Using a Systems Approach to understand Markets and Resilience in Karamoja, Uganda

September 4, 2021

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Participants at a system mapping workshop in Uganda in January 2020
As part of its work in Uganda, the USAID/Uganda Feed the Future Market System Monitoring (MSM) Activity applied a systems approach to understanding the Karamoja region, the focus of humanitarian and resilience programming in Uganda. Using the System Pathways framework, the team developed several system maps, including one that represents the building blocks of household resilience, one focusing on pastoralist livelihoods in the region, and one that focuses on livelihood opportunities in the iron-rich beans value chain in two focus districts. These maps supported the work of the Karamoja Livelihoods Cluster, which brings together USAID’s humanitarian and development-focused implementing partners in the Karamoja region. The Activity conducted three workshops focused on these maps, which have proved valuable to the Cluster in supporting joint work planning, communications, new investment planning, and identifying collaboration opportunities. The Activity team gained vital experience in facilitating conversations across the humanitarian-development nexus, and a deeper understanding of the complex dynamics that enable household resilience in areas with limited market opportunities.  Karamoja Household Resilience System Map In 2019, the MSM team created the Karamoja Household Resilience System Map, which depicts the key elements that enable a household to be resilient in Karamoja. A resilient household is defined as one that "maintains its well-being in the face of shocks and stresses". The key contributions of this map were in representing a common understanding of the concept of resilience and visualizing the main systemic drivers of household resilience in the region. A guide to interpreting the map is available, as well as a guide to the map elements. The map grew out of a workshop hosted in June 2019 for Uganda’s Global Food Security Strategy (GFSS) portfolio, bringing together USAID staff and implementing partners working on Feed the Future, Food for Peace, and resilience programming. Participants used a system map to identify overlaps and synergies between their work on market systems and resilience, resulting in a new set of cross-sector goals and a set of prioritized leverage points. This workshop helped to incorporate resilience programming more formally into USAID/Uganda's systems approach. The Karamoja Household Resilience System Map was developed from a need to better understand the factors that enable a household to be resilient, specifically the interplay between humanitarian support and access to livelihoods and markets. The map represents an ideal state for Karamoja in the medium term (approximately 5-10 years). This is the state of the system that is the goal of the current programming in the region, and is loosely based on the Activities' collective theories of change. The map allows practitioners to visualize how the current system state falls short of this ideal, and what changes can be expected if the current interventions have their intended effect. The map also captures all USAID-funded interventions that were currently operating, or about to start, in the districts of Kaabong, Karenga, and Kotido. The MSM team documented the creation of the map and how it was used in a case study. The map was presented and discussed at a workshop for the Karamoja Livelihoods Cluster in January 2020 (the workshop report is available here). Participants were able to use the system map to understand each other's work, visualize where the current interventions were, and identify opportunities for collaboration across Activities. The participants also used the system map to identify barriers to progress and gaps in the current portfolio of interventions, and to generate a list of priorities for government engagement. At the end of the workshop, participants had highlighted water, conflict, and gender as major factors impacting resilience in the region. The system map was particularly valuable to the Karamoja Livelihoods Cluster because the Activities' interventions in the region had been layered on the map. This allowed members to visualize where different organizations are working within the system. The system map also facilitates troubleshooting barriers to change through root-cause analysis. Perhaps most valuable, however, was that the map fulfilled its objective of creating a common understanding of the system around household resilience, which could then be communicated to other stakeholders to foster greater coordination. Karamoja Market System Maps In 2020, USAID/Uganda asked the MSM team to apply the System Pathways framework to localized market systems in Karamoja. The Activity team worked with the Karamoja Livelihoods Cluster to develop two system maps: the Karamoja Livestock System Map, which focuses on pastoralist livelihoods in the region, and the Karamoja Beans Market System Map, which is focused on the iron-rich beans value chain in two districts. The purpose of the livestock system map was to serve as a communication tool for explaining the dynamics of pastoralist livelihoods in the region, while the iron-rich beans map was created to support collaboration between interventions focused on this value chain. Please consult the guide to reading these maps for more detail. The Karamoja Beans Market System Map was the focus of a session held with the Karamoja Livelihoods Cluster in December 2020. Once again, because the Activities' interventions in the system had been added to the map, the Cluster members could use the maps to visualize opportunities for collaboration and identify complementary interventions. As outlined in the workshop report, there are several other applications of the system map: identifying leverage points for new interventions, communicating about the system with other stakeholders, monitoring change in the system, and identifying gaps in data and knowledge about the system. The system mapping exercise also allowed our team to identify three system-level insights: the importance of transportation, the need for smooth flow of information, and opportunities to leverage existing market structures for other commodities. These are detailed in the workshop report. The MSM team further demonstrated how the Karamoja Livelihood Cluster's three key high-level outcomes could be located on the system maps. The report shows how these outcomes correspond to system elements on the Karamoja maps, and how enabling elements in the system drive change in these high-level outcomes. It then demonstrates how the Cluster's Measures of Success could be found on the system maps. This is valuable because the system maps can be used to infer the status of these measures, and from this infer the status of the high-level outcomes. This shows how systems maps can help us learn about different aspects of the system even with limited data.  These maps are available for further exploration on the online Kumu platform: Please reach out to the MSM Activity team at [email protected] with any questions or feedback.