Twenty-eighth Session

Rome, 6-8 June 2002


Table of Contents


1. This is the third annual progress report on the development of FIVIMS since these reports were requested by the CFS at its 25th session in 1999. This report focuses on activities undertaken by FAO and other members of the Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG) on FIVIMS over the past year. The section of last year’s report, diagnosing constraints encountered in implementing the WFS FIVIMS initiative and proposing solutions to these problems, remains largely unchanged, and is reproduced for the convenience of the reader as an Annex to this document. Where new events and circumstances (such as the new focus on the Millennium Development Goals and their indicators) have affected the future directions to be taken in FIVIMS work, this is noted in the relevant paragraphs below.


2. The Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG) Secretariat and individual IAWG member organisations continue to provide substantial support to country-level activities, either to diagnose the current state of national information systems, and/or to assist in strengthening national institutional capacity so that national and international safety net and development programmes can more effectively assist food insecure and vulnerable population groups. Several countries, on their own initiative, have also begun to promote FIVIMS principles at national and sub-national levels. Developments since the last progress report are highlighted below.


3. Since the inception of the FIVIMS programme in 1997, FAO has consistently devoted substantial regular programme and trust fund resources to research on best practices for the development of information and mapping systems focused on hunger, vulnerability, and poverty. During the past year this is illustrated by the following:

4. Helen Keller International (HKI) is one of the most active NGO participants in the IAWG. It is also very active in project work in selected countries in the regions of Africa, Asia-Pacific and South America. Here, its experience in two countries with pronounced food security problems is illustrated. In Bangladesh, the HKI/GOB Nutrition Surveillance Project (NSP), running for more than 10 years, is being used to explore the nutritional situation of vulnerable population groups. HKI has been successful in documenting some key relationships in improving food security in that country:

5. In Indonesia, HKI has partnered with policy economists in an innovative collaborative effort to link food policy and nutrition using data from the HKI/GOI Health and Nutrition Surveillance System (NSS). Cohort analysis of the NSS data from Central Java confirmed the negative impact of the 1998 “Asian financial crisis” on nutritional status. The analysis suggests that complete recovery to pre-crisis levels has not yet been achieved. This information will be useful for macro-economic policy formulation as well as practical implementation of health and nutrition intervention programs. In Indonesia, NSS data is also being shared with provincial health offices to encourage greater local government use of surveillance information. The experiences in both countries have lead to international discussions about the value of comprehensive information systems and the links between programs and policies and the population impacts clearly documented by adequate surveillance systems.

6. Save the Children, UK (SC UK) has worked with various partners (international agencies and national governments) in the further elaboration and implementation of the Household Economy Approach (HEA), which is at the heart of an emerging international consensus on the centrality of appropriate, decentralised “livelihoods analysis” to the “diagnosis and treatment” of food insecurity in the poorest countries. The HEA approach is intended to improve understanding of the household economy and its relationship to markets and employment opportunities in a reference year. This information is used to estimate the effect of 'shocks' on household income and food supply and the likely ability of the household to compensate by implementing the various coping strategies available to it. Four regional training workshops have been held on the HEA in French and English for SC UK personnel and partners. At the regional level, SC UK has been working with the SADC Regional Vulnerability Assessment Committee (VAC), to increase understanding of the importance of Vulnerability Assessment in the region and establishment of national VACs. Work on the development of the highly innovative Intra-Household Model (IHM) is nearing completion. Initial field work has been conducted in Rwanda & Uganda and is now being used to refine the model. This should extend the usefulness of HEA in improving analysis and programming in a range of sectors, especially HIV/AIDS, child labour, ater, family re-unification in refugee situations, etc. In addition, SC UK are close to completing RiskMap 2, a revised computer program to capture HEA data and analysis for large areas and conduct “scenario analysis”.

7. UNICEF has been involved during the past year, amongst other activities, in the support and implementation of Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) and further development of ChildInfo computer programme. MICS is a household survey methodology that can generate data relatively quickly and inexpensively on key indicators not adequately monitored by other ongoing data collection systems. Together with the data generated through the USAID-funded Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), MICS data were used to assess the progress achieved in meeting end-decade goals set at the 1990 World Summit for Children (WSC). These improved data are also relevant to many national and international FIVIMS purposes. With support from UNICEF, Childinfo has been implemented in additional regions and countries. The database contains a list of indicators to monitor progress made around the world toward the achievement of children's rights. A standardized software package is used to organise and document data and to analyze and present the information in a variety of forms including tables, graphs and maps. Childinfo has been widely used in South Asia (where it originated); East Asia and Eastern and Southern Africa. It is also beginning to be used in the other regions. Building on the Childinfo, a number of countries are now using a slightly modified version to monitor the Millennium Development Goals. Examples include Devinfo in India and Taninfo in Tanzania. Childinfo is increasingly being used as a resource for common country assessments.

