EU support to major food crisis: the PRO-resilience action to tackle shocks and restore livelihoods in post-crisis/crisis scenarios

EU support to major food crisis: the PRO-resilience action to tackle shocks and restore livelihoods in post-crisis/crisis scenarios

The EU applies its resilience methodology to prevent the outbreak of food crisis and/or recover properly from the shock

It is impressive to see how Farmers Field Schools (FFS) have stimulated farmers to increase production of vegetables and cereal and to move from their own consumption to include sales for income. Thanks to PROACT, farmers members of the Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) greatly improved also their savings and prepared them for future shocks, enhancing their resilience.

Paru Benard - Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL) Officer, Cordaid South Sudan


Around 2 billion people worldwide are exposed to various shocks due to natural disasters, disease outbreak, political or economic crises, conflicts. The capacities of this population to withstand and quickly recover from crisis (i.e. resilience) is still very weak, especially in post-conflict scenarios where the combination of humanitarian assistance with long-term development activities is very challenging. The EU is coping with this challenge in most critical areas of the world, such as for example in South Sudan, which is considered Africa's worst crisis since the 1994 Rwanda genocide.


  • To respond to major post-crisis scenarios by promoting resilient actions which improve access to food and a sufficient, nutritious intake of food by the targeted population. This is done, for example, by supporting small-farmers in the introduction and/or expansion of adapted agricultural production methods, by providing seeds and fertilisers, by strengthening networks of producer groups, by building local storage facilities, and by helping producers in food processing , as well as by training farmers in disaster risk management and reduction, developing local value chains, improving access to market, etc.
  • To promote more effective action by public institutions and non-state actors to prevent, prepare and respond to food crises and to capitalize on good practices in the building of resilience, including by sharing experiences throughout the existing networks such as the AGIR and SHARE initiatives (see partners).
  • Under the PROACT methodology, the annual selection of countries to be supported is done by analysing the number of food insecure people, the nature of the food and nutrition crisis and other factors of vulnerability, including political considerations. The information collected for the analysis of crisis scenarios is developed jointly by all partners and summarized in the annual Global Report on food crises which provides a snapshot of the magnitude and severity of food crises worldwide.


  • Since 2014, 95 projects in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Central and Latin America have been carried out, supporting more than 1.4 million people recovering from food insecurity and food shortages in crisis areas and by putting in place mechanisms to ensure that such future crises are prevented, or, at the very least, that populations are prepared for them.
  • The PROACT programme intervenes in crisis hotspots such as in Yemen, Lebanon, Mali, Syria, Niger, Nigeria, Burundi, Cameroon, South Sudan, Somalia and Sudan.
  • In these areas, PROACT contributes to the relocation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), returnees and refugees, helping them with the provision of basic services, food/cash vouchers, the rehabilitation of basic infrastructures, the development of kitchen gardens, the creation of farmers associations, the development of farmer field schools, training, etc.
  • The majority of PROACT projects in conflict areas are implemented in South Sudan where the programme intervenes with four actions. In this country, in the areas for example of Bor South, Twic East, Nyirol, and Greater Akobo, two PROACT projects implemented by OXFAM, helped, among other activities, 7000 households to grow vegetables through community and kitchen gardens as well as to restore fishery activities.
  • The two projects also supported 800 targeted households to increase livestock production through a programme of distribution of goats. It also helped 120 traders to increase their knowledge of supply routes following the rehabilitation of infrastructure and roads after the crisis.
  • In the counties of Fashoda, Malakal and Manyo (Upper Nile), the PROACT programme, through an action implemented by CORDAID, supported 2000 households (50% female headed), by working with farmers who received sorghum seeds and tools, and/or groundnut, maize, and cowpea seeds depending on the suitability of the crop in the planting area.
  • Another example is the provision of unconditional cash to more than 600 vulnerable households as well as conditional cash transfers to around 2000 individuals. These transfers paid for work done to rehabilitate infrastructure, community access roads, the cleaning of market and health centres and/or schools.
  • Moreover, the project has already trained 15 farmers’ groups (more than 450 farmers) on community-managed disaster risk reduction, modern farming practices and the use of basic extension services. The project also facilitated the setup of 25 VSLA’s (village savings and loans associations) which are fundamental at community level, especially to restore basic activities after a conflict/crisis (see testimony below).
  • In the Panyijiar County (Unity State), the PROACT programme, through an action implemented by IRC (International Rescue Committee), succeeded to increase food availability arising from increased crop production by 48% for major staple crops (sorghum and maize) and vegetables.
  • This is attributed to the provision of staple crop seeds and farming tools to 1,915 households and fishing equipment to 500 households. Among other results, the project created 31 farmer field schools and farmer producer groups (10 seeds producer groups), 15 fisher folk field schools and trained 45 extension workers on modern farming.
  • Finally, 41 village savings and loans groups were formed and used as a platform to economically empower women and youth through financial services support. By November 2017, the VSLA group savings had increased by 81% over the first year thereby helping 900 women VSLA group members to recover from the conflict and set up new livelihood activities.


