This study examines how the FSD Kenya and CARE Building Livelihoods programme in Marsabit County, Northern Kenya has and has not contributed to beneficiary resilience and how specific institutions and assets are contributing to and undermining resilience.
The study was conducted in two phases during Covid-19 in 2020, which created an economic shock that put extra stress on resilience and thus provided a stark opportunity for critical examination of programme impact.
A qualitative study was conducted with a sample of 18 programme beneficiaries, who are part of a larger sample that has been studied since the start of the programme.
Summary of Findings
Covid-19 posed some unique challenges for programme beneficiaries, which undermined both traditional and new coping mechanisms.
For example, restrictions on movements and temporary closure of livestock markets limited ability to seek help from relatives, access goods for retail business from other locations, and sell livestock for immediate needs or business.
Programme savings groups were able to continue making contributions to savings and providing loans to group members, but meetings were limited to smaller groups of five people while adhering to social distancing. Market linkage activities, such as Equity loan activities were suspended for a period.
Beneficiaries used a combination of new and more traditional coping mechanisms to meet their household needs during Covid-19.
New mechanisms include the government’s Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP) bi-monthly cash transfer, individual savings, savings group loans, individual loans, Equity loans, money from business, consumption of business goods, and taking goods on credit.
More traditional mechanisms include money from family, food or money from neighbours, selling or consuming livestock, and borrowing livestock.
Some beneficiaries were able to access relief food and other forms of aid during Covid-19, but they were often excluded because they are a beneficiary of the HSNP/programme.
Overall, beneficiaries were able to cope with the Covid-19 shock better than shocks in previous years because of the Building Livelihoods programme.
While beneficiaries already had existing more traditional coping mechanisms, the programme augmented four main types of capital, which contributed to increased resilience of beneficiaries: human capital, financial capital, physical capital, and social capital.
The degree to which the Building Livelihoods programme contributed to beneficiary resilience depends on the starting point of the beneficiary, including the degree of prior exposure to groups, savings, loans, and business.
Beneficiaries also differ with respect to the type of businessperson they are, with some beneficiaries running their businesses with a more communitycentred approach and others with a more individualist approach.
While there were some shifts towards more community-centred business practices during Covid-19, more significant shifts were seen towards more individualist practices, particularly in relation to the provision of goods on credit, as beneficiaries focused on maintaining their businesses.
Additional data would need to be gathered over time to determine whether and how different categories of businessperson impact beneficiary resilience.
At a community-level, beneficiaries feel that deeprooted values of mutual aid persist through diverse,and sometimes evolved, expressions, and that the programme has had a positive impact on the broader community through increased financial assistance, labour opportunities, and food availability, as well as knowledge and practice dissemination, inclusion of non-beneficiaries in beneficiary activities, and increased contributions for children’s education.
There are no indications that the Building Livelihoods programme undermines resilience in any way, but rather augments existing resilience of both programme beneficiaries and the broader community.