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Christopher B. Barrett Cornell University Seminar to Harvard University Sustainability Science Program October 24, 2012 Resilience Against Chronic Poverty:

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Presentation on theme: "Christopher B. Barrett Cornell University Seminar to Harvard University Sustainability Science Program October 24, 2012 Resilience Against Chronic Poverty:"— Presentation transcript:

1 Christopher B. Barrett Cornell University Seminar to Harvard University Sustainability Science Program October 24, 2012 Resilience Against Chronic Poverty: Some Reflections and An Agenda

2 Resilience has quickly become a buzzword in the development and humanitarian communities. Two big drivers: 1)Perceived increasing risk – climate, mkts, macroeconomy, violence, etc. – in both frequency and intensity 2)Recurring crises lay bare the longstanding difficulty of reconciling humanitarian response to disasters with longer-term development efforts. Many recent calls for renewed efforts to “build resilience” quite explicitly aim to align humanitarian and development objectives. But we lack a theory-measurement-and-evidence-based understanding of what resilience is, how to measure it, and how to effectively promote it so as to reduce chronic poverty. Motivation

3 Shocks that disrupt lives and livelihoods: the single greatest cause of descents into chronic poverty (Krishna, etc.) Uninsured risk of catastrophic loss (stressors): a key structural reason for poverty traps (Carter&Barrett; Santos&Barrett) We seek to bridge the ecological/engineering literatures on resilience with the social science literature on poverty traps to: -advance a theory of resilience against chronic poverty -tease out measurement principles appropriate to the theory -build toward a body of empirical evidence on resilience Motivation

4 Resilience of whom to what? Subject of interest – quality of life, roughly Sen’s ‘capabilities’. This implies a focus on individuals’ (and groups’) well-being within a system, not the state of a system itself. System has instrumental rather than intrinsic importance. Focus further on minimizing the human experience of chronic poverty. We therefore focus on places with high rates of chronic poverty. Do not focus on a specific source of risk b/c problem is uninsured exposure to a wide array of stressors and shocks to which resilience implies adaptability while staying non-poor. Focus

5 We need to adapt ecological/engineering theory to the development/humanitarian response context. As used in ecology or engineering – e.g., “the ability of the system to maintain its identity in the face of internal change and external shocks and disturbances” (Cumming et al Ecosystems, p. 976) – resilience is not necessarily desirable for populations trapped in chronic poverty. Their objective may be escape from – not persistence in -- their present state of existence. To be useful for development policy, we need resilience to be a normative property, to be orderable – and preferably decomposable (in FGT sense) – in order to offer a useful metric to gauge performance and guide policy/programming. Toward a theory

6 Noncontroversially: NPZ >> CPZ >> HEZ Those in CPZ or HEZ are chronically poor in expectation The CEF reflects indiv/collective behaviors (agency/power) w/n system

7 Toward a theory For the current non-poor, seek ‘resilience’ against shocks in the ecological sense: no shift to either of the lower, less desirable zones. But for the current poor, those in HEZ/CPZ, the objective is productive disruption, to shift states. Asymmetry is therefore a fundamental property of resilience against chronic poverty. Thus stability ≠ resilience. The development ambition is to move people into the non-poor zone and keep them there. The humanitarian ambition is to keep people from falling into HEZ … offers foundation of a rights- based approach to resilience.

8 Toward a theory ‘Egalitarian option’: engineering concept applies - return to initial state. ‘Random walk w/safety net option’: implies perfect downward resilience at NPZ/CPZ boundary … but zero resilience upward or w/n NPZ. A Utopian, asymmetric vision of well-being dynamics:

9 Toward a theory Note: The shape of the CTD affects the shape of the CEF Transitory shocks (- or +) can have persistent effects Risk may be partly endogenous to system state Explicitly incorporate risk, move from CEF to CTD:

10 Toward a theory If we represent the preceding conditional transitions as: W t+1 =g(W t |R t,ε t ) where W is welfare, R is the state of the natural resource, and ε is an exogenous stochastic driver Then simply introducing feedback between R and W (e.g., range conditions depend on herd size/stocking rate) R t+1 =h(R t |W t,ε t ) or allowing for drift in ε (e.g., due to climate change) means the underlying CTD changes over time. Then the resilience of the underlying resource base becomes instrumentally important to resilience against chronic poverty. Feedback between sub-systems can be crucial

11 Programming implications Objective: min likelihood people fall into HEZ/CPZ Three options: 1)Shift people’s current state – i.e., move initial state rightward. Ex: asset transfers: cash, education, land. 2)Alter CTDs directly (and thereby ∆ system too). Ex: social protection - EGS, insurance, improved police protection, drought-resistant animal/plant genetics. 3)Change the underlying system structure – institutions/ technologies – induces ∆ in behaviors and CTDs. Prob: multi-scalar reinforcement – ‘fractal poverty traps’ Systems modeling becomes important to reveal the structure – and possible intervention points – behind univariate dynamics.

12 Programming implications The importance of social institutional arrangements “A tale of two widows” And would the widower’s dynamic = the widow’s?

13 Toward measurement Define resilience as a – or perhaps function (e.g., discount- weighted avg probability) of the – sequence of period-specific Pr(well-being t )T1 Begins in non-poor zone just >T2 Marginally poor just

14 Need to study interventions aimed at improving resilience and replicate across contexts: Candidates to discuss: i. Index-based livestock insurance for pastoralists ii. Safety nets (NREGS in India, PSNP in Ethiopia) iii. Soil health interventions (e.g., fertilizers, NRM) in African smallholder agriculture iv. Accelerated disaster response interventions (e.g., LRP of food aid vs. traditional, transoceanic deliveries) Develop longitudinal data on individuals and households integrating qualitative and quantitative measures in sentinel sites. Where ethical/feasible, use RCTs or exploit natural/policy discontinuities to identify causal effects. Use results to develop clear policy/programming guidance. Ex: HSNP vs. IBLI in Kenya; post-drought herd restocking; livestock gift programs Build empirical evidence

15 Resilience is a popular buzzword now. But little precision in its use, either theoretically or empirically. Aim to help facilitate rigorous, precise use of the concept to help identify how best to reduce chronic poverty. This will require advances in theory, measurement and empirical work in many different contexts and over time. Much to do in all of these areas … a massive research agenda. Summary

16 Thank you for your time, interest and comments! Thank you


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