforming Global Health through Evidence and Partnerships’, Michelle Nunn, CEO of CARE, said that one of the most important things the development community needs are “comprehensive change and systemic solutions,” like “empowering women and looking at [development] through a gender lens.” In addition to women’s empowerment, unleashing the power of youth is equally as important. The panel ‘Engaging Generation Now’ highlighted the importance of programs that engage youth and give them access and exposure to leadership positions. An investment in women and youth is one of the smartest and most strategic methods that is needed to ensure the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Another common theme from the summit was to work with new partners across sectors and forge new partnerships at all levels. Willy Foote, founder and CEO of Root Capital, mentioned the opportunities to learn from coordinated, multi-stakeholder approaches to work across sectors that leverage a diversity of actors and their unique assets on the panel on food security. This is necessary in more fields than food security; almost every single panel focused on the importance of forging cross-sector partnerships to achieve ambitious goals. Pape Gaye, President and CEO of IntraHealth International, during the Transforming Global Health panel stated that “the SDGs are forcing us to think outside of our silos,” and went on to describe the critical necessity of cross-sector programming. Integrated responses and programs were highlighted in every panel. Partnerships that leverage the unique skills and assets of diverse partners forge smarter, more effective programs.

The White House Summit on Global Development was a day for the Obama Administration to celebrate its track record and give unofficial recommendations for the next President. Strategic patience, a term used mostly to refer to the United States’ foreign policy directive for North Korea, got a second chance for a life with more positive connotation. Panelists were optimistic about the successes they’ve seen to beget more success, but asked for strategic patience from all actors. The shift in discourse and intent from ‘aid’ to ‘investment’ has brought about a new need for sustained long-term vision and patience to achieve much needed ambitious goals. We need to work quickly, but most importantly we need to make sure we work strategically and with purpose.  

Gender & Resilience – A BRACED Working Paper

The Overseas Development Institute, one of the UK’s leading think tanks, recently released a working paper titled Gender and Resilience: from Theory to Practice. The paper is a synthesis of four different case studies, documenting how gender equality can be strengthened through resilience projects. It draws on the experiences of the project Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED), one year after implementation.

BRACED is a program funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The project was targeted to help the people of the Sahel, East Africa, and Asia to better adapt to the effects of climate change. The program aims to:

  1. Secure, service, and promote trans-border livestock mobility across the Sahel,
  2. Share skills and technology to improve uptake of climate information in Ethiopia,
  3. Support smallholder farms in Nepal to take advantage of economic opportunities and invest in climate-smart technologies,
  4. Build new approaches to knowledge and learning and to influence policies and practices at the local, national, and international level.

The report examines four different case studies, in Myanmar, Uganda and Kenya, Burkina Faso, and Chad and Sudan. The projects worked with many different partners on:

  • Improving information available on climate risks with adaptation approaches and disaster preparedness [Myanmar, Burkina Faso]
  • Building resilient markets, governance, and social systems[Uganda/Kenya]
  • Improving community resilience through climate-smart agriculture, health, and early warning systems [Chad/Sudan]


The report methodology used “writeshops” to conduct research. Writeshops involved the participation of researchers, NGO staff members, policy-makers, farmers, students – anyone involved in the experiences being documented – so as to produce a written output that understands the project more holistically. Each participant contributed his or her own knowledge by drafting a paper and then reviewing the work of others to establish a strong base of many opinions for the project. This is done with the support of facilitators, editors, and logistical staff members.

The writeshop method was pioneered by CLD Movement member, the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction, and has since been adapted by many other institutions, such as the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the International Institute for Environment and Development. BRACED’s Knowledge Managers hope to conduct writeshops twice a year to create publishable research pieces covering different dimensions of resilience-building.

All four studies examined in the ODI Report found that social and cultural norms discriminate against women and girls in a number of ways. Women on average work longer days than men and are paid lower wages. In West Darfur, women work 12-14 hour days while men work 8 hours during cropping season and 4-5 hours per day for the rest of the year. In Myanmar, the estimated annual income for women was $630, and $1,043 for men. Women’s literacy rates continue to be lower than men’s, and women have less control over their rights, entitlements, and resources.

The ODI Report also found that women are significantly less involved in decision-making processes than men, both within households and at the community level. In BRACED’s participatory assessment surveys (BRAPAs) in Burkina Faso, less than 50% of women interviewed felt that they were able to participate in household decision-making, with 27% of respondents saying they did not participate at all.

These inequalities are further exacerbated by the rapidly changing climate. In each of the four cases, women are confined to agricultural roles where crops are increasingly difficult to cultivate and yields are poor. Due to traditional gender roles, females are unable to diversify their livelihood and grow different crops. As climate change reaches extremes as time passes, women are more likely to be impacted significantly as a result, particularly in the four aforementioned target areas assessed.

BRACED offers many recommendations for implementing partners, the BRACED Knowledge Managers, and donors. These include ensuring that projects do not perpetuate instances of social inequality, combating gender-based violence with resilience-building interventions, and sharing knowledge and experience between practitioners with the field experience and the donors and policy-makers involved to ensure a sound community-led approach.

Regardless of the barriers that NGOs face, BRACED concluded that the four case studies require that increased attention is paid to further gender and resilience programs. At the international level, donor commitment is key. The report commends DFID’s requirement for empowering women to be included in proposals. Without it, the Myanmar study would have likely taken a more gender-neutral approach. At the national level, NGOs must collaborate with other like-minded organizations, including UN agencies and community-based organizations and networks. Additionally, advocating for sound policies will be crucial to help support initiatives, such as a law in Uganda encouraging the participation of women in politics.

Most importantly, at the organizational level, a combination of rules and incentives promote a greater emphasis on gender and resilience. The case studies found that it is important to gain the approval and commitment of the senior management in the country, that gender equality must be embedded in the project’s theory of change, and that existing practices must be drawn from in order to achieve success. The case studies additionally identified key members of NGO teams, working specifically on gender empowerment to act as a driver towards its success. For instance, Concern had a special gender representative for BRACED’s project in Myanmar. With these factors in place at each level the project has a greater chance at success, and increases the likelihood that women will be empowered in that community in the future.

To review the full BRACED report, visit BRACED conducts additional projects in Myanmar, Nepal, and throughout the Sahel region, with the specific intention of prepare people in need to be more resilient to climate extremes. DFID funding for BRACED has been awarded as 3-year grants for 15 projects. Further project summaries, such as in Niger, Mali, and South Sudan can be found here.