Resilience for Improved Outcomes

The Resilience in Agriculture course was developed by ILCI’s cross-cutting themes team at Cultural Practice, LLC. Sarah Eissler is the lead content developer and Dee Rubin is the cross-cutting themes training coordinator. 

Course outline

This work was funded in whole by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under Agreement #7200AA19RFA00010 as part of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed here are those of the authors alone.


Welcome to the final session of a training module to address resilience. Resilience is one of the Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement’s four cross-cutting themes. The other cross-cutting themes are gender, youth, and nutrition. In this last session of the Resilience module, we discuss the importance of resilience for work on crop improvement.

Session 3 Summary

Now, let’s review session 3. Click on each number to review our core lessons, and don’t forget to click the orange button to see our main takeaway from session 3.

  1. We learned that measuring resilience and resilience capacities are different. Measuring resilience capacities aim to assess which factors or capacities drive resilience and lead to strong wellbeing outcomes in the face of shock and stress events.
  2. Second, resilience theories of change hypothesize which resilience capacities will enable the person, household, community, or systems to effectively respond to a shock or stress event in a way that maintains or improves wellbeing outcomes. Resilience theories of change are complex and must be contextually-relevant and functionally appropriate.
  3. Finally, individuals, households, communities, and systems have different exposure and vulnerabilities to shock and stress events, and have different access to resources, skills, knowledge, and experiences to build resilience capacities to respond to those events.

The key takeaway is that resilience refers to the ability to successfully manage and respond to risks and adversity in a way that improves inclusive growth and well-being outcomes over time.

Let’s Review

Before moving on, let’s take a moment to review. For each of the following statements, indicate whether the statement is True or False. 


True or false: Diversifying crop production is an example of employing transformative capacity


True or false: Building resilience requires a multisectoral and multi-level approach

Resilience and Gender

As we have mentioned in previous sessions, research has shown that men and women, as adults and youth, have different needs, preferences, and abilities to build and leverage their responses to shocks. Their capacities also vary by their incomes, physical endowments, and other important resources.

Previously, resilience programming used to be gender-blind and did not acknowledge or consider these important differences and the effect they may have on resilience. Now we know that gender, youth, and other social dimensions need to be considered when developing resilience programming. New guides and toolkits help research and practitioners to do all of this. We will take a look at a few examples.

Mercy Corps’ BRIGE program

Mercy Corps’ BRIGE program, which stands for Building Resilience through the Integration of Gender and Empowerment, is one example of a successful resilience-building approach that addresses and integrates women’s needs in resilience programming. It started as an add-on pilot to existing resilience programming in Niger, Nepal, and Indonesia to strengthen resilience programming at the household level.

Resilience programming often focuses on community- and systems-level interventions. As we learned in earlier sessions, socio-cultural norms uphold constraints on women’s abilities to access resources and make decisions in their own households and communities.

Yet resilience programming rarely addresses challenges at the intra-household level. Without easing these barriers women are unable to build and utilize absorptive and adaptive capacities to shocks and stressors.

The BRIGE program directly targets these barriers and addresses women’s needs in resilience programming to increase overall levels of resilience

Click on the blue button below to hear about BRIGE’s three pathways to women’s empowerment. While you’re listening, you can use your mouse to hover over each icon to see each pathway

The BRIGE program identifies three pathways of women’s empowerment to focus on gender-specific needs in resilience programming to strengthen overall resilience outcomes.

The first pathway is through women’s equitable participation in household decision making. The second pathway is through women’s meaningful participation in community groups. And finally, the third pathway is through women’s increased access to market linkages. Thinking back to Session 3, we presented multiple indicators that are important to consider for measuring gender in resilience. Influence in decision-making, participation in groups, and access to important resources, such as markets, were all included in that list.

Household Dialogues


The household dialogue curriculum is one tool that the BRIGE program uses to guide the discussion at the intra-household level to support women’s inclusion into household decision making practices. 

The toolkit was developed on the hypothesis that improving women’s participation in household decision making can increase individual participation and agency at the community level for all, ultimately improving resilience at each level. Now, click on the assumptions tab on the left of your screen to hear more.