  • Globally, about 815 million people still suffer from chronic hunger according to FAO. In 2017, around 124 million people across 51 countries faced crises of food insecurity or worse (Global Report on Food Crisis, 2018).
  • The worst food crises in 2017 were in north-eastern Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen and South Sudan, where nearly 32 million people were food-insecure and in need of urgent assistance.
  • The number of children and women in need of nutritional support increased between 2016 and 2017, mainly in areas affected by conflict or insecurity such as in Somalia, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen and northern Nigeria.
  • The conflict which started in December 2013 in South Sudan reached its fourth year on December 2017 and is considered Africa’s worst such crisis since the 1994 Rwanda genocide.
  • The conflict has sent nearly two million South Sudanese refugees flooding across the region and 1.9 million internally displaced plus 204,172 seeking shelter in the UN protection of civilian (UNMISS) sites.
  • The famine declared in February 2017 ended in June 2017 but some pockets still remain and the chronic insecurity in several areas of the country maintains the country in a permanent need of support.
  • Among other programmes, the EU is intervening in South Sudan with four PROACT actions for a total of 9.98 million euros since 2014.


Building resilience of vulnerable communities through improved agricultural productivity and enhanced access to market and financial services: the case of a women VSLA (village savings and loans association) from the Panyijar County, South Sudan

Elizabeth Nyakuel is a 59-year old widow benefitting from the support an EU PROACT project, implemented by the International Rescue Committee. When she speaks about the project, Elizabeth is still stunned to realise how much "money was able to get in her hands to improve her life".

As Elizabeth recalls, "before the IRC PROACT project, I had no means to raise my three grandchildren who are under five,  left behind by my late daughter who died from a snake bite in May 2015 while she was looking for wild food in the bush. We had to survive solely on wild leaves, roots and tubers which I collected from the swamps and forests. I was suffering severely from a shortage of food and went for weeks without any proper meals because I always had to put the lives of my grandchildren first.

In 2016, the staff of the PROACT project and the Ganyiel Payam local authority came and told us about the possibility for targeted vulnerable households, such as mine, to form village savings and loans associations (VSLA), also providing a way to get seeds for farming. Together with other women in my village, we then decided to form a VSLA group of 24 women and our names were registered thanks to the support of the PROACT project.

Thanks to the business skills training we received, I was motivated to start saving money and create a small business. I took a loan of 16,000 South Sudanese Pounds (SSP) from the group and bought a bag of sugar, 20 litres of cooking oil, ten packets of table salt, and 20 kilos of wheat flour from Ganyliel.

After saving under the VSLA for eight months in 2017, I was able to raise 15,000 SSP (approximately 110 USD), and I could then expand my business by adding more items and renting a small shop in the village centre. I also bought more food from the market, clothing for my grandchildren, and a female goat which I am now keeping, which I hope will multiply in the future.

The VSLA has really helped vulnerable women like me to have a safety net and be strong enough to face hardships, especially during periods of drought and hunger, since we can use our savings to survive with our families. I love my VSLA group because it has helped me spend time with other people and now I do not worry too much, as we speak about our challenges and share experiences together."