Workshop on Food Security Assessments
Targeting - Sudan '98
WFP recently hosted a workshop in Rome (November 1999) entitled 'Food Security Assessments, Self-Reliance, Targeting and Phasing Out Ongoing Refugee Situations'. The main objectives of the workshop were 'To achieve broad consensus on:
- approaches/methodologies for assessing levels of self-reliance and food security;
- criteria and options for targeting food assistance; and
- criteria and strategies for phasing down and out general food assistance in ongoing ('care and maintenance') refugee situations.
There was broad agreement on the importance of:
- Having clear objectives, appropriate terms of reference and necessary time (and other resources) for each assessment exercise. Objectives have sometimes been unclear and/or limited to a particular agency's needs or by the time allowed, not covering all the aspects on which programme planners and managers in WFP or UNHCR - and donors - require information;
- Adopting a holistic 'food security' assessment approach which examines how all groups within a refugee population actually access food. This requires taking account of basic needs other than food (and the possible trade-offs between food and other basic needs), different types of livelihood system, and the effects and desirability of the various coping mechanisms adopted by the refugees;
- Explicitly recognising the factors (additional to food availability) which influence food consumption and nutritional status. This is necessary for planning appropriate, complementary food and non-food assistance;
- Examining opportunities for - not only constraints on - sustainable self-reliance, and helping refugees to attain the maximum possible degree of self-reliance in the circumstances.
- Understanding the social and political context within the refugee population. This is essential both for identifying the reasons for certain groups being particularly food insecure and for anticipating the probable effects on different groups of particular assistance strategies and/or attempts at targeting;
- Considering the likely impact on the most food insecure households of any ration reductions, and establishing and maintaining 'safety nets' whenever (before) rations are reduced or phased-out, or targeting is introduced. This is essential in order to protect the most food insecure and marginalised groups;
- Monitoring, on an ongoing basis, the food security situation (access to food and livelihood strategies) as well as nutritional status and the various factors which influence food access and nutritional status. The need is for 'information/ surveillance systems' rather than just periodic or ad hoc assessments. This is particularly important before and after any modification in rations, distribution or targeting arrangements in order to detect changes - unintended effects - and to be able to respond promptly with food and/or other interventions as appropriate;
- Maintaining an ongoing dialogue and relationships of confidence and trust between assistance agencies and the refugees - all bone fide civilian groups within the refugee population - and with host government and populations. Shared understandings and agreement on objectives are essential for collaboration in assessments and in the implementation of planned assistance interventions;
- Ensuring adequate 'sensitisation' of the population before any changes in ration levels and/or distribution and targeting arrangements are introduced. Refugees must understand the reasons if changes are to be implemented smoothly and effectively;
- Understanding the wider political context which influences the attitudes of host populations, the host government and donors towards the refugees. This is necessary to understand the reasons for the present situation and to be able to appropriately present the case for recommended actions.
It was generally agreed that there is no one assessment methodology which can meet all information needs in all circumstances. There is a common core of information needs (some of which were listed), but specific needs are determined by the objectives set for each assessment and by local circumstances. An appropriate mix of methodologies must then be chosen. A set of basic principles for information gathering and analysis could be developed. Some participants expressed the view that specific recommendations concerning methodologies for gathering and analysing particular types of information may not be appropriate, but others proposed that this be further examined in a smaller technical group.
Workshop report and background paper available on request in hardcopy and electronic format from the ENN. Contact Kornelius Elstner at The ENN, Unit 2.5, The Tower, Trinity College Enterprise Centre, Pearse Street, Dublin 2, Ireland. Phone +353 1 675 2390; Fax +353 1 675 2391; email email@example.com. Soon to be available on WFP website: http://www.wfp.org
Taken from Field Exchange Issue 9, March 2000