Inappropriate Interventions in the Great Lakes
Summary of published research1
The aid community has reacted to many crises in the Great Lakes region with a multitude of interventions aimed explicitly at improving the food security of people affected by the crisis. A recent study under the direction and support of Save the Children UK set out to answer the following questions about these interventions.
- What responses have agencies and institutions in the region used to promote food security?
- How do these interventions compare with the constraints to food security that can be or have been identified?
- Are there any constraints which agencies have not addressed, and if so, why?
- Are there any institutional or structural fac tors which affect how organisations have responded to food insecurity, and what impact have these had on the quality of response.
Seven case studies were conducted. These were:
- In Burundi, the responses in 2000 to 2001 to the lengthy drought in Kirundo Province, and the forced displacement of the civilian population of Bujumbura Rural Province from 1999 to 2001;
- In DRC, two urban crises - the volcanic eruption in Goma in January 2002 and the ethnic war in Bunia town in 2003, and interventions as displaced people returned home to the Masisis plateau in 1999-2003;
- In Uganda, the displacement in Kasese District from 1996 to 2000 caused by armed conflict, and the situation in Gulu District, where war with the Lord's Resistance Army has led to the displacement of almost the rural population.
The case studies were chosen on the basis of representing the full range of crises and the range of interventions used in the region as well as there being good information available on people's livelihoods and food security constraints.
Although it stresses that the situation is not homogenous or entirely negative and that individuals take significant risks to deliver assistance to the crisis affected, the study identified a number of weaknesses in the aid effort:
- Most food security interventions failed to address needs.
- Agencies used the same narrow range of responses in nearly all circumstances. These short-term responses were repeated each year in the region's chronic crises while longer term efforts to tackle the causes of food inse curity remained too small-scale.
- Due to various pressures agencies were unable to think through appropriateness of response. Food was given out where it was known to be plentiful and seeds were given to people who did not need them.
- Seed distributions and nutrition interventions in particular were implemented widely even though they were based on a series of questionable assumptions that remained largely untested.
- Responses focused narrowly on food production
- Food for work programmes were seldom appropriate and the relative appropriateness of food-based versus cash-based interventions was inadequately examined.
- Assessments were not done to determine the real constraints to food security and livelihoods. On a positive note, the cases showed that rapid assessment is possible even in insecure environments.
- In many cases information was already available but not used.
- Responses were often not cost-effective.
- Most actors gave a low priority to learn ing lessons and finding out about the impact of the interventions.
The study report makes a number of recommendations many of which relate to the programme cycle.
Assessment and analysis:
- All food security interventions (with the exception of immediate responses lasting up to two or three weeks) should be based upon assessments of livelihoods. These assessments need to be made before deciding what to do.
- Analysis and programming for food security need to focus on much wider issues than merely food, and need to incorporate economic thinking. This will probably lead to a greater use of market and cash inter ventions.
- A longer-term analytical perspective is needed, even for relatively short-term inter-ventions. Frameworks also need to take greater account of conflict and dis crimination, particularly ethnic or clan relations, and gender and intra-houshold issues.
- All this requires people with the right skills and experience therefore agencies need to invest in capacity development of staff.
- Donors should be consistent in their demands for proper analysis before funding interventions.
Monitoring, evaluation and inter-agency coordination:
- Agencies should spend more time, energy and resources on monitoring, evaluation and learning as emergency responses can only evolve if lessons are learnt and institutionalised.
- There is also a need for a livelihoods security information system in the Great Lakes Region with clear links to an agency with a coordination mandate, like OCHA.
In addition to current responses other intervention options need to be considered/investigated. These range from facilitating access to land, to market interventions, increasing access to labour, asset creation and retention, and support to the productive environment. New implementation modalities could be considered in view of the operational constraints in the region. Some agencies are experimenting with 'remote access' programming or with 'war-proof' projects that support livelihoods without having visible targets for attack. This work needs prioritising.
Impact and cost-effectiveness:
Agencies need wide-ranging reviews of emergency nutrition interventions (supplementary feeding, nutrition education, demonstration gardens, cooking lessons) and the distribution of seeds and tools. Given that resources are always limited, comparison of cost benefit calculations for alternative interventions should be carried out. Currently, the data from which to make cost-effectiveness comparisons is limited, and simple methods for measuring costeffectiveness, which can be applied by multiple agencies, should be developed and adopted.
1Levine.S and Chastre.C et al (2004): Missing the point. An analysis of food security interventions in the Great Lakes. Humanitarian Practice Network Paper, Number 47, July 2004
Taken from Field Exchange Issue 23, November 2004