8. USAID/FEWS NET, operating in 17 countries in three sub-regions of Africa, has been carrying out further field application of the Livelihood Zoning approach. They see this as an important first step for moving to a decision-making process that is meaningful for analysis of household access to food and subsequent intervention. Zoning helps to group different population units into common access groups. This allows analysts to monitor the equivalent effects of different hazards for homogenous groups. With these common analytical units, monitoring is also improved because it helps identify only the relevant indicators in a given zone. One field example of this was the work carried out in Mozambique which resulted in the first national livelihood zoning map of Mozambique that was produced using well-established zoning principles and wide stake-holder/key informant participation through three regional workshops. FEWS NET was also involved in the planning and implementation of regional vulnerability activities, working closely with the SADC Regional Vulnerability Assessment Committee (VAC). Support has been provided to all activities of the VAC, including a Training Needs Survey; helping harmonize the different VA methods used in the region (included organizing a meeting in Maputo of SC-UK, WFP-VAM, and FEWS NET, and the development of 1-page summaries of each group’s methods.

9. The World Bank has continued work on its poverty mapping approach and methodology. A paper by Hentschel and Lanjouw, Combining Census and Survey Data to Study Spatial Dimensions of Poverty and Inequality, forthcoming in the World Bank Economic Review, describes this methodology, which permits household sample survey information to be combined with data from a more detailed census of population to produce poverty indicators for small areas. Poverty maps, providing information on the spatial distribution of living standards, are important tools for policymaking and economic research. Policymakers can use such maps to inform program resource geographic allocation and inform policy design. The maps can also be used to investigate the relationship between growth and distribution inside a country, thereby complementing research using cross-country regressions. The development of detailed poverty maps is difficult because of data constraints. Household surveys contain data on income or consumption but they typically involve relatively small samples. Census data cover the entire population (or at least a very large sample) but do not generally contain the needed information to understand complex phenomena such as poverty. The authors demonstrate how sample survey data and census data can be combined to yield predicted poverty rates for all households covered by the census. This represents an improvement over ad hoc poverty maps.

10. WFP’s Vulnerability Assessment and Mapping Unit (VAM) continued during 2001-2002 to develop, apply, and learn from its Standard Analytical Framework (SAF) for Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping using an iterative field-based process of assessments in various countries and contexts, with periodic reviews of progress. The WFP VAM unit, one of the core partners of the IAWG FIVIMS, is currently working in 41 developing or transistion economies. To-date, VAM's SAF assessments have helped to identify better ways for WFP and partners to respond to food insecurity and vulnerability, to derive best assessment practices, and to define gaps in the VAM analysis "toolkit" in many countries. In the past year, comprehensive baseline analyses were carried out in 14 countries: Nepal, India, Nicaragua, Guatemala, East Timor, Bolivia, Kenya, Mali, Cuba, Honduras, Peru, Lesotho, Laos, and Cambodia. The results of the vulnerability analyses in Cuba, India and Afghanistan were developed into widely distributed, high-quality publications. As of early 2002, comprehensive vulnerability analyses and updates were underway in another 10 countires: Afghanistan, Georgia, Syria, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Sri Lanka, Haiti, Yemen, Malawi and Tajikistan. All of these efforts have included substantial participation from members of national FIVIMS groups and in many countries, VAM-SAF methodology has been incorporated into national FIVIMS activities.

11. For 2002, the main focus of VAM methodological work will be in expanding SAF type assessments to emergency and transition settings and food security monitoring. By 2002, SAF guidance will cover all three principal types of VAM assessments: 1) Comprehensive baseline analyses of food security and vulnerability, 2) Periodic monitoring of food security and vulnerability and 3) Emergency assessments of food insecurity and vulnerability. This bottom-up process will build on VAM emergency and monitoring experiences in countries like Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Zimbabwe, and result in guidance based on best practices –not rigid formats– to better insure that the realities of each country settings are incorporated in the assessments.

