Our findings demonstrate that mental-health-related grants were not aligned with two GCRF Strategic Challenge Portfolios: (i) Food Systems and (ii) Resilience to Environmental Shocks and Change. However, coders agreed that 50% of the former and 67% of the latter projects sampled within these portfolios engaged implicitly with the mental health of target groups. Case Study 3 illustrates potential for mental health impact in relation to Resilience to Environmental Shocks and Change.
Building Resilience and Inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa Through Social Learning Around Climate Risks
This project was conducted with regard to rural communities of sub-Saharan Africa who are vulnerable to climate-related stressors and shocks through their dependency on agriculture and livestock. It is described on the Gatewya to Research as focused “on understanding the learning processes that build resilience and support livelihoods, which are responding to multiple pressures and opportunities across timescales in contexts that are complex and highly uncertain” (para 2). The target groups of this project which could be the focus of psychosocial wellbeing impacts were identified by the coders as the vulnerable communities of the project case studies.
One coder suggested that the entire focus of the project was community resilience and, by implication, engaged multiple facets of psychosocial wellbeing. Interestingly, during interview the PI interrogated the concept of resilience stating that “different people have different ideas of what resilience means and resilience to me does incorporate some mental health long-term impact.” The other coder indicated that the project engaged implicitly with the psychosocial wellbeing of target groups by using a social learning approach to map the ways vulnerable communities have access to climate information and share knowledge amongst themselves, how outcomes highlight the relationships between power and poverty, and how poor people, particularly women, suffer exclusion. The PI also reflected on a previous project illuminating these connections and giving him pause for thought about his role as researcher: “the reason they weren’t interested in the long-term, the seasonal forecasts was because the women-headed households were the last in the pecking order to be able to use the communal ploughs. So knowing what the seasonal forecast was going to be actually was depressing for them […] so I sometimes wonder that I might not even be aware of some of the impacts I have on people.”
Both coders agreed that, had only minor changes been made to the project, there were opportunities to secure all three types of social wellbeing impacts, one stating it is likely that the project did facilitate community-building, support community mobilisation, and preserve sociocultural identity via their social networks approach, although this was not a target outcome and no data were reported.
In terms of material practices, both coders agreed that interactions between or enactments upon people might have created a focus to enhance psychosocial wellbeing with target groups. Specifically identified were the workshops to map the social connections. Coders suggested that participants could have been asked explicitly about the psychosocial dimensions of community resilience. This could have included articulating which social connections are important to the community, how they might build-on and protect them, and which are difficult and might be improved. The PI also expressed awareness that during research “sometimes the interaction can be quite negative. I think is what I was trying to point out around the mental health impact on the people that they work with. So it’s not just about listening and saying, oh I’ve listened to you and people feeling better for that.” The other coder suggested that participants could have been encouraged to consider how they want to build and mobilise their community and to be more inclusive. It was recognised that something similar might have been done within the project but not mentioned explicitly. This is substantiated by the PI’s comment that “there are potentially long-term impacts of our interactions with people and they can be positive, I’d like to hope something I’ve done is positive.”