A. Needs assessment
General discussion points
Seed needs are often not assessed; rather, a drop in food production is often equated with a drop in seed production or seed availability.
Increasingly this assumption of "lack of seed" or "lack of seed available" is under scrutiny and in many instances has proven to be false.
The information on local seed systems is very limited and local seed resources need to be factored into determining seed security. Furthermore, seeds may not always be the assets that farmers most need in the emergency.
Seed need assessments must be framed within a larger food security and livelihood security analysis.
Tools and methods designed for various levels of seed analysis already exist or are well advanced and might be built on, for example local-level seed profiles analysis (community level), seed security assessment guides (regional) and food needs assessments (national level).
There remains an absence of rigorous methods to distinguish between the vulnerable and the viable potential beneficiary groups.
Specific recommendations/comments to FAO
Time, staff, resources and training must be devoted to needs assessment. Organizations need to move beyond the "input supply syndrome".
The current crop and food security assessments do not adequately address seed issues as opposed to food issues. "Lack of seeds" has become a standard phrase and is often a misdiagnosis of the real problem.
FAO has the capacity to assist in food supply assessments and WFP deals with food aid requests. FAO could usefully improve its capacity to assess the needs to rebuild productive capacity.
The potential of the Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping System (FIVIMS) to inform seed needs assessment and/or to incorporate seeds-related information should be explored. Such information could be drawn on in assessments carried out under the Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS).
There is a need to integrate or link the seed needs assessments (carried out by the FAO Emergency Operations Service [TCEO]) with the crop and food supply assessments (conducted jointly by the Global Information and Early Warning System Service and WFP).
With the steady increase in scale of FAO emergency operations, there is a heightened recognition both within the Organization and by donors that evaluations have to take place more systematically. Are the correct approaches being used? Is FAO accountable for operations and are the donors accountable for their funding decisions? How can evaluation be used more effectively as a tool for learning?
Evaluations of emergency operation within FAO are on the rise. Since 1996, the Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Division (TCE) has conducted focused evaluations, that is, one-off, low-cost surveys of single interventions, as well as some analysis of country-wide operations (e.g. in Rwanda and Burundi).
In 2002, when evaluating one of the FAO strategic areas, "A.3" (Preparedness for, and effective and sustainable response to, food and agricultural emergencies), evaluations were conducted over a seven-month period, encompassed visits to 15 countries and drew information from about 70 projects. A large, though incipient, information base on evaluation and FAO projects is now available.
Evaluation, however, especially institutionalized evaluation of emergency projects, remains problematic. Very often, there is no baseline information and evaluations are conducted immediately after the intervention, when "results" are too early to assess. On the other hand, beneficiaries become harder to trace as time elapses, presenting difficulties in collecting information on the longer-term perspective.
Evaluation also takes time and emergency personnel in TCEO have little time to reflect before being drawn into the next crisis. TCEO has anecdotal data but often lacks the "hard"data needed to analyse trends.
For evaluations to become a more effective instrument to change practice, a climate of "evaluations without fear" has to develop. The main issue may not be what went well or not, but rather, how to address the problems/challenges the next time around.
Similarly, the issue was raised of giving emphasis to monitoring (M) as well as evaluation (E) and recognizing the difference between the two. "M" can give quick guidance;"E" can measure effectiveness, as well as accountability.
The example was given of Catholic Relief Services, which regularly conducts exit interviews following its seed fairs to obtain feedback from both farmers (buyers) and traders on the process. This information immediately feeds into the planning of the next set of actions. Similarly, a project funded by the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance of USAID on "seed systems under stress" is taking a more intensive look at eight seed-related emergency interventions in seven African countries. The aim is to look not only at the "supply side" (the operations), but the degree to which the intervention actually met a range of needs (i.e. for whom, how well, how fast, etc.).
The question was raised of whether FAO should be evaluating only operational aspects, or whether the relative balance among thematic areas should be included as well? One example might be the balance between seed versus non-seed interventions.
It was noted that, internally, FAO is in the process of developing operational guidelines, both general and specific to different types of intervention.
It was recommended that operational guidelines should be multi-institutional, as diverse humanitarian practitioners are working with similar beneficiary communities.
There is a strong need to develop precise indicators to measure effects and impacts of emergency interventions. This might include developing a minimum set of parameters that can be compared across a range of donors and implementers.
Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) need to be systematically built into project design (including emergency response) in such a way that the process can directly feed back into implementation.
There needs to be significantly more analysis of the longer-term impacts of emergency programmes. Such opportunities for longer-term analysis need to be actively pursued.
C. Seed vouchers and fairs (SVF)
Seed vouchers and fairs have proven an effective implementation option in some types of emergency. FAO supports their use and has been involved in their implementation in Ethiopia, Kenya and Mozambique.
However, SVF are not a panacea and a number of critical questions are posed to understand better their limits and opportunities.
- What are the different ways to scale up SVF and how big can they be?
- To what extent can the traders involved manipulate the market?
- Is there scope for extending the period under which vouchers are valid and, if so, what are the advantages or disadvantages?
- What happens to the SVF paradigm when the NGOs leave?
- Does the system really promote entrepreneurship?