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Case Study

Meeting immediate needs and protecting development gains: Lessons from Ethiopia’s drought response

December 2022 — By Mercy Corps

From April to October 2022, Mercy Corps’ Resilience in Pastoral Areas, North (RIPA-North) program provided a humanitarian drought response in the Somali Region of Ethiopia funded by the activation of a crisis modifier. This drought response was designed to complement and build on the Market Systems Development (MSD) approach which focuses on enhancing resilient, sustainable economic opportunities in arid and semi-arid lands as a pathway to food security. A humanitarian response that shifts away from market support and toward direct distributions would risk undermining the very market systems that RIPA-North, and its predecessor program Pastoralist Areas Resilience Improvement through Market Expansion (PRIME), have strengthened with nearly a decade of USAID-funded resilience investments in dryland economies and production systems. A weakening of local markets would accelerate the deterioration of the local food system and its ability to provide safe and nutritious foods to pastoral communities already facing multiple crises, thus causing backsliding towards greater aid dependency.
This paper provides an overview of how the Markets in Crisis approach to this drought response leveraged existing relationships and built on RIPA-North’s development interventions to meet immediate humanitarian needs, help households protect assets, livelihoods, and food security in light of compounding shocks, and simultaneously strengthen local markets that households rely on to cope and improve their food security and economic prospects in the future. Team members involved in the design and implementation of the drought response participated in interviews in June-July 2022 to discuss the design of the interventions and early implementation and data from Post-Distribution Monitoring (PDM) and market analysis provides a clearer picture of the response and its impact.
Mercy Corps’ drought response illustrates the importance of robust, anticipatory, and resilience-focused action in response to unfolding crises, and the importance of harmonizing humanitarian response with market systems development programming to advance and protect well-being in shock-affected environments. As the current global food crisis enters a more acute stage, and is projected to last throughout 2023, the drought response offers important lessons on how to strengthen local economies while addressing acute food security and nutrition needs of crisis-affected populations.