Two important assumptions underlay this curriculum, including that more equitable household and community-level decision making coupled with increased participation and capacity of all decision-makers will lead to stronger resilient outcomes.

And secondly, time is an extremely scarce resource, particularly for women, who often must make important tradeoffs with their time spent on household chores and activities outside of the household and even leisure. 

Be sure to click on the methods tab on the left side of your screen to learn more.


The curriculum is used with one man and one woman from the same household, typically a married couple, to discuss inclusive decision-making and sharing household responsibilities to improve overall household wellbeing and women’s empowerment. It can be applied in any development program to address socio-cultural norms that may hinder women’s full participation in household and community decision-making and activities outside of the home, with the overall aim for improved household and community resilience.


In this video, we see researchers and practitioners from Mercy Corps discuss the results of using the Household Dialogue curriculum to improve resilience for women in the household.  

While watching this video, please note down the different ways that household cooperation helps to strengthen women’s resilience. We will review them in the next slide. After watching the video, you can also view the full curriculum for the Household Dialogues in English and in French.

Household cooperation and resilience

Let’s review all the ways that the video highlighted how household cooperation improves resilience. Hover over each tab on the left side of your screen to learn more about each way household cooperation can improve resilience.

  • Increased self-confidence: Women are more confident in speaking up and adding their perspective into critical decisions.
  • Increased men’s trust in women: Husbands are more supportive of their wives to engage or participate in activities outside of the home.
  • Sharing household chores: With husbands and others in the household sharing responsibility for women’s household chores, women had more time to spend on activities outside of the household and income-generating activities.
  • Increased men’s respect for women: Husbands increasingly valued their wives’ thoughts, perspectives, and decisions, which helped women’s participation.

Case Study: Potato Farmers

The researchers highlight the example of the potato growing households. As women were more involved in the labor activities to grow the potatoes, they had better perspectives for what would work when increasing potato seeds. When women were able to participate in these decisions, the households did much better and produced more potatoes. The households then had more money from higher potato yields, which helps to increase their overall resilience. This example highlights the importance of ensuring women’s participation in decision making and considering intra-household dynamics for resilience approaches.

G-CAN Framework

Another such program is the G-CAN project led by the International Food Policy Research Institute in the CGIAR system. G-CAN stands for Gender-Responsive and Climate-Resilient Agriculture for Nutrition and the aim of the project is to address the interlinkages of climate change, agriculture, gender, and nutrition. There is growing research on the impact of climate change and climate-responsive agricultural approaches on men’s and women’s time use and/or key nutrition outcomes, including child growth, micronutrient status and diet quality of women, children and households as well as about how the adoption of climate smart agricultural practices at scale may influence the availability of micro- and macronutrient availability across value chains and landscapes. The G-CAN project aims to address these cross-cutting areas of inquiry.

Step 1

Recently, the G-CAN project published a framework that links climate resilience, agriculture, nutrition, and gender. Three frameworks were developed: one general version, one for policy-level, and another for the household, presented here. The graphics for the three versions are available for download. We are going to look at the household level graphic. Please click on the link and download the pdf while we discuss the different aspects of the framework.

Step 2

The framework looks at the different levels of resilience in response to stress and shock events, here listed as the ‘climate signal’. It considers a range of capacities, all of which exist in the enabling environment – which include laws, policies, institutions, and prices of important goods. When we think of building transformative capacities, we are thinking about improving this enabling environment.

The framework considers a list of absorptive and adaptive capacities, that are interchangeable in practice when thinking about building resilience.

The range of response options are those that individuals use given their existing capacities to actually respond to the shock or stress event. They include borrowing money from neighbors or a bank, for example, or migrating to a different community or area to gain employment.

To consider the range of response options, we first have to think about the decision-making context. Men and women, adults and youth have different needs and preferences, bargaining power and control, and aligned interests, to influence and act upon one’s decision. Therefore, we expect that men, women, and youth would have a different range of response options available to them given that men and women and youth have different access to resources and they have differing levels of decision-making influence to make and actually act upon the decisions they make in order to choose their response. Also in the framework, we should note that these range of response options operate on different scales of space and time.

