Consultant - Poverty Economics & Market Systems Senior Specialist - Kenya

Programs Nairobi, Kenya


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Mercy Corps is a leading global organization powered by the belief that a better world is possible.   In disaster, in hardship, in more than 40 countries around the world, we partner to put bold solutions into action — helping people triumph over adversity and build stronger communities from within. Now, and for the future.

Mercy Corps began working in Kenya in 2008 and has to date built a robust and diverse portfolio of programs aimed at sustainably improving the lives and livelihoods of Kenyans affected by poverty, resource scarcity and conflict. To do this, we deliver integrated programming to strengthen resilience, market and governance systems, address the root causes of conflict, and equip vulnerable populations- in particular youth, women, adolescents and marginalized social groups- with the skills, opportunities and resources they need to be healthy, productive, and drive the development of their communities. Mercy Corps Kenya also collaborates with Mercy Corps teams and partners in neighboring countries to implement a number of multi-country and cross-border programs.

Purpose / Project Description:

Mercy Corps and its consortium partners are implementing a five-year USAID/Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (BHA)-funded program entitled USAID Nawiri in Turkana and Samburu Counties of Kenya focused on nutrition resilience. The program aims to sustainably reduce persistent acute malnutrition in the two counties over a five-year period using a multi-sectoral program approach that integrates resilient livelihoods, access to improved water, health and sanitation services, and strengthening enabling systems for nutrition from household to national level. USAID Nawiri dedicated the first two years (Phase 1) to implementing an action research agenda to inform the program design to achieve the program’s goal in the remaining three years (Phase 2). The program is currently embarking on an ambitious implementation plan to layer and integrate a series of interventions that address both immediate and systemic drivers of acute malnutrition, while addressing the effects of extreme drought and the global food crisis in implementation areas. Throughout all stages, the program is working closely with government, community, and private sector partners.

USAID Nawiri's implementation started in the midst of one of the most severe drought crises in 40 years, causing catastrophic humanitarian needs in the Horn of Africa. The program is implementing an emergency response (Drought Emergency Response - DER) that includes cash transfers to ultra-poor households in Turkana and Samburu Counties. At the same time, the program is launching activities designed to support and strengthen resilient livelihood systems and sustainable livelihood pathways. A resilient livelihood draft strategy was designed based on research and analysis including Household Economic analysis (HEA), Cost Of Diet (COD) Study and other food and labor markets studies. These highlighted how livelihood strategies not only need to be specifically tailored to livelihood zones and contexts but need to be intentional about how they contribute to nutrition outcomes beyond increased income, production and general market systems strengthening. They need to consider social behavioral change strategies that increase willingness and ability to pay for nutritious diets and associated nutrition services (water/health/education/natural resources), and ensure production, income strengthening, livelihood diversification and market connections. Resilient Livelihoods interventions must then support households to maintain a sufficient level of cash flow achieved with the cash transfers in this emergency phase that stimulates demand for nutritious food items and associated commodities, and that the market continues to be able to respond with sufficient supply. 

The program is recruiting a consultant for 3 months, with possible extension if needed, to work with the Resilient Livelihoods teams to assess and refine a coherent strategy for supporting and strengthening resilient livelihood systems and sustainable livelihoods pathways that contribute to sustainable reductions in persistent acute malnutrition and broader goals of nutrition security. This strategy must be informed by evidence and learning, tailored to context, and translated into a detailed implementation plan, inclusive of results chains, population segmentation and detailed targeting plan. It should also inform a learning agenda to frame and focus adaptive learning. This person will ensure that the strategy and resulting plan are grounded in principles and practices of poverty economics (including graduation) and market systems development that address the economic feasibility, value for money, and sustainability of different livelihood approaches to shocks and stresses. S/he should have excellent knowledge of macro and micro-economics, market systems applied to agriculture and food and how to strengthen them in arid land contexts. 

