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SHARP in the Field: Results from a Baseline Assessment in South Sudan

This post was written by David Colozza and Maria Hernandez Lagana of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in conjunction with other members of the SHARP team. This post is the second in a three-part series from the FAO. You can read the first post here.

Last week we explored the Self-evaluation and Holistic Assessment of climate Resilience of farmers and Pastoralists (SHARP) tool developed by our team here at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and gave an overview of its background and relevance to the assessment of climate resilience in agro-pastoral communities in sub-Saharan Africa.

In this second blog post in our series on SHARP, we look into how the tool has been successfully implemented in the field as an M&E tool focusing specifically on the case of South Sudan, where, in collaboration with partners of the DFID-funded BRACED consortium (FAO-South Sudan, Concern Worldwide, ACTED and the Sudd Institute), baseline data on climate resilience has been gathered from 668 smallholders, including farmers, pastoralists and agro-pastoralists.*

Photo Credit: FAO/David Colozza

The assessment was carried out between December 2015 and January 2016 in the states of Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Warrap. In both locations, agricultural and livestock rearing activities were reported by the majority of respondents as the main source of income, and self-consumption (subsistence) was reported as the main purpose of production. 

While overall resilience levels across the population surveyed are low, a number of key elements correlate with increased household resilience to climate change. Among these, diversification of productive activities was clearly and positively related to resilience, with those smallholders performing a number of different activities such as cropping, beekeeping, livestock and poultry rearing showing higher overall resilience. In addition to these, households where a number of non-farm Income Generating Activities are carried out also show higher resilience levels--on average 13 percent more than those households that engage only in on-farm activities.

The social component within the SHARP survey appears to be an important factor enhancing resilience, with the active involvement of household members in the production system and the joint decision-making process at household level (e.g., major expenditures, healthcare) being the aspects contributing the most to the holistic level of resilience. However, within the subset of social questions, group membership presented one of the lowest scores in this baseline assessment due to the little involvement and participation smallholders have in different groups or associations within their communities. 

At the other end of the scale, the question with the lowest resilience score across the communities is livestock practices. This question looks at overall numbers and diversity in types of animals within the household and at specific methods used to rear them that may have important resilience implications (e.g., transhumance, tethering, use of paddocks). The low score on this indicator may be related to the fact that very few of the respondents in the surveyed population employ specific livestock management practices at all and in most cases own few animals (an average three per agricultural system) and rely on one species only, amplifying the risks that extreme climate events (or other events) could have on their systems. 

A number of explanations have been identified that may be related to the scarce use of livestock management practices and to the low number of animals and types of species owned. These include: 

  • Insufficient knowledge on breeding and other livestock management practices, with only 33 percent of the respondents using some kind of livestock management practices, of which just 12 percent use paddocks and nine percent use other practices such as feeding crop residues to their animals;
  • Limited access to markets to acquire new species, as only 26 percent of pastoralists have access to local shops or markets for purchasing animals; 
  • Low initial capital to invest in more animals, with only 22 percent of the respondents reported having savings, and only 19 percent reported having more savings compared to five years ago. 

These findings and others from the detailed analysis of the baseline assessment will serve as the basis for discussing further specific interventions that the BRACED consortium team may pursue over the course of the project to best target it to the needs of the local smallholders and measure project impacts.

Credit: FAO

Average resilience levels and self-assessment of importance in Northern Bahr el Ghaza land Warrap States, South Sudan. The left axis draws the level of resilience as the average of the sum of the first two components of the SHARP questions (academic score and the self-assessed adequacy). The right axis represents the scoring obtained for the self-assessed importance, which is an inverse scale of the other two components (i.e., the more importance a question has, the lower the score is). Therefore 0 would represent the highest priority and 10 the lowest one.

In the final blog post in this series on SHARP and climate resilience, we will explore further findings, looking particularly at using the tool to explore gender aspects within agro-pastoral communities. For more information, please visit the SHARP page or contact the SHARP team at SHARP [at] fao.org.

*Due to privacy concerns, data is currently hosted on FAO databases with restricted access, and the analyses are carried out internally by the SHARP team. We are working towards a public version of the data management interface that will allow public access to climate resilience data (cleaned from any personal detail that is collected as part of the assessment) from the countries where SHARP is active. The portal will be live later in March/April 2016.