12. WFP/VAM is currently making a substantial contribution into national Early Warning and Disaster Mitigation efforts around the world. VAM Units in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Sudan, Nicaragua, Honduras, Bolivia, Colombia, Nepal, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos and Former Yugoslavia are engaged on a regular basis in food security monitoring and nutritional surveillance by providing maps, developing indicators, methodologies and conducting data analysis in cooperation with national vulnerability working groups. Therefore, a special emphasis in VAM methodological work next year will be placed in strengthening VAM contribution into WFP disaster mitigation and contingency planning efforts.

13. WHO, as an active member of the IAWG on FIVIMS, has been collaborating with partner agencies and organizations including bilateral agencies and NGOs, to support countries in developing accurate and timely information on the incidence, nature and causes of chronic food insecurity and vulnerability, for use in formulating and implementing effective and sustainable national policies and programmes. WHO has intensified its Cross-border Initiative in the Horn of Africa by linking ongoing activities of communicable disease control with the health, population, and nutrition components of food security strategies related to cross-border populations. A sub-regional approach includes policy concentration, training, communication arrangements, synchronized interventions and joint progress analysis.

14. At country level, WHO, as a member of the UN Country Team, continues to contribute to UN thematic approach on food security (especially under UNDAF, CDF and Poverty alleviation framework). More specifically WHO technically support the development of food security initiatives, especially related to the most vulnerable population groups. During 2001, WHO provided financial support to the FIVIMS Secretariat for the publication of a FIVIMS “Tools and Tips Kit”, available in four languages (Arabic, English, French and Spanish) from the FIVIMS Secretariat.

15. A final cautionary note: As we review the paragraphs above on the FIVIMS-related normative work being done at country-level, the list of accomplishment may look quite impressive. However, we must keep in mind that these are pilot efforts, some of which are only conducted in a few districts in certain countries. In addition, many of these efforts involve relatively small budgets and involve the re-analysis of existing data. We should also keep in mind that these accomplishments are taking place against a background in the poorest countries (and several that are not so poor) of declining national and international funding for the collection of basic annual statistics in agriculture, health, and nutrition. Information collection and dissemination infrastructure is eroding in these countries. Without that basic data, the job of national FIVIMS becomes more challenging and forces greater reliance on less reliable ad hoc methods.


16. As the paragraphs in the above section illustrate, most of the normative efforts undertaken by IAWG members to develop improved approaches to the identification and characterisation of food insecure and vulnerable populations involve substantial use of pilot work at country level. In some cases, these efforts at methodology development also are accompanied by some investment in the simultaneous development of a national FIVIMS-type organisation (although not necessarily called “FIVIMS”). These “national FIVIMS start-up activities” usually include:

17. It should be clear that doing FIVIMS work at country level involves a series of discrete activities embedded in a longer-term framework focused on the benefits to be derived from having better information and mapping systems. Creating a high quality national information system requires a multi-year investment of time and money. There is not one development path to follow; problems differ from country to country; relevant information systems will as well. We illustrate that in the remaining paragraphs of this section by briefly describing (a) a number of national FIVIMS start-up efforts; (b) how FIVIMS modules may be built into on-going statistical activities; and (c) what some IAWG FIVIMS partners, national and international, are doing to promote greater use of information systems at sub-national level.

18. FIVIMS start-up programs: Support to the establishment of a pilot FIVIMS is being prepared for India. The pilot project will be doing experimental work in only two states, due to the very large size of the country. One of the key players in this effort is the Ministry of Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution which is charge of one of the largest safety net programmes in the world. Among the outcomes of this project will be the selection and refinement of key indicators for monitoring development at national and sub-national level.

19. In Namibia, FAO and private sector technical assistance to the establishment of a national FIVIMS is being funded by the Government of Namibia itself. Progress has been made in the development of a set of maps with key indicators on food insecurity and vulnerability for Namibia.