In close collaboration with the Chief of Party (CoP), the Technical Director, the Strategic Learning Lead, the Nutrition Resilience Advisor, the DER Coordinator, the Climate Smart Agriculture Advisor and the Alternative Livelihoods & Market Advisor, and in communication with the Monitoring & Evaluation Lead, the Poverty Economics & Market System Senior Specialist will facilitate the review and ground testing of a robust Resilient Livelihoods for Nutrition Security strategy. A key focus of the role will be to support the project’s team members in understanding, applying, and assessing market-based approaches that are sustainable, build livelihoods and directly contribute to nutrition security. S/he will guide, and mentor program leads and staff to strategize and apply poverty economics and systems thinking to diagnose challenges and opportunities for supporting and strengthening livelihood systems to deliver sustainable results for nutrition security at scale. 

Consultant Activities:

The SCC Senior Resilience Curriculum Consultant will:

PROGRAM APPROACH DESIGN AND STRATEGY (75% of consultancy efforts)

  • Facilitate the team to review and own USAID Nawiri’s operational definition for “Resilient Livelihoods” and related conceptual framework that articulates the relationship between resilient livelihoods and nutrition security. Use those as tools to facilitate joint planning and decision-making across USAID Nawiri sectors and disciplines. 
  • Review market systems, labor market, household economy diagnostics and other research conducted during Phase 1 of the program and support the team to assess current implementation progress including relevance, effectiveness of interventions, efficiency of implementation strategies and sustainability of interventions based on prevailing economic, social, environmental and political conditions. 
  • Based on the “Niaseku diagram”--a program diagram that utilizes the socio-ecological framework for behavior change to illustrate the multi-dimensional package of assets and services an individual and her household require for nutrition security-- facilitate team thinking and joint planning processes on capacities households and communities need to develop resilient livelihoods and draw linkages with market actions to be undertaken by the program. This will lead to designing the strategy with its package of interventions for households and Wards.
  • Use analysis to provide comprehensive recommendations and set the vision for systemic change within selected market and labor sectors that will contribute to household nutrition outcomes. This vision and its translation into a written Resilient Livelihoods strategy and implementation plans must ensure continuity between life-saving short-term interventions and longer-term resilience building interventions. The strategy will also include a scaling plan for the interventions.
  • Support the team in developing zone-based work plans with packages of interventions relevant to households needs. 
  • Support intervention leads in defining partnership strategies (internal, with other program’s components, and external), including an advocacy and influence plan for strengthening the capacity of local systems and institutions
  • Design tools and questions for USAID Nawiri teams to liaise with county officials and Ward Development Committees to ensure strategy is co-designed and relevant to context and scenario (failed rains, floods). 
  • Facilitate relationships with market actors (including government, other NGOs, private sector, and community partners) to revise plans and promote partner acceptance/buy-in.
  • Upon request, support developing concept notes for shock-responsive economic interventions for USAID Nawiri to pivot as the context evolves.


  • Provide training and on-going coaching to Resilient Livelihoods team members in resilient livelihoods foundations and MSD/poverty economics approaches.
  • Provide guidance on applying market and economy driven-thinking and systems based approaches within and across sectors and other technical areas.
  • Liaise with Resilience Advisors on Humanitarian - Development - Peacebuilding coherence, and Mercy Corps’ resilience program practices to ensure the strategy targets critical resilience capacities.

KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT AND LEARNING (5% of consultancy efforts)

  • Under the lead of the Strategic Learning Lead, provide strategic input into the development of the USAID Nawiri Learning Agenda related to Resilient Livelihoods for Nutrition. 
  • Identify key learning needs and scope for case studies and learning documents.
  • In close collaboration with the Monitoring & Evaluation Lead, provide strategic input into the Monitoring & Evaluation Plan to ensure it aligns with the strategy.

