Resilience Design in Smallholder Farming Systems Approach

Tree in barren landscape

Take a moment to think about a building, garden or field you work in, own, or know well. Have you ever taken a step back and really looked at that location within its surroundings? Do you know which direction it faces? Where it slopes and water runs off? Which parts are exposed to the sun and get hotter or are shaded and stay cooler in summer? Which parts are exposed to high winds and get drier or colder in the winter? Where leaves collect in autumn?

These are all questions that we, and often farmers, do not always consider. If we did, we could identify low cost, low energy opportunities to improve the efficiency of our gardens, fields or even landscapes.

The Resilience Design (RD) in Smallholder Farming Systems Approach does just that. It helps farmers and those who support them develop a deeper understanding of their farming systems within their agroecosystems. The RD approach helps farmers identify influences that affect their farm sites as well as external resources that can benefit the site. Guided by a set of principles, farmers can then adjust their farm design to work with surrounding natural systems ultimately improving soil health and water management. In doing this, farmers can build a more adaptive and productive farming system that can better respond to external changes over time, one that is more resilient to the increasingly frequent and intense environmental and economic shocks and stresses that affect it.

The RD toolkit, developed by Mercy Corps through the TOPS Program in conjunction with leading field experts, assists field agents and farmers in the application of this approach. It includes the following:

The RD approach builds on work initiated by Greg Scarborough on resilient food systems.