Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Feed the Future Learning Agenda Literature Review: Improving Resilience of Vulnerable Populations

Jeanne Downen
Kimberly Swallow
Monica Mueller
Sara Alexander
Tim Frankenberger
Tom Spangler
Feed the Future FEEDBACK project
Date Published: 
July 30, 2013

The objective of this paper is to summarize available evidence on key questions for the Feed the Future Learning Agenda Theme on resilience, and document expert opinion on gaps in the scientific literature for this theme that are in most urgent need of attention.

International and humanitarian development actors are increasingly adopting resilience as an organizing concept for food security policy and program development. The emergence of this new perspective has coincided with increases in the frequency and severity of natural and human-caused disasters resulting from climate change, ecosystem fragility, geopolitical instability, and economic volatility (Constas & Frankenberger, 2013). The new focus on resilience also reflects recognition by the international humanitarian community that while large-scale emergency responses have saved millions of lives, they have not increased the capacity of vulnerable populations to withstand shocks and stresses (USAID, 2011b). Nor have they been the most cost-effective response to the underlying causes of vulnerability. Multiple studies have demonstrated that the cost of immediate damage to life and property, coupled with the resources spent on emergency response, is several times greater than effective disaster prevention (World Meteorological Organization [WMO], 2010; Venton, Fitzgibbon, Shitarek, Coulter, & Dooley, 2012). 

In December 2012, USAID laid the foundation for the agency’s future investments in resilience by issuing policy and program guidance for resilience programming that calls for layering, integrating and sequencing of humanitarian and development assistance (USAID, 2012a). This paper supports that effort by summarizing current learning related to resilience programming and discussing some of the critical evidence gaps that must be addressed in order to inform policy and maximize the impact and sustainability of investments in this emerging area. The paper is structured around four large themes related to resilience, each of which encompasses specific questions outlined in the Feed the Future Learning Agenda. 

This is part of a six-part series of literature reviews, annotated bibliographies, and blog posts on the six themes of the Feed the Future Learning Agenda. These literature reviews, completed by external experts, summarize available evidence and gaps for future evaluations to fill on key evaluation questions identified under each of the six Learning Agenda themes. As a part of Feed the Future’s commitment to build the evidence base for what works in food security programs, findings from the literature reviews will inform the design and implementation of dozens of Feed the Future impact and performance evaluations, ensuring the evaluations are well-conceived, build on existing evidence, and fill critical evidence gaps. This annotated bibliography focuses on Theme VI: "Improved Resilience of Vulnerable Populations."