20. Integration of FIVIMS modules into “Mainstream” Agricultural Statistics Activities: There is a great opportunity to integrate FIVIMS objectives on the documentation and identification of food insecure populations within the annual collection of agricultural statistics and the periodic conduct of national censuses of agriculture. In some cases, existing censuses of agriculture, when combined with other sources of information, can be very rich sources of detailed FIVIMS-type information. This is well illustrated by the first census of agriculture for The People’s Republic of China conducted in 1996-7 with financial support from the Government of Italy and technical assistance from FAO. The exploitation of this rich data source to address key national policy issues was the focus of the "International Workshop on the Analysis of the First Chinese Agricultural Census Results: Establishing a National FIVIMS, organised in Beijing from 21-22 November 2001. The workshop was planned and coordinated by the Ministry of Agriculture with inputs from national and international consultants. A number of documents were presented and discussed during the workshop, which was attended by 53 participants, including 34 from the host country and 18 International Experts. A detailed proposal for implementing the recommendations of this workshop is nearing completion.

21. At the request of the Government of Yemen, FAO , under its Technical Co-operation Programme, has initiated a project to support the Establishment of a National Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping Systems in Yemen. The operation of the project commenced in mid -April 2002, and is being implemented in collaboration with the Central Statistics Office and the Department of Statistics of the Ministry of agriculture. A central focus of this project is to make maximum use of the newly-completed Census of Agriculture.

22. FIVIMS work major emphasis on sub-national information: IFAD has been accelerating the progress in testing and refining field-appropriate methodologies for assessing poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition. Case studies form IFAD projects were completed in Nepal, Papua New Guinea, and Morocco during the past year. A larger scale collaborative WFP/IFAD effort was initiated for several projects in China, which is now being taken up throughout the WFP and IFAD portfolios. To follow-up these experiences, IFAD convened an international symposium 1 which generated a number of points of consensus including:

IFAD is currently working to include these measures throughout its project portfolio, and to form partnerships in the field to expand the level of joint assessments.

23. Work on the development of a national food insecurity information system in Cape Verde (under the EC-funded FIVIMS project for small island states) has also placed substantial emphasis on work at subnational level, due to varying concerns over food insecurity in 17 municipal concelhos on 9 inhabited islands. High per capita amounts of food aid are monetised with the safety net program largely consisting of cash-for-work in public work activities. There is an urgent need to be able to use information to allocate programme resouces equitably among the islands but also to examine the fairness and efficiency of participation or non-participation in the public works employment on each island. There has been excellent collaboration among the key UN, donor, and government agencies in supporting this effort to date.

24. In the pilot project work being conducted by IAWG partners in different countries there is now a strong emphasis on drawing lessons on the key determinants of success. Among the factors that are receiving the most attention are:



25. Since the inception of the FIVIMS initiative, there has been agreement among IAWG members on promoting a common inter-agency, international indicator database focused on food insecurity and vulnerability. Three areas of work followed: (a) the development of the Key Indicators Database System (KIDS); and (b) support to a more limited collaborative inter-agency effort, the African Nutrition Database Initiative (ANDI); and (c) FAO’s incorporation of food insecurity analysis into the widely distributed SOFI (State of Food Insecurity in the World) report. The ANDI database initiative was reported on last year and provided a useful laboratory involving direct transfer of a limited set data on sub-Saharan African countries from five international agencies to a common server and web delivery mechanism. Several years ago initial plans were developed to expand the ANDI experiment into a global database system (KIDS) covereing all countries with substantial numbers of food insecure people. Also under KIDS, work began at FAO on developing a web-based database software package that could be used at regional, global, or national levels for the storage, analysis, and display of indicators most useful for doing comparative analyses across countries.

26. With the adoption of the Millennium Declaration in September, 2000, the main food insecurity indicators in widest use – the FAO estimate of the proportion of persons undernourished and the proportion of children under five who are underweight -- were both retained to measure progress toward eradication of extreme poverty and hunger (MD Goal number one). There was now a very broad, common set of 48 indicators that would constitute global monitoring for the MDGs. By September 2001, this list of indicators had been agreed to and published for wide UN System use. 2

27. Similar to what had been proposed under the FIVIMS KIDS in 1999, a common inter-agency database has been set up in UN DESA (Department of Economic and Social Affairs). This data base will be used to generate the reports on the MD programme that will be submitted annually by the UN Secretary General. The first of these reports will appear in 2002. It now appears that the most appropriate course for the FIVIMS programme, in its “international dimension” (international comparison of national progress on the reduction of food insecurity and vulnerability) will be to refocus at least a major part of these efforts to directly supporting the common UN effort on the monitoring and reporting on the progress toward attainment of the MDGs.