Step 3

These response options lead to different resilience pathways that can result in a variety of wellbeing outcomes. These pathways can be food production, income generation, asset accumulation, access to different labor sources or labor reduction, improved natural resource management, and increased cooperation, or possible other pathways not listed here. These pathways lead to overall wellbeing outcomes, such as improved living or health environments, or increased food or nutritional security for an individual, household, community, or country.

These pathways and outcomes all are influenced by gender and other considerations of social difference. And there exist trade-offs and synergies between people, scales, and outcomes that influence the ways in which resilience is built. This framework enables researchers and practitioners to consider the many complex ways in which gender and age and other indicators of social difference influences the ways in which individuals can use existing capacities to build a range of responses during shock and stress events, that ultimately lead to different wellbeing outcomes.

Case Study: Aflatoxins


Now, we are going to discuss an example of how the G-CAN framework was used in a research study that analyzed the risks and impacts of aflatoxins in food and feed. Please click on the citation on this slide o download the full policy note. First, we’ll need to answer some basic questions about aflatoxins. What are they? Why do they matter? And where are they found? Aflatoxins are fungal metabolites that contaminate crops during production, harvest, storage, transportation, and/or processing. They are invisible to the human eye and cannot be destroyed once they have evolved. Furthermore, contaminated feed will impact some animal products, such as when contaminated maize is fed to cows, the toxins show up in the milk. Neither standard cooking processes nor human digestion can eradicate aflatoxins. The levels of contamination are therefore cumulative, increasing over time.

Aflatoxin contamination is likely in hot, dry environments and is exacerbated by humidity and increased levels of moisture. Aflatoxins are common in the entire African continent, where crop contamination and human consumption is high. Aflatoxins contaminate legumes, grains, seeds, spices, and tree nuts, but the highest rate of contamination is typically found in groundnuts and maize.

Aflatoxins and aflatoxin contamination matter because high levels of aflatoxin consumption leads to aflatoxicosis, which is often fatal. Consumption of aflatoxins is cumulative and since humans cannot breakdown nor excrete aflatoxins, any amount of consumption can have serious implications for individual health and nutritional status. Because of this, any crops with high levels of contamination cannot be exported. Although they often are still sold and consumed locally, this reduces otherwise potential income from harvests and ultimately, impacts livelihoods. So, the goal is to reduce the risk of aflatoxin contamination at every step of crop production to processing.

Applying the G-CAN framework to this issue helps researchers and decision-makers to understand the nuanced complexities of challenges surrounding aflatoxin contamination and the strategies for mitigating it. Click on each tab labelled resilience, nutrition, and gender to learn more.


Climate change affects environmental conditions, which ultimately impact and shape the ability of fungi to evolve and produce aflatoxins. Aflatoxin contamination is likely in hot, dry environments and is exacerbated by humidity and poor drying during crop post-harvesting and storage. Climate change is likely to increase periods of environmental stress – whether it be hotter temperatures, longer drought periods, or erratic rainfall patterns. One study by Sibakwe et al. found that aflatoxin contamination increased 15-fold in groundnuts produced in Malawi that were exposed to four weeks of prolonged drought stress compared to groundnuts that were not. Other research has shown areas that previously had not had issues with aflatoxin contamination were now experiencing challenges due to prolonged hot and dry seasons. For example, maize production in northern Italy experienced unprecedented aflatoxin contamination between 2000 and 2010 during the hot and dry seasons. Erratic rainfall patterns can make it challenging for those who manage crop post-harvesting and storage to eliminate the risk of moisture or humidity. As environmental conditions continue to change, those involved in agriculture are going to need to employ all types of resilience capacities to adapt to and mitigate the risk of aflatoxin contamination in their crops to reduce the possible impacts on their livelihoods, health, and nutritional status.


