May 31, 2016

Building resilience in communities on the brink of disaster

Written by Aerie Changala

This post originally appeared on Devex.

The sky blackened as locusts descended upon our small village on the border of the Sahel Desert. I was only weeks into my Peace Corps service in Burkina Faso, but for the Fulani people living there for generations, it was the worst devastation anyone had ever seen. Overnight all vegetation was gone. The combination of locusts and drought destroyed millet harvests and green pastures for livestock. This exacerbated an already food insecure situation for 1,000 people living on the edge of a growing desert.

My assignment to build a meeting room for a village savings club and teach bookkeeping quickly became absurd after the locusts came. All of the able-bodied men left with their cattle literally in search of greener pastures. Women, children and the elderly stayed behind. The village became a ghost town as the food security situation deteriorated. Poverty began to compound, as everyone who was left just tried to hold on.

Compelled by this experience in 2004, I’ve since worked to help populations perpetually on the brink of disaster become more resilient. At Nuru International, we focus on ending extreme poverty in remote, rural areas by training leaders to deliver locally-designed, integrated development programs. We believe that such holistic approaches are integral to good development practice, and will be essential to achieving the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals.

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