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Working Group discussions

Session 4

Day 2

Working Group Discussion

Chairing and facilitation by FAO organizers from 09.25 to 17.00

Following these presentations, the participants broke into groups. Each group received a specific task and a general set of instruction.

Box 1: Instructions for group work

Before starting the actual discussions in your group, please identify a:

  • Facilitator
  • Note taker
  • Presenter (rapporteur)

The facilitator’s task is to keep the discussions within the theme of the group, make sure that everyone’s views are equally represented and that the time allocated to group work is used efficiently. In your group you are expected to:

(description of the specific task for each group)

Feel free to extend your assessment beyond these guidelines as long as the group finds it relevant to the task. The output of your discussions should include conclusions and concrete and realistic recommendations.

The note taker has to make sure that views are dully recorded. The note taker and the presenter are to prepare a short PowerPoint