Role of Markets in Strengthening Social Resilience Capacities in Northeast Nigeria

A person feeds chickens

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In protracted crises, where the state has limited capacity or lacks the political will to provide for and protect its citizens, people rely on markets and social connections for protection, information, and economic resources. Resilience capacities such as agency and confidence in the future are equally important. But how might aid interventions in protracted crises develop these important sources of resilience? Early evidence from two economic recovery interventions in Northeast (NE) Nigeria led by Mercy Corps - Poultry Development Resettlement (PDR) and Borno ‘Maida’ Early Recovery Programs, found that a combination of livelihood-support and economic collectives such as Village Saving and Loan Associations (VSLAs) helped develop financial and social sources of resilience for participants and non-participants. This finding aligns with evidence from a review of self help groups suggesting that women who are part of self help groups gain more psychosocial benefits such as social capital and women’s empowerment.

The effects of market interventions on both economic and social sources of resilience occurred through three pathways.

  1. Livelihood support and VSLAs in conflict settings contributed to women’s self-esteem, confidence, and agency, and shifted men’s perceptions about women’s roles.

How? Income from livelihoods increased women’s economic contributions to the household; the financial freedom from VSLAs enabled women to become self-reliant in meeting their household and livelihood needs. Men recognized women’s potential and engaged them in important household and financial decisions.

  1. Interventions increased participants’ confidence in their capacity to deal with future shocks.

How? Increased skills and practical knowledge from livelihood technical training increased participants’ confidence to be able to restart a livelihood even in the event of displacement; knowledge and practice of a reliable savings and loans mechanism (VSLAs) increased participants’ confidence in their ability to access financial resources to deal with future shocks.

  1. Market-based livelihood interventions and VSLAs helped to strengthen and diversify social connections, catalyze economic activity, and promote psychosocial well-being.

How? Increased income and assets from livelihoods became important sharing resources to maintain and strengthen reciprocal support networks. VSLA participation fostered new and beneficial economic collaboration; group meetings promoted an exchange of economic and emotional guidance.

Being aware of these pathways helps practitioners understand why and how people are using these economic and social sources of resilience, which is important for effective program design. These insights, coupled with observations of program implementation challenges, led to the following programmatic recommendations:

  • Invest in interventions that encourage participation in markets and further economic activity.
  • Design programs that support resilience through investments in financial inclusion.
  • Layer economic interventions with activities that strengthen social networks.

*The brief was documented as part of the REAL’s Resilience Rapid Learning Series, designed to provide practitioners and the donor community with insights and emerging evidence on how to build resilience in protracted crises and conflict-affected settings. The series documents promising program approaches and contextual insights through rapid research, case studies, and technical analysis.