There is an increasing recognition within USAID and the larger international development community of the need for a shock responsive approach in development activities to help countries and communities recover from shocks and adapt livelihood approaches and management practices to mitigate the impacts of future shocks. These shocks (external short-term deviations from long-term trends) can have substantial negative effects on people’s current state of well-being, level of assets, livelihoods, safety, or their ability to withstand future shocks. Many areas prone to shocks also experience long-term pressures (e.g. degradation of natural resources, urbanization, political instability, or diminishing social capital) that further undermine the stability of a system and increase vulnerability within it. Shock responsiveness is especially relevant in regions and agro-climatic zones subject to recurrent shocks, such as droughts and floods. Even in areas not subject to recurrent climatic shocks, crises associated with a wide array of shocks and stresses are possible, if not probable, within USAID’s usual five-year project implementation timeframe. In turn, this demands a more flexible, shock-responsive approach to development investment and programming.
At the October Adaptation Community Meeting, André Mershon from the Bureau for Food Security presented on USAID’s guidance for shock responsive programming and outlined methods for proactively designing adaptive and shock responsive activities, as well as options to respond to shocks through existing development programs. This included examples from Ethiopia and the Sahel.