Learning exchange on food systems resilience from a local programming perspective

As food systems perspectives increasingly dominate international discussions on food and nutrition security they are now being applied to resilience approaches. The idea is that a systems view may result in more sustainable outcomes, where food systems continue to deliver food and nutrition security to communities despite being faced with various shocks and stresses. But will this idea hold up to its promise? By zooming in from the international view to a local programming perspective this meeting sought to identify what it adds to current approaches. Can it help solve some of the challenges local programmes are dealing with? Are there ways in which the concept can improve current programmes?

In the morning of Thursday 19 November NFP and Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (CDI) organized an online learning event on food systems resilience in the Horn of Africa, aligned with the learning agenda of the FNS-REPRO programme, implemented by FAO and Wageningen CDI. The meeting was co-organized by CARE, Cordaid and ZOA, whose country teams hosted break-out sessions.

The goal of the meeting was to create a joint understanding of food systems resilience, the focus of REPRO and the fifth action track of the 2021 Food Systems Summit. Based on practical cases the event particularly sought to see what food systems resilience meant from a local programming perspective.

Read the meeting report here

View the PowerPoint presentations of:


CARE – Somaliland case

Cordaid – South Sudan case

FNS REPRO and food systems resilience

REPRO springs from the UNSC Resolution 2417 on hunger and conflict, addressing the nexus between food security and peace. The resolution condemns conflict-induced hunger as a strategy of war, but also calls upon the international community to engage in new and innovative ways in protracted crisis settings to address food and nutrition security issues. Therefore REPRO works to promote the resilience of food systems in Sudan (North and East Darfur), South Sudan (Aweil, Bor, Renk, Torit, Wau, Yambio) and Somaliland (Sool and Sanaag). In each of these countries a value chain of strategic importance is selected. For Sudan this is Gum Arabic, for South Sudan the seed sector, for Somaliland it is fodder.

To support implementation and adaptation of this food systems resilience-focused programme Wageningen CDI developed an innovative methodology to assess food systems resilience from a local perspective. The Food Systems Resilience Analysis tool maps food systems and food and nutrition security outcomes, draws causal food system processes, creates insight in dynamic food system behaviour and crucial resilience capacities to strengthen food systems. Linked to a learning agenda that informs the adaptive management of the programme REPRO tries to develop the idea of food systems resilience and what it means in practice through working on it with different actors on the ground.

Zooming in on food systems resilience

Two cases of CARE and Cordaid were zoomed in on. These cases did not necessarily start from the perspective of food systems resilience, but have many elements of a food systems resilience perspective. In the breakouts participants used these cases to identify food systems resilience aspects in the examples, and contributed their own experience to identify good practices on a challenge put forward in the case.

  • Cordaid: South-Sudan Case Study

Cordaid works on resilience in the South Sudan Agribusiness Development Programme, which is implemented in ‘hubs of stability’. There it works on both agribusiness development and disaster & conflict risk reduction. The team will present their approach and discuss with the group how resilience aspects can be integrated into transitions from subsistence farming to farming for the market.

  • CARE: Somaliland Case Study

CARE works on resilience in Somaliland and Puntland with a focus on rehabilitating land, rangeland management, increased fodder production, and strengthening capacities of community and government around natural resource management, resilience to droughts and floods and land governance. With the group the team will discuss their approach to resilience and how they have been helping to re-introduce customary law in relation to land use and social fencing; and challenges of land tenure in a context of limited government capacity.

Key insights from the breakouts and panel discussion

After the breakouts a panel reflected on the group discussion outcomes and engaged in discussion with the participants. The goal of the discussion was to first come to a common understanding of food systems resilience and its added value from a local programming perspective. Then to see if, as a group, we could formulate some key messages about resilience in protracted crises that could be used to engage the Food Systems Summit Action Track 5 on resilience. Some key insights from this discussion included:

  • The added value of the food systems resilience concept, compared to traditional approaches can be found in two points: 1) Co-creation with different actors that work in different parts of the food system, from production all the way to consumption, who sit together to work on issues of mutual interest – including multi-level governance; 2) Sustainability. Traditional approaches may be effective, but what about the long run?
  • We need to recognize the challenges faced by private sector in engaging in protracted crises contexts. Does food systems resilience provide an opportunity to better align relief and development? It could be a springboard for better coordination and alignment by different sector players, for instance through co-creating this understanding of food systems resilience.
  • We tend to focus on the resilience of primary producers, but it is also necessary to look at the resilience of buyers downstream in the chain. Buyers and middlemen can also be vulnerable, and can be a part of resilience of producers. A food system perspective enables you to scan the whole system and identify entry points for resilience building. For instance, building resilient value chains may be a key part of building resilient food systems. Different ways of thinking are needed, like thinking about the private sector as people who are part of communities that we work with, trying to keep their small businesses going.
  • Food system resilience is still too much a container conceptualization, blurring people’s understandings. The concept needs to be operationalized so that it can be monitored. For instance, identifying how systemic dimensions of resilience can be monitored – looking beyond resilience of producers and consumers.

Follow-up: paper for the food systems summit 2021

Following this meeting these insights will be used to produce a short paper on food systems resilience to engage the Food Systems Summit action track 5 on resilience. A reference group of meeting participants has been created to review the paper throughout its writing. The paper will outline what the local programming perspective discussed in this meeting can add to the required follow-up and the operationalization of the concept.