Consultant Deliverables:

  1. Written review of current Resilient Livelihoods draft framework and strategy, assessing relevance, effectiveness of interventions, efficiency of implementation strategies and sustainability of interventions based on prevailing economic, social, environmental and political conditions. (Est. Level of Effort (LOE) 5 days)
  2. Written practical zone-based implementation strategy and related implementation plans for supporting and strengthening Resilient Livelihoods for nutrition security. (Est. LOE 28 days)
  3. Joint design of scale up plan from 12- 35 wards helping to plan staff resourcing and saturation of Resilient Livelihoods interventions within targeted implementation zones. (Est. LOE 4 days)
  4. Inputs to learning questions and plan (Est. LOE 1 day)
  5. Proposed (amendments to) M&E approaches and indicators to monitor success of Resilient Livelihoods approaches and strategies (Est. LOE 2 days)

Timeframe / Schedule: 

This consultancy is for 40 days from October 1st, 2022 through January 15th, 2023. 

The Consultant will report to:

  • USAID-Nawiri Technical Director

The Consultant will work closely with:

  • USAID-Nawiri Alternative Livelihoods & Market Advisor
  • USAID-Nawiri Climate Smart Agriculture Advisor
  • USAID Nawiri County Resilient Livelihoods team members
  • USAID-Nawiri Strategic Learning Lead
  • USAID-Nawiri Monitoring & Evaluation Lead
  • Africa Resilience & Food Security Senior Advisor (Mercy Corps Africa Region)
  • Agriculture & Livestock Senior Advisor (Mercy Corps Global)
  • Sr. Resilience Advisor (Mercy Corps Global)

Required Experience & Skills:

  • Bachelor’s degree required. M.A, M.S., M.Sc., or equivalent in economics and/or market systems development. 
  • At least 10 years of experience providing increasingly proficient technical support in the relevant field of expertise that includes:
    • Analyzing economics trends in countries/regions with extreme poverty and protracted crises
    • Producing poverty economics and market development strategies
    • Training/mentoring of staff in relevant technical areas
    • Demonstrating strong applied knowledge of the field of expertise
    • Using integrated approaches and applying systems thinking.
  • Experience in working on programs aiming at layering short-term emergency response with longer-term market development
  • Experience in designing and implementation of social protection mechanisms.
  • Deep understanding of poverty economics and Market System Development methodology, frameworks and their operationalization with - at least 7 years of experience advising or managing market-based programs, at least 5 years in senior advisory or management roles.
  • Practical field experience including, if possible, emergency response assignments or other crisis response work that demonstrates the ability to successfully adapt support and assistance methodologies to real-world complexities.
  • Delivering training in relevant technical areas to Senior Management and Staff.
  • Willingness and ability to travel frequently to USAID Nawiri program field locations, including traveling to insecure environments, is required.
  • Prior experience in Kenya’s ASALs is strongly preferred, in arid and pastoralist environments a minimum.
  • Fluency in English required.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Achieving our mission begins with how we build our team and work together. Through our commitment to enriching our organization with people of different origins, beliefs, backgrounds, and ways of thinking, we are better able to leverage the collective power of our teams and solve the world’s most complex challenges. We strive for a culture of trust and respect, where everyone contributes their perspectives and authentic selves, reaches their potential as individuals and teams, and collaborates to do the best work of their lives. 

We recognize that diversity and inclusion is a journey, and we are committed to learning, listening and evolving to become more diverse, equitable and inclusive than we are today.

Equal Employment Opportunity
We are committed to providing an environment of respect and psychological safety where equal employment opportunities are available to all. We do not engage in or tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, color, gender identity, gender expression, religion, age, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, disability (including HIV/AIDS status), marital status, military veteran status or any other protected group in the locations where we work.

Safeguarding & Ethics
Mercy Corps is committed to ensuring that all individuals we come into contact with through our work, whether team members, community members, program participants or others, are treated with respect and dignity. We are committed to the core principles regarding prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse laid out by the UN Secretary General and IASC and have signed on to the Interagency Misconduct Disclosure Scheme. We will not tolerate child abuse, sexual exploitation, abuse, or harassment by or of our team members. As part of our commitment to a safe and inclusive work environment, team members are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner, respect local laws and customs, and to adhere to Mercy Corps Code of Conduct Policies and values at all times.