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Our framework for building resilience focuses on helping communities reduce their vulnerability to disasters through disaster risk management, while at the same time enhancing their development in food security, livelihoods and environmental adaptation.

Resilience is built on six pillars, as shown in the diagram below:

Coping without crisis

Resilience is built on six pillars

Coping without crisis

Adaptive capacity is the ability of people and communities to make changes in their lives and livelihoods.

Resilient livelihoods are income and food sources that are secure, risk diversified and flexible. Secure, in this context, describes predictability of return. 

Sustainable natural resource management is the use and care of natural resources that results in their long-term flourishing for the good of all.

Disaster risk management includes disaster risk reduction and disaster preparedness where the emphasis is on reducing and managing known risks.

Health and relationships support the physical, mental and social wellbeing of people and communities, which enables active engagement.

Hope is the personal belief that despite current problems things will improve; that in the long run good will win out and justice will prevail (eg Isaiah 40:31; Jeremiah 29:11; 1 Corinthians 15). This is often based on a faith worldview that there is more than can be seen.

Building resilience

Fundamentally, resilience-building is a call to increase our focus on risk management rather than disaster management. For example, putting more effort into reducing vulnerability to and the impact of a disaster before it takes place rather than into responding to the needs of those impacted by shocks and stresses after the event. These are intrinsic to truly sustainable development.  

The focus then is not so much on getting people and communities back to where they were – vulnerable to whatever the shock or stress was – but helping them reduce their vulnerability. In this way they are less likely to suffer the same level of impact for a similar shock or stress.

Designing a resilience-building programme

The top two distinctive things to keep in mind when designing a resilience-building programme are integration and uncertainty.

  • Integration: resilience programming should not focus on just one category of shock or stress (such as natural disasters, high food prices, climate change or conflict). Rather, we need to design a holistic response that addresses the most significant shocks and stresses together.
  • Uncertainty: resilience programming needs to help people prepare for unpredictable and unknown risks – not just the risks we can predict based on what’s happened in the past.

Also, some aspects of general sustainable development good practice are especially important for resilience programming. These include:

  • A focus on strengthening/building community institutions. By institutions, we mean both community organisations (for example, leadership councils, churches and farmer groups) and the ‘rules of the game’ that they work by (for example, how leaders are chosen and how resources are shared). Strong institutions are required for joint decision-making and action, management of common resources, and experimentation and learning – all vital activities for resilience.
  • A thorough understanding of all the livelihood strategies available in an area – that is, how people use their available assets to obtain food, income and other necessities. Resilient people have diverse, flexible and ecologically sustainable livelihood strategies.

What has disaster risk management got to do with resilience?

There is a strong connection between resilience and disaster risk reduction and preparedness. Disaster risk management puts the emphasis on reducing and managing known risks. It describes efforts by government, civil society, the private sector and the wider international community to reduce the impact of shocks and stresses, recognising that each has a role as part of a system. 

National governments have primary responsibility to reduce both exposure and vulnerability of their citizens to shocks and stresses. However, international and local organisations can play a part in influencing and assisting governments to help the most vulnerable as well as aiding individuals and communities in identifying, assessing and managing what they consider to be the most important risks.

Read more about our approach to disasters and crises

Church and resilience

Tearfund believes the local church has a significant role to play in helping communities to build their resilience. To achieve this aim, there is an emphasis on the participation of the community, analysis of vulnerability, appreciating the potential within the community and practical application. This is not just about following an approach; it is also about appreciating partnership and valuing networks to encourage learning, best practice, reflection and sustainability.

One approach we are developing and piloting is called ‘Church and communities building resilience’. By working through five steps using Bible studies, tools and activities, churches and communities develop plans based upon their vulnerabilities and capacity to cope with the shocks and stresses they face. The purpose of this approach is to offer a ‘recipe’ that will enhance resilience by creating space for churches and communities to discuss and plan for risks. The five steps are displayed in the diagram below:

5 steps to Church and Community building resilience

5 steps to 'Church and communities building resilience'

Food security

Tearfund’s approach to food security is to build resilient communities where all people, at all times, have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food. We support communities to produce more food and increase income using sustainable farming practices without undermining the natural environment or resource base for future generations. 

The importance of agriculture

Agriculture is key to food security, for the livelihoods of millions of people, and for the functioning of the natural resource base. However, the agricultural sector is severely affected by climate change and, at the same time, is responsible for a significant share of greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition, agriculture has a considerable ability for adaptation, and an important potential for mitigation, while safeguarding food security.

Promoting climate-smart agriculture

We promote climate-smart agriculture by sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes – adapting and building resilience to climate change and reducing and/or removing greenhouse gas emissions, where possible. 

We promote approaches such as:

  • Soil and water conservation through Foundations for Farming/conservation agriculture, agroforestry, natural resource regeneration, intercropping, and Slope Agriculture Land Technology (SALT)
  • Working with the government and research bodies to identify suitable crop and livestock varieties
  • Analysing climatic suitability of major agricultural value chains
  • Food storage and processing to reduce losses in environmentally sustainable ways

Supporting farmers to move from subsistence to profit

Since hunger is essentially a poverty issue, we will support farmers to move from subsistence to profit by linking them to fair markets and making sure they produce enough for both home consumption and sale. People should be able to sustainably commercialise their farming, access markets and sell their produce at fair prices in order to thrive economically and improve food security. 

Food security and disasters

During disasters we will promote food security approaches that concurrently address immediate humanitarian needs, long-term recovery and sustained peace. Wherever possible, cash-based approaches will be promoted as a means for accessing food and materials for relief and recovery such as grains and seeds. These approaches have been proven to stimulate local markets and accelerate economic recovery. 

We would like to see the sustainable development goal (SDG) of zero hunger become a reality in all our communities.

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