28. The ways in which this integration of “Global FIVIMS” into the emerging MDG monitoring and analysis process will be accomplished are still being explored as the first round of MDG reporting takes place during 2002. However, a number of observations can be made at this point:

29. Meanwhile, the slow work of improving existing indicator methodologies continues. In October 2001, FAO hosted a technical workshop on “Measurement and Assessment of Food Deprivation and Undernutrition” nutrition in preparation for the FIVIMS International Scientific Symposium on Measurement and Assessment of Food Deprivation and Under-nutrition to be held 26-28 June 2002. The purpose of the Symposium is to provide guidance on how methodologies for the measurement of undernutrition and food deprivation and uses of these measures can be improved. This will be done by systematically comparing and contrasting key alternative measurement and estimation methods and their applications. These include those based on:

The symposium will result in detailed guidance for countries in the use of these methods individually or in combination for best diagnostic results and greatest utility in targeting resources to those who need them.

30. Results from the work to improve the estimations of the number of undernourishment has been incorporated into the preparation of the publication The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2001 (SOFI 2001). This document, which has now been produced three times in the last three years, will be published again in 2002, following which it is expected to move to a biennial production timetable.

31. The UK bilateral aid programme, DFID, continues to provide assistance to the strengthing of FIVIMS indicator work and the incorporation of livelihoods concepts into FIVIMS methods at country level.

32. Use of FIVIMS for CCA, PRSP, and MDG monitoring and evaluation (funding by FAO-Netherlands Partnership Programme, FNPP): The implementation of this project at country level started in mid-2001 with pilot work being carried out in Bangladesh and Kenya. This has focused on the provision of guidance and technical and capacity-building support to the Common Country Assessment (CCA) and UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) processes conducted by UN Country Teams. This will support related efforts such as the monitoring of the World Bank-sponsored PRSP (Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers), and the monitoring of the MDGs. This relatively small pilot project thus represents an important future direction for country-level, normative FIVIMS work, in terms of FIVIMS integration into the broader CCA, PRSP, and MDG efforts. The core idea is that to do any of these things well, countries will need a detailed sub-national data base for monitoring and evaluation, and the targeting of relief and development interventions.


33. The development of software tools under FIVIMS takes on an added importance within this broader CCA-PRSP-MDG context. Basically, it becoming evident that these inter-agency efforts can benefit from having a common set of “web-enabled”software that can be distributed free of charge. The same basic tool can be used at international, regional, national, and sub-national levels with relatively minor adoptations. Other agency-specific database and mapping tools are hampered in widespread distribution by licensing and other propriatary limitations.

34. With crucial support from the Japan-funded Asia FIVIMS Project, KIDS (Key Indicator Database System) development has been able to make significant progress this year. KIDS will be ready for initial field-test installation at a regional and national site in May 2002. Many of the planned features have been completed and enhanced based on feedback received from the prototype version. The web-based interface has been improved for clarity and ease of use. The software is more robust and performant and may be installed on a wider selection of host servers making it more adaptable to the variety of national, region and global site computer environments. New features have been added to facilitate outside development collaboration and enable KIDS to be easily customised by countries and regional organizations. The current version of KIDS can be adapted for Global KIDS by expanding the data coverage, customising the interface and developing both static and dynamic links with Country based systems.

35. The map-viewer software, KIMS (Key Indicator Mapping System) version 1.0 was completed and field tested during the past year in Namibia and Vietnam as well as other UN Organizational units. Based on the field trials, a number of considerable improvements have been made to increase the speed, efficiency and robustness of the product. In addition, new features have been added for the support for raster images and the ability to change map projections in real-time. The new version KIMS 1.1 CD-ROM will be available in June 2002. The CD-ROM also contains an extensive set of data that has been revised and updated as well as a new and improved User Manual. However, no single information management solution can be applied to all countries developing FIVIMS and it is not expected that KIMS will be taken up universally. Several countries such as India and Mexico have alternative solutions that suit their needs.


36. Over the past three years the IAWG has come to realise that one of the best options for promoting FIVIMS is at the regional level. This is for a variety of reasons:

37. Asia Regional FIVIMS Project: Following on from the work carried out in 2001, the Project built a database on mass natural disasters during the period 1975-2000 in collaboration with the WHO Collaborating Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters) at the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium. This is intended to facilitate vulnerability assessments in disaster-prone countries in Asia. The database is used to produce disaster occurrence maps for various disaster types for Asia. Case studies on acute food insecurity and vulnerability using the disaster maps were presented at “The FAO Asia-Pacific Conference on Early Warning, Prevention, Preparedness and Management of Disasters in Food and Agriculture” held in Thailand in June 2001, and at “The 4th Asia Disaster Reduction Center Meeting” in New Delhi in January 2002, in which national FIVIMS counterparts concerned also participated.

