Building Back Better: Making Sense of Drought and Resilience in Afghanistan

Building Back Better: Making Sense of Drought and Resilience in Afghanistan

October 22, 2020

The 2018 Afghan drought displaced hundreds of thousands of people and left millions acutely malnourished. UN agencies and international NGOs supported the Afghan government in providing humanitarian aid to IDPs. However, this was by necessity a crisis response.

Addressing the inequalities and divisions exacerbated by the drought requires coordinated and cross-sectoral work to connect humanitarian aid with sustainable development. While progress has been made, far too many IDPs still shelter in informal settlements, unable to rebuild their lives; and many of those who have returned to their land are coping with crushing poverty, debt, destitution, and now, too, with fear and the economic impact of COVID-19.

The situation is closely monitored by the Government, UN agencies and NGOs.  However much of the data collected and used for this purpose does not give people the opportunity to describe and make sense of their lived experience.  UNDP commissioned the research published here to address the gap.  This research was carried out in Herat and Badghis provinces using SenseMaker®; a narrative-based method intended to gain a deeper understanding of how people make decisions and choose to act.

The findings, presented in three thematic areas – security, livelihoods, and community - highlight differences in perceived threats, sources of assistance, faith in Government and the benefit of local cooperative schemes and, in particular, identify the impact of gender, age and land tenure.  They lead to a range of recommendations for programming to help families and communities restore and strengthen their resilience.  

With the world suffering from the impact of COVID-19 and donors less able to continue their support for Afghanistan there is a considerable risk that resilience programming will be consigned to the bottom of the agenda.  This would be a mistake.  Herat and Badghis survived the 2018 drought at great and lasting cost. Given the impact of climate change, the next severe drought is just a matter of time and without support it is not clear that they will have the resilience to get through it.