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Focus Areas

Market System Resilience

Applying research and learning to assess and strengthen market system resilience globally

What is market system resilience?

Market system resilience (MSR) is the ability of a market system to respond to shocks and stresses in a proactive fashion to sustain inclusive market functions that serve vulnerable producers, business owners, workers, and consumers.

A market system is a dynamic space in which private and public actors collaborate, coordinate, and compete for the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.

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Graphic of the market system resilience approach

Participatory research & learning approach

RTI International conducts applied research and learning on market system resilience in developing countries to design and implement evidence based MSR programming that

  1. Adapts to local contexts
  2. Responds to emergent shocks and stresses, and
  3. Strengthens resilience at the system, regional, community and household levels.

Applying the Market System Resilience approach

We apply USAID’s MSR Framework by developing resilience theories of changes, designing and conducting studies and evaluations, and facilitating learning and adaptive management workshops to strengthen results of market systems development programs.

The MSR approach can be applied to many types of systems, ranging from agricultural, environmental, water, energy, and health. RTI has applied the MSR approach to the following sectors by developing frameworks, measurement approaches, tools, learning briefs, and generating evidence:

  • Agricultural and food systems
  • Gender in markets
  • Enterprise resilience
  • Aquaculture and fisheries
  • Climate adaptation


Examples of applying MSR programs across sectors

Photo of a Somali man walking with cattle.
A Somali man walks with a herd of cattle.

MSR in conflict-affected contexts

With internal funding, RTI designed a facilitated locally led process to adapt the MSR framework to the fragile context of South West State in Somalia. The study leveraged Resilience Challenge Fund activities for USAID Somalia Growth, Enterprise, Employment, and Livelihoods (GEEL), working with GEEL staff and local consultants. RTI developed a set of resilience-focused theories of change and measured quantitative and qualitative indicators of resilience in the livestock and grain markets, using a participatory scoring approach. Results contributed to program adaptations to buffer food security during shocks including desert locusts, drought, and COVID-19.

Photo of a Kenyan farmer smiling by her crops
Leonida Shitambasi shows off her small holder farm in Homa Bay Country, Kisumu, Kenya. Photo by Katie G. Nelson for RTI International

MSR for inclusive economic growth

RTI applied the MSR framework to identify critical systemic vulnerabilities and corresponding opportunities to strengthen dairy and mango market systems for the Feed the Future Kenya Crops and Dairy Market Systems Activity (KCDMS). The KCDMS team used study findings to adapt the activity’s theory of change. RTI engaged an external consultant to conduct an outcome harvesting evaluation alongside the MSR study to assess contributions of KCDMS interventions to changes in market system resilience.

Young woman sifts sorghum in northern Ethiopia. Photo by Bartosz Hadyniak/iStock

MSR for food systems

RTI conducted a market system assessment alongside a household resilience baseline for the USAID-funded Poverty Reduced Sustainably in an Environment of Resilient and Vibrant Economy (PReSERVE). The results informed market system interventions for poverty reduction and nutrition of the most vulnerable through an inclusive adaptation process. RTI will assess linkages between MSR outcomes and household resilience capacities over the life of the project. For the Feed the Future Ethiopia Transforming Agriculture Activity, RTI conducted a country wide MSR assessment for food system transformation. The results informed programming to align food supply with consumer preferences and support job growth and nutritional options for women and children.

Photo of a Haitian woman sifting rice.
Haitian woman sifting rice. Photo by Patrick Adams for RTI International

Integrating gender into MSR programming

RTI conducted a study in Somalia and in Haiti to shed light on the critical role of petty trade for food security in fragile settings. Women traders frequently shoulder the risk of high price volatility and unpredictable access to markets to generate income for their families. In Somalia, petty traders have high resilience capacities despite the limits they face to business growth. Results highlight the need for a gender transformative approach in MSR programming that can improve the income potential and resilience of a frequently overlooked market segment (e.g., small scale retail of nutritious foods).

Photo of harvested okra in a Liberian market
Harvested Okra in Liberia Market. Photo by Jadwiga Figula/Getty Images

Strengthening enterprise resilience

RTI developed and piloted a framework to guide programming to improve the resilience of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). RTI assessed five domains of resilience for agro-dealers in Ethiopia to identify key contributing factors to business continuity during multiple shocks, including fertilizer shortages and rapid inflation. RTI is adapted the framework for nascent producer cooperatives for the Feed the Future Liberia Food Security, Nutrition and Resilience (FSNR) activity.

Photo of a farmer in Bangladesh displaying the harvest from his integrated prawn-fish-vegetable farming
Farmer in Bangladesh displays the harvest from his integrated prawn-fish-vegetable farming, a climate-resilient practice. Photo by Mohammad Mahfujul Haque

Climate resilience for fisheries and aquaculture

USAID’s Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish applies a resilience lens to the scaling and adoption of new technologies and approaches to build the resilience of aquaculture production and retail and fishery systems to diseases, climate change, overfishing and market shocks. RTI developed and adapted MSR indicators to measure progress and impact of innovations on system resilience.

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