38. As reported at CFS 2001, the Japan-funded Asia FIVIMS project, has worked with national institutions in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand as part of their national level focus on FIVIMS. This technical assistance aims at building capacity on FIVIMS, and the Project has assisted the countries to pursue a series of critical FIVIMS steps including: (i) to build awareness of FIVIMS among policy and decision makers; (ii) to establish and strengthen inter-ministerial steering committees and technical sub-committees on FIVIMS; (iii) to assess the state of government structures and existing information systems dealing with food insecurity and vulnerability and conduct user needs assessments; (iv) to select and/or define critical indicators; (v) to design and develop methodologies for identifying vulnerable areas and populations at the subnational level; and (vi) to prepare a “Manual of Operation” to institutionalise FIVIMS in the national development context. Provision of workshops and training on FIVIMS approaches, vulnerability assessment techniques, and tools including KIDS is also a major component of the assistance.

39. FIVIMS principles and guidelines are also being applied in Southern Africa by the inter-agency Vulnerability Assessment Committee established by the SADC Food, Agriculture and National Resources Directorate, a FIVIMS member, to promote vulnerability assessment work in the region. There is probably-more FIVIMS-relevant institutional capacity in SADC and many of its member states than any other developing region in the world.

40. In Sahelian West Africa, the FIVIMS Secretaraiat is participating in joint pilot work in Burkina Faso on the use of the Household Food Economy model of vulnerability characterisation with members WFP, USAID FEWSNET, CILSS, and the AP3 project funded by Italian Cooperation. This is seen as a first step in developing an expanded program of inter-agency collaboration which will be able to draw on the substantial experience of CILSS in food security information system work. This is an effort that could use broader donor support.

41. Central America and the Caribbean: Building on the increased focus on and interest in FIVIMS in Central America and the Caribbean the sixth IAWG FIVIMS meeting has been scheduled for Nicaragua in June, 2002. This will involve IAWG member representatives and national FIVIMS focal points meeting with representatives from national SISVAN (Food and Nutrition Monitoring Network) systems (an organisation that pre-dates FIVIMS by many years). A key issue to be explored is how the FIVIMS initiative can support countries in their efforts to reduce poverty and malnutrition on a sustainable basis.



A-1. Despite growing awareness of FIVIMS objectives and some positive indications of progress in working towards them (reported in main body of the report), progress in implementing FIVIMS at country level has been slow, with only a few exceptions. There are several reasons for this, none of which represents an insurmountable obstacle, provided the will is there to tackle the underlying problems. These are summarised briefly below.

A-2. The demand for better, more co-ordinated, inter-sectoral information and mapping on food security should be coming primarily from countries that are setting their own development policy agendas. However, especially in the poorest countries, demand seems to be greater in development partner agencies where decision-makers have more resources to allocate and greater information needs than do national institutions.

A-3. On the supply side, as each development agency tends to invest in the gathering and dissemination of information that meets only its own needs, there is often overlapping and duplication of effort. The situation that is often observed in the poorest countries is one of information overload, side by side with incomplete or poor quality data series and an inability of decision-makers to make use of available information to improve their planning and resource allocation decisions.

A-4. If the main UN, bilateral, and NGO agencies clearly mandated their field personnel to collaborate with each other and with national government co-ordinating units, and to report on progress made in this assignment, most of the above-mentioned problems could be overcome. In some countries technical personnel already do engage in very useful collaborative efforts, most often among donor and technical agencies, and sometimes also with government co-ordination units or structures. However, these are often not sustainable over time because they do not involve the host government and are not supported or encouraged by institutional incentives.

A-5. The challenge of institutional sustainability, whether it is for early warning systems, monitoring of international goals, or more complete systems incorporating standards for national FIVIMS, is a particularly pressing issue. Over the past 15 to 20 years, a variety of food security information systems have been created in the poorest countries. These constitute the institutional predecessors of the models that the IAWG has been proposing for FIVIMS. However, many of these predecessor systems have proven not to be sustainable once project funding terminates.

