Resilience Building in Rural Kenya

70 women representing 30 different savings groups participate in a 2-day training on agriculture, rain water harvesting, micro-gardening, and income generating activities.

70 women representing 30 different savings groups participate in a 2-day training on agriculture, rain water harvesting, micro-gardening, and income generating activities.

Resilience is one of those words that has been used so frequently in a wide array of contexts that it means just about anything to anyone. At Zawdisha, we're clear on what resilience means to us, and what we are doing to foster it. Resilience describes the ability of individuals, the community, and the environment to absorb disturbances, reorganize, and build the capacity for learning and adaptation. The goal is to thrive in the face of shocks and stresses. Resilience can be achieved by supporting the environmental, economic, and social systems within a community.

How do we achieve this? By applying the seven sources of resilience to both influence our design and the evaluation of our impact. The result is highly effective model that blends job creation for rural women, access to life-changing technology and products, and education.



Diversity: The quality or state of having many forms or types. With more forms/types, diversity increases. In which parts of the system is there little or no diversity, and does this make the system vulnerable?

Openness: Refers to the ease with which things like people, ideas, and species can move into and out of your system. Closed communities of people and society can become inbred, static, and fragile. What trends are occurring? Is there any evidence (social or ecological) that the system is becoming (or is) too closed?

Reserves: In general, more in reserve means greater resilience, and the trend to look for is often one of a loss of reserves— natural (e.g., habitat patches, seed banks), social (memory and local knowledge), and economic (levels of savings).

Tightness of Feedback: How long does it take to respond to threats and opportunities? As social- ecological systems develop, there is often a trend toward lengthening times for responses to signals, loosening the strength of feedback signals. Changing and weakening in any feedbacks (social, ecological, economic) can be of concern.

Modularity: A system that is fully connected will rapidly transmit all shocks (e.g., a disease, a wildfire, or a bad management practice) through the whole system. In a system with tightly interacting subcomponents that are loosely connected to each other (i.e., a modular system), parts of the system are able to reorganize in response to changes elsewhere in the system in time to avoid disaster.

Social Capital: What are the levels of trust within members of groups? Between groups? Is the system locked into one style of leadership, or can it change to suit the circumstances? What informal networks exist? What is the capacity of individuals and groups to act in making their own choices.

Capital Assets: The amount and quality of capital assets the system can draw on in response to a disturbance. These include natural capital, built capital, human capital, and financial capital.