For Tracy Mitchell, leading RTI’s resilience efforts was a natural extension of her international development field work in Africa and the former Soviet Union over the past 25 years. She saw firsthand the critical need for proactive planning to ensure that development gains are sustained despite shocks and stresses.
For example, food security and agriculture projects aim to pave a pathway out of poverty by teaching farmers to increase their agricultural productivity and incomes, but they also need to build resilience by helping farmers adapt to climate change, diversify their incomes, or access market services during times of need.
“Previously, we’d have projects that increased agricultural productivity, but poverty and malnutrition didn’t necessarily decrease along with it,” she said. “In many cases, a traditional agricultural development approach didn’t translate into the solutions we really wanted. We realized that we needed to focus on more holistic solutions for the most vulnerable people, which often means helping them manage risk.”
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) defines resilience as
the ability of people, households, communities, systems, and countries to mitigate, adapt, and recover from shocks and stresses in a manner that reduces chronic vulnerability and facilitates inclusive growth.”
“Despite the global community’s best efforts over decades of agricultural development, we sometimes haven’t made the progress we'd like to see,” Mitchell said. “Much of this may be due to shocks and stresses—some of which occur every year or season—that consistently erode the gains we make against poverty and food insecurity. The recent emphasis on resilience within USAID and other donor programs highlights the need for development programs to further evolve so we can meet emerging global challenges while also helping countries become self-reliant.”