In early February 2016, Population Reference Bureau (PRB) staff traveled to Arusha, Tanzania, to lead a workshop on integrated population-health-environment (PHE) projects, resilience, and climate change adaptation under the USAID-funded Evidence Project. PHE projects integrate activities related to family planning and reproductive health with other health, livelihoods, and environmental activities.

Monitoring and evaluation staff from two PHE projects participated in the workshop: the Tuungane project in western Tanzania along the forested shores of Lake Tanganyika, and Blue Ventures along the arid coast of Western Madagascar. In addition, one person from the new USAID-funded Northern Tanzania Rangelands Initiative (which has a PHE component) participated in the workshop, as well as the director of the Evidence Project and the Population, Environment, and Development technical advisor for USAID.

For several years, the terms resilience and adaptation have been international development buzzwords, but PHE projects have not always collected or analyzed the data in a way that effectively illustrates their impact on these development priorities. Resilience and adaptation can only be achieved when individuals, their households, communities, and countries can withstand crises, recover from them, and adapt so as to better cope with them in the future. These concepts are abstract, which makes them difficult to measure or evaluate.

The goal of the workshop was for staff of the three projects to think about what they are doing to identify and measure the projects’ benefits to climate change adaptation and increased resilience to different types of shocks (including environmental shocks) in their project communities. Staff from these projects will be completing surveys related to family planning, resilience, and climate change adaptation, so this workshop was an opportunity to share data and lessons learned. It was also a chance to work collaboratively to develop the surveys and collectively figure out ways to demonstrate the pathways through which PHE projects—specifically family planning—produce benefits to resilience and climate change adaptation that would not be produced without PHE’s multisectoral integration. These benefits are also known as added value.

This perceived difficulty of measuring and evaluating increased resilience and climate change adaptation was driven home when workshop participants discussed their project activities and the different types of data that they have already collected; project staff wondered how they might leverage their upcoming surveys to get the most valuable data on resilience. This was soon followed by an exciting “Aha!” moment when participants realized that they have already been collecting data on multiple indicators related to resilience and adaptation—it was just a matter of effectively analyzing them.

Here’s an example: A coastal project may aim to bring voluntary family planning to communities that have expressed a need for more services, commodities, or information. At the same time, the project may help community members create and enforce protected coastal areas, which allow for fish, octopi, and other marine life to replenish in size and number. Among other benefits, protected areas prevent overfishing and ensure that fishing communities are able to sell adequately sized fish, families have enough marine life to sustain themselves, and local marine life does not die out. Since closing or protecting coastal areas might prevent community members from having enough to sustain themselves or having enough fish to sell, the project may introduce alternative aquaculture or farming livelihoods for families to diversify their sources of nutrition and income.

While the goal of those interventions might not be increased resilience and adaptation, that is effectively what happens: In the event of a natural disaster that destroys marine life, community members will still have other sources of nutrition, and will have other sources of income. Over time, when families have greater access to voluntary family planning, they tend to have improved household health and nutrition, increased education levels, and greater economic stability. These are just some of the building blocks of resilience. The project’s monitoring and evaluation component may be measuring and analyzing the number of households with alternative livelihoods to fishing, or the number of protected coastal areas, but they may not realize that these are indicators that also measure community resilience and climate change adaptation.

One can imagine that many similar multisectoral projects around the world are collecting information from their communities and simply are not looking at them through a resilience lens.

The work of Blue Ventures and the Tuungane Project targets the building blocks of resilience by diversifying sources of income and sustenance, empowering women in household decisionmaking, engaging men in discussions about health and family planning, and increasing the communities’ and decisionmakers’ understanding of the connections between the health of people and the health of the environment. While both groups are working in very different settings, they have quite a few things in common. For example, both projects operate in remote rural communities where they work to build local ownership and management of natural resources; both work to offer entries into alternative livelihoods; and both are generating an interest in and increased use of family planning and reproductive health services and commodities. Many projects that integrate family planning with health, environment, and livelihoods components have similar goals. Such activities build resilience.

The next steps include further analysis and reporting on existing data, as well as collecting and analyzing new data from the Tuungane Project and Blue Ventures with the hopes of illustrating the complex pathways between PHE projects, resilience, and climate change adaptation. Both the Tuungane Project and Blue Ventures will be working together, in collaboration with the Evidence Project and PRB, to make the most of this opportunity to demonstrate that resilience and adaptation are concrete goals to which PHE projects can effectively contribute.