Aflatoxin contamination has important impacts and implications for human health and nutritional status, and animal health and nutrition status. Because they are virtually indestructible, consumption of any aflatoxins is cumulative. Meaning consuming any amount of aflatoxins is detrimental. Studies have shown that aflatoxin consumption by pregnant persons and those breastfeeding negatively affect the health and growth of those persons as well as their unborn or breastfeeding children. High levels of aflatoxins found in pregnant persons is linked to low birth weight of children. Other studies have shown a link between exposure to aflatoxins in breastmilk and levels of stunting and underweight children. Livestock that consume aflatoxin contaminated crops in their feed are shown to have low growth or productivity, such as milk or eggs. And their products become contaminated as well. Since crops such as maize and groundnuts are commonly used for animal feed and are important sources of human nutrition, the risk of contamination is high. Households must employ strategies that reduce the risk of aflatoxin contamination in order to prevent these negative effects on their health and nutrition.


Aflatoxin contamination is a key gender issue in several ways. First, social norms shape household gendered divisions of labor for household and agricultural activities. In areas where aflatoxin contamination is high, women are primarily responsible for food preparation and managing household diets. This means that women are the ones making decisions about how to manage potential contamination versus ensuring diets are diverse. Women are also often primarily responsible for many postharvesting activities, including storage and drying of crops. For example, women are responsible for groundnut shelling, a time-intensive activity. To reduce their time spent and alleviate pain associated with shelling, women will often soak the groundnuts, which in turn, can introduce additional moisture into the nuts and increase risk of aflatoxin contamination. Compared to men, women often experience a lack of or limited access to important resources, such as agricultural inputs or labor-saving technologies, and extension services. Interventions that aim to address challenges in crop production and processing often do not account for these gendered divisions of labor or the disproportionate access to resources between men and women.

Next, we are going to look at some examples of how to mitigate and adapt to the risk of aflatoxin contamination and how interventions can address these nuanced challenges.

Strategies and Benefits Pt. 1

We are going to cover a few promising strategies that can be employed to reduce the risk of aflatoxin contamination and consumption. Overall, it is essential that any intervention or project that works with crops – such as maize or groundnuts – must include an aflatoxin mitigation and adaptation strategy. And as part of that strategy, the project must understand and map the contextual gendered divisions of labor for that crop to target the key stakeholders at each step for reducing aflatoxin contamination. As we discuss each strategy, take note about how the cross-cutting themes of gender, nutrition, and resilience emerge as important considerations. We will test your knowledge in the next section! Now, click on each strategy below to hear more.

Crop Selection

Crop Selection is a key strategy to identify crop varieties that are resilient to local conditions and new types of crop-specific stress. For example, drought-resistant maize varieties have been found to reduce aflatoxin contamination. It’s important for farmers and breeders to identify the best crop varieties that can enhance resiliency to the address local conditions that contribute to fungal contamination. Advisory and extension services – especially those for aflatoxin-sensitive crops – must include information about aflatoxin contamination and mitigation strategies. These services also need to extend to women producers and processers, who play key roles in mitigating risk of contamination. 


Biocontrol is a strategy used to reduce the rate of contamination on crop fields. Not all strains of asper-gillus flavus produce the toxic aflatoxins. Certain biocontrol products are considered safe alternatives that are applied to a field to then outcompete with the toxic strains. But farmers have to pay for this additional input, which can limit access to this strategy for some. One study conducted by the Integrating Gender and Nutrition with Agricultural Extension Services project – or INGENAES for short – found that the use of Alasafe, a biocontrol product, led to women’s perceptions of increased efficiency when sorting and processing groundnuts. They felt that after using Alasafe, the quality of the groundnuts increased and they therefore needed to spend less time sorting out the poor quality groundnuts. Click on the icon to learn more about this study.

Crop Management

Crop management practices, such as applying fungicides, herbicides, or irrigation techniques, are additional strategies to reduce crop stress and reduce the risk of aflatoxin contamination. Other best management practices include those that retain appropriate levels of crop soil moisture or to avoid late planting. However, women farmers often lack the necessary time or money to be able to invest in such strategies. Projects and interventions should target women farmers with training and microfinancing options to improve the use of best crop management practices to reduce aflatoxin contamination.

Strategies and Benefits Pt. 2

Continue clicking through each icon to learn about more strategies and their benefits to confront aflatoxin contamination.


