A new approach to resilience in the Sahel

Cracked soil in Mauritania where over 700,000 people and 18 million across the Sahel region and West Africa were affected by the food crisis in 2012. The Sahel region continues to be plagued by conflict, poverty and malnutrition. Photo by: Pablo Tosco / Oxfam / CC BY-NC-ND

The Sahel is not as much of a hot-button issue as it used to be for the aid community, but the African region continues to be severely affected by conflict, poverty and especially malnutrition — with up to 20 million food insecure expected this year.

How can we break this cycle of recurring crises? Check out the U.N.’s latest approach: Address the emergency but at the same time build resilience with multi-year commitments, government coordination and multi-sectoral programs focusing not only on food security, nutrition, health, education, but also on infrastructure and energy.

On Monday, the United Nations and its partners launched at the Food and Agriculture Organization’s headquarters in Rome the next three-year response strategy with about $2 billion in funds, built around three main objectives:

  1. Analyze risk and vulnerability to integrate them into programming.

  2. New strategies for improving coping mechanisms.

  3. Integrate life-saving assistance into delivery coordination.

Building resilience is not a new concept in the region, but this time the United Nations says it will adopt an unprecedented effort to promote coordination amend the nine countries that integrate the Sahel: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, the Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal.

The strategy also hopes to change the operational modalities of development actors by identifying new engagement solutions for donors, like for example offering them multiple solutions for investment in cash or “in kind” and establishing a more agile management system, Romano Prodi, U.N. special envoy for the Sahel, told Devex at the sidelines of the event.


At the same venue, the United States also unveiled Resilience In the Sahel Enhanced, its new initiative to support resilience in the region.

Through RISE, the U.S. Agency for International Development wants to bring closer together humanitarian aid for short-term emergencies with long-term sustainable development policies, Nancy Lindborg, the agency’s assistant administrator for democracy, conflict and humanitarian assistance, told Devex.

“We are sequencing, layering and integrating our relief and our development approaches,” she said, adding that the goal of USAID’s work in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa over the past two years has been “to really change how we do business.”

The challenge is mainly cultural, explained Lindborg, between the different mindsets of humanitarians and long-term development officials — and maybe also adjustments in procurement management.

“There is a particular challenge in bringing private sector in the very fragile environments. That’s a good challenge for all of us to tackle,” she said.

Read more development aid news online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders — emailed to you FREE every business day.

About the author

  • Io

    Elena L. Pasquini

    Elena Pasquini covers the development work of the European Union as well as various U.N. food and agricultural agencies for Devex News. Based in Rome, she also reports on Italy's aid reforms and attends the European Development Days and other events across Europe. She has interviewed top international development officials, including European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs. Elena has contributed to Italian and international magazines, newspapers and news portals since 1995.