A-6. Key project staff (database and GIS specialists, information analysts, etc.) often have skills that give them excellent opportunities in the upper end of the national job market. Low salaries in national service, even when they are paid regularly, are often not sufficient to retain these skilled staff who have often been at higher salary levels or received salary bonuses when under project funding. In the context of government reform, and competing needs for the financing of high priority social programmes to meet Millennium goals, there may be no immediate prospect that poor countries can or will choose to finance the running costs of information systems that have been established with external funds.

A-7. Donors and technical agencies have not always had realistic expectations concerning what is required to maintain credible information systems in poorer countries. The uniform donor expectation that developing countries, regardless of their per capita income or per capita government revenues, should be able to support the recurrent costs of a standard set of relatively sophisticated information services, does not seem to be at all realistic for the poorest countries. This is an issue that needs careful exploration in the context of donor programmes to support national efforts for the reduction of poverty and undernourishment.

A-8. The great potential of FIVIMS is that it is a multi-agency programme that can be conducted collaboratively with countries. The reform process within the UN and Bretton Woods systems is beginning to give agency personnel more incentive to collaborate in information system work. The logical appeal of FIVIMS is strong, especially in an era of shrinking development assistance budgets. However, while inter-agency collaboration at the technical level has proceeded well, clear engagement of senior managers is not uniform among all IAWG partners.

A-9. To move to the level of collaborative effort that will be required to reach the World Food Summit target for 2015, clear instructions and improved incentives to agency field personnel to collaborate seriously need to come from their agency headquarters. Supporting resource mobilisation efforts are also required, although often the additional amount needed will be quite limited, since substantial resources are often available in the country but are being used in uncoordinated ways.

A-10. The WFS:fyl event that will be held at FAO in June, 2002, affords an opportunity for member countries and agencies to reaffirm their commitment to the FIVIMS initiative and raise the level of effort so as to make available improved information to decision-makers at all levels as soon as possible. It is critical the benefits be perceived in the national policy making arena.

A-11. The largest concentration of opportunities to do information system development work is in sub-Saharan Africa. This is because of the large number of countries with absolutely low levels of income, high donor and technical agency presence, large numbers of related programs being implemented by IAWG members, and weak national government capacity (where even routine agricultural and health statistical systems have, in many cases, almost ceased to function). A special focus of strengthened IAWG efforts on developing the FIVIMS initiative in this region would be appropriate, in light of the projections for continued high incidence of undernourishment in that part of the world.

A-12. Through the incorporation of livelihood analysis methods, information system efforts supported through the FIVIMS initiative can be closely linked to, if not co-terminus with, related initiatives to set up national monitoring units (especially those under UNDP, Bank and OECD sponsorship for monitoring international development goals (IDGs), poverty reduction strategies (PRSP) and the CCA-UNDAF initiative). This means that previously independent efforts can at least be harmonised, if not merged, with a major objective of developing countries’ sustainable capacity in the context of international initiatives and national policy-making.

The Secretariat intends to bring these matters to the attention of the IAWG, which will hold its sixth annual meeting in Nicaragua from June 4 to 7 this year, and will propose the convening of a meeting of senior-level managers from key IAWG agencies later this year or in 2003, to discuss and solve problems relating to staff and budget commitments to FIVIMS and practical measures for promoting greater collaboration at national as well as international level. The Secretariat will also encourage IAWG members to organise a joint inter-agency evaluation of what has been accomplished over the past four years and what might be done to strengthen the programme and its linkages to the national policy-making process.


1 [Malnutrition in Developing Countries: Generating Capabilities for Effective Community Action, Fiuggi, Italy, 19 – 21 September 2001. Attended by various UN agencies, NGOs and Bi-lateral organizations]

2 UN General Assembly, Road Map towards the implementation of the United Nations Millennium Declaration: Report of the Secretary General, Document A/56/326, September 6, 2001.

3 The Millennium Project, the major new UN System vehicle for the analysis of the MDG indicators, has planned to set up 15 narrowly-focused task forces, each generally concentrating on one of the 18 targets under the MDG structure. The most relevance task force for this committee and FIVIMS will be the proposed “Hunger Task Force” focusing on interventions to eradicate “extreme hunger” by 2015. What has not emerged however, is how progress across all these important sectoral areas will be analysed.

4 This section is from CFS/2001 Inf.9 and is reproduced, slightly edited and updated, for the potential use of the interested reader. The substance of this analysis and the solutions proposed are still valid.