Building resilience while contributing to environmental regeneration – Lessons from NURI.

Agriculture plowed field. Black soil plowed field with stormy sky. Dirt soil ground in farm. Tillage soil prepared for planting crop. Fertile soil in organic agricultural farm. Landscape of farmland. Credit @ Regeneration International

In order to prevent future environmental displacement and conflict, actors across the humanitarianpeace-development nexus should systematically embrace resilience-design approaches that limit the environmental footprint of their programming while contributing to the regeneration of ecosystems.

The effects of climate change and environmental degradation continue to drive more displacement and conflict in the East Africa and Great Lakes region.

Actors across the humanitarian-peace-development nexus are adapting their programming to meet the emerging needs of people of concern, and are also exploring how to reduce their environmental footprint.

Nexus programming should, however, go further and strive to not only prevent future ecological and environmental damage but also to contribute to the regeneration of ecosystems, all while boosting community resilience to shocks.

This is the approach taken by the Northern Uganda Resilience Initiative (NURI), launched in May 2019 with funding from Danida. The Danish Refugee Council (DRC) is a key implementer of this ambitious, 4-year development programme combining climate smart agriculture, rural infrastructure, water resources management and district capacity building. All components are intrinsically linked and contribute to the objective of enhancing farmers’ yields, ensuring that their practices are ecologically friendly and connecting them to markets.

NURI is a quintessentially bottom-up project and a true example of collaboration between Ugandan authorities, the Danish Embassy – which spearheads the programme – and DRC. Based on priorities identified by communities at the district level and linked to pre-existing development plans, DRC leads the implementation of the rural infrastructure and water resources management components of the programme, in close partnership with district authorities and the Ministry of Water and Environment, with a budget of USD 20.4 million. This involves building community access roads and water ponds, establishing food forests, rehabilitating and protecting springs and constructing markets.

NURI, however, differs from most infrastructure projects as it seeks to embrace a resilience design approach. As such, engineers and all staff working on the programme assess how infrastructure interacts with the landscape to not only mitigate environmental risks, but also contribute to regenerative principles.

In example, under the water resources management component, DRC and communities build what is known as Green Roads for Water, which reconsider the way roads are built so that rain water can be harvested and put out to agricultural production, all while reducing negative impacts such as flooding and drought. The rainwater that would typically cause the road to be unpassable during the rainy season is turned into a positive input, from flood to food.

By the end of the project in December 2022, DRC and communities will have completed 1,504 infrastructure projects and provided cash-for-work opportunities to over 60,000 people – half of them youth. At least 50 percent of the refugees and members of host communities contributing to the programme are women, whom are also encouraged to take on leadership positions in the project management committees and user groups. While the results of new infrastructure are seen almost immediately, many of the impacts will be seen over time, as the environment regenerates, communities’ resilience is enhanced and communities and local governments continue to adopt resilience design principles.



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