Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


Banks, Gardens and Bees: Enhancing Community Resilience in West Africa Public Deposited

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  • International development programs are often implemented with the goal of building community resilience, but without a clear articulation of how this goal will be met, or any consideration of if or why the effort was successful after it has concluded. This thesis considers three different activities implemented by the U. S. Agency for International Development STEWARD program as part of their effort to build community resilience in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Côte d’Ivoire. Activities considered include: the creation of Village Savings and Loan Associations, market gardening, and the introduction of improved beekeeping techniques. Through analysis of interviews, focus groups, and household surveys conducted in 51 communities throughout the duration of the STEWARD program, each activity was followed over time with the goal of understanding if, how, and why each activity was or was not successful at building community resilience. Community resilience is treated as a process through which communities overcome general adversity (Cuthill et al. 2008). Analysis was rooted in a framework of community resilience attributes identified by MacLean et al. 2014. Attributes are not indicators used to measure community resilience, but rather conditions that must exist for community resilience to form. Attributes include: knowledge, skills and learning; community networks; people-place connections; community infrastructure; a diverse and innovative economy; and engaged governance. Drawing on these attributes in an analysis of each activity, several “lessons learned” resulted that can be useful to other development organizations as they operationalize a general goal of “building community resilience” into specific activities in local communities. Lessons include focusing investments on learning that not only seeks to develop new skills associated with the activity, but also facilitates problem solving; connecting local networks that form around a specific activity to broader regional networks, and to resources outside of a community; situating knowledge, skill development, and new technologies within existing socio-ecological relationships; focusing resources on facilitating adoption of activities over time, not simply in the short term; and recognizing that achieving a particular outcome with a specific activity may require evaluating the relative strength of other attributes, and adjusting implementation to account for weaknesses. This thesis also serves as an example of how to use the community resilience literature to evaluate efforts to build community resilience and offer constructive feedback in the process. It also demonstrates that attributes of community resilience are inter-connected and should be considered holistically rather than individually.
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