Managing moisture and humidity levels during the postharvest drying and storage process is key to reducing the risk of aflatoxin contamination. For many crops – including maize and groundnuts – women often manage this process and therefore play a key role in taking steps to reducing moisture and managing humidity. Certain technologies, such as moisture readers, can help alert the dryer to potential aflatoxin contamination. Other technologies, such as solar dryers or simple drying racks, can help to manage the moisture and humidity levels. But these technologies can be expensive. Information about aflatoxin contamination is often not known and the benefits of reducing contamination are not immediately perceived. Therefore, it can be challenging for men or women to want to invest limited resources into reducing them.


Adding binders to animal feed is a cost-effective strategy to reduce aflatoxin contamination in livestock. It’s unreasonable to expect low-income households to throw away moldy or aflatoxin contaminated grains.  Households often give these grains to livestock. Adding binders to this livestock feed can help reduce the animals’ absorption of aflatoxins, thus reducing exposure in livestock products for human consumption.

Dietary Diversification

Dietary Diversification is a key means of reducing aflatoxin exposure and consumption. As we learned, women play key roles in managing household diets and making decisions that affect consumption choices. Studies have shown that the consumption of leafy greens or cruciferous vegetables, such as onions or garlic, helps to reduce aflatoxin absorption and reduce the risk of associated cancers. Projects or interventions should work with women to address these benefits of dietary diversification and diversify home garden production and consumption.

Using the Framework

Referring back to our understanding of resilience, let’s review a few key things in regard to aflatoxin contamination. You can click on each of the circles below throughout our discussion to read more.

Aflatoxin contamination is a stressor. It presents a long-term challenge to farmers and processors, and consumers of potentially contaminated crops. Different strategies are needed to mitigate the risk of aflatoxin contamination and other strategies are need to adapt to the risk of exposure and consumption.

Examples of mitigation strategies include using biocontrol, crop selection, best crop management practices, and improving postharvest drying and storage practices. These strategies aim to reduce the risk of aflatoxin contamination in crops. They require farmers and other stakeholders to employ absorptive, adaptive, and transformative capacities to put these strategies into practice. Examples of adaptation strategies include adding binders to animal feed and increasing household dietary diversity. These strategies aim to adapt to the risk of contamination in crops. And they too require farmers and other stakeholders to employ all three types of resilience capacities to effectively employ these strategies.

Let’s Review

Let’s test your knowledge about the different ways in which the cross-cutting themes of Gender, Nutrition, and Resilience appeared during the strategies to reduce aflatoxin contamination and consumption. For the following statements, indicate true or false.


True and false: Breeding crop varieties that are resilient to local conditions and increased crop stress is an important strategy to reduce the risk of aflatoxin contamination.


True or false: Men and women farmers generally have equal amounts of time and money to invest into best crop management practices. 

Questions for Reflection

How does your own research and crop breeding programs integrate these cross-cutting themes into its design? Here are some questions for reflection that you can use to think about your own research design.

  • Who are the target users of the crops being improved in your respective research?
  • How does your research consider gender, youth or social differences in preferences related to the crops being improved? Are you integrating those preferences in the breeding profile? How so?
  • How does your research consider gender, youth, or social differences in capacity and/or barriers experienced by those target users in adopting the final varietals?
  • Finally, how does your research consider climate or other types of resilience? Are they heat-tolerant or flood-resistant?
  • How does your research consider nutrition? Are important nutrient-levels being maintained or improved, or are there tradeoffs made?

Additional Resources

As you continue learning about resilience in agriculture, we recommend that you refer to these additional resources in your research and resilience programming.

Contact Information

We are so glad that you have participated in this training module on resilience in agriculture. If you’d like to get in touch with our team at the Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement, please use the contact information listed here. We’d also like to take a moment to thank the reviewers and web developers who made this course possible.


This concludes the sensitization training module on resilience in agriculture. Thank you for your time and attention throughout the four sessions of this module to learn about resilience and how it connects to other cross-cutting themes and crop breeding. Use the links below to return to the Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement homepage or to explore more training materials in our Learning Hub.