In the workshop „From fragility to resilience - enabling vulnerable people to cope with shocks”, the question of how to deal with the unpredictability of crises, natural catastrophes and shocks led to an inspiring debate. Resilience, in the sense of ability to cope with shocks, is “a concept of an equilibrium” - as Michael Hauser from the Centre for Development Research at BOKU has put it. In contrast to resistance, it is a system´s dynamic response to change.
Leading up to multiple discussion groups organized in a world café method, three guests introduced the topic of resilience from different point of views. It has been most interesting to note how the debate was concentrating on the question of how to make changes, a crisis or even a shock more predictable. Possibly, predicting change is one option of increasing a system´s resilience. However, it may also be a way of resisting it. Furthermore, the question of differentiating between sustainability and resilience arose. In many ways, the latter is part of sustainability.
The different case studies presented during the world café showed how diverse the factors leading to resilience are. Quite often, vulnerability is created by climate change, resource conflicts and multiple natural factors. The case of northern Kenya showed how recurring drought forced pastoralists to at least temporarily quit animal husbandry and take up arable farming in order to maintain a staple food. However, it turned out to be rather difficult to transform a more nomadic lifestyle into a sedentary one, to leave behind the culture of regarding the animal stock as a status symbol. In consequence, the pastoralists returned to their traditional way of life rather than adopting the new one. Despite the fact that irrigated farming might be more appropriate in terms of resilience to natural factors, the social factors showed to be an essential part of resilience too! And cultural transformation surely needs its time.