When resilience is not enough

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When resilience is not enough

Without more investment, rural people tread a fine line between getting by or going under

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

The line between getting by and going under is often all too thin.

When we talk about resilience, I think of Madame Libératrice—a participant in IFAD's Rural Poor Stimulus Facility in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After recovering from the setbacks of the COVID-19 pandemic and surviving the deadly 2020 eruption of the nearby Nyiragongo volcano, she saved up and bought livestock so as not to depend solely on the income she earned from growing potatoes.

Madame Libératrice, a participant in IFAD's Rural Poor Stimulus Facility in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. ©IFAD / PASA - NK

That’s what we know as “resilience”—the ability to withstand or recover from difficulties.

She worked tirelessly, saved up to renovate her house and sent her eldest daughter to university. Madame Libératrice was full of hope for the future.

Then, in 2022, a violent incursion of armed rebels targeted her village and she lost everything. Today, she lives in a camp for displaced persons. When the conflict eventually ends, she will return to nothing.

We need resilience on a global scale...

Her story is just one of too many that point to how fragile rural gains can be in an uncertain world. Disasters, including increasingly extreme weather events such as floods due climate change, can immediately upend lives and reverse decades of progress and development.

Individual resilience is simply not enough, as the global ripple effects of the war in Ukraine show, for example. To be truly resilient, rural people also need their community, their country and their planet to be resilient.

This is why IFAD partners with communities, governments and the private sector to build resilience on many levels, relying on deep, long-lasting engagement, so that more disasters can be avoided or withstood.

...and for widespread resilience, we need investment

Widespread resilience is more than just a pipedream. Since its inception, IFAD's mission has been to stand with—and invest in—millions of rural people across more than 90 countries.

Our experience shows that these investments can withstand even the most intense and prolonged crises.

For example, in 2010, rural Syrians had the chance to buy shares in communal funds run by local committees. IFAD then added to these funds, which were then lent out to members. Soon after the project was established, war broke out and IFAD eventually suspended operations in Syria in 2015.

Despite the project closing and the ongoing conflict, these communal funds are still fully functional and continue to give out loans, helping more than 15,000 Syrians secure their livelihoods and withstand disaster.

Ilisapesi Pani (left) and Meleane Mahe (right) at a community nursery in Tonga. ©IFAD/ Todd M. Henry

When Cyclone Gita ‘Eua hit Tonga in 2018, many crops were destroyed. IFAD provided rural people, like Ilisapesi and Meleane, with what they needed to start vegetable gardens in their backyards. These gardens meant families had access to freshly grown produce when crisis hit once again in 2020 and COVID-19 restrictions left this already remote island state even more isolated.

In Pakistan, an IFAD-supported project shared personalized advice to farmers via their mobile phones in lieu of agricultural extension workers during the pandemic. So when devastating floods struck the country in summer 2022, this same technology was used to warn farmers, allowing them to harvest cotton early or protect livestock, and increasing their resilience against this catastrophic climate disaster. 

Catastrophic floods in Pakistan in August 2022 upended the lives of millions of people. ©Abdul Majeed Goraya/ IRIN

These are just a handful of countless examples of how our long-term engagement creates more than just individual resilience, by supporting and nourishing people, communities and countries, even when crisis hits.

For rural people, who face unimaginable challenges, long-term commitment is critical. That's why, this year, IFAD is issuing a call that cannot be ignored: it's time for a new day. It's time to invest in our future and build the resilience that truly matters.