Learning to Adapt: Understanding Factors to Resilience Building in Malawi
The Njira Project (Pathways to Sustainable Food Security) is a USAID-funded program designed to improve food security among vulnerable households in Balaka and Machinga districts in Southern Malawi through a layering approach of interventions meant to build resilience among participants. The participants in these two targeted districts frequently experience climatic shocks that keep their communities in perpetual need of humanitarian assistance. It became clear to project designers and the Njira team that without evidence demonstrating increased resilience capacities, there was no basis to the claim that an integrated approach built resilience among project participants. In April 2018, Njira led a Resilience Study to assess resilience outcomes among select Njira intervention group combinations. The study results showed that resilience is accelerated when households participating in either Crop Group or Livestock Group are also participating in Women Empowered/Village Savings and Loans (WE/VSL) groups. The data confirmed the hypothesis that households involved in more than one Njira intervention are more resilient to climatic shocks than households involved in only one Njira intervention. These results provide crucial evidence supporting the benefits of layering interventions and creating synergies. This CLA approach of continuous learning serves to inform PCI's future program design and targeting of participants. Enabling factors for our CLA approach include an organizational openness to explore new ideas and a commitment to continuous learning through devotion of time to learning. Notable obstacles stemmed from time and resource constraints and cultural factors. A CLA approach can be most helpful when strategically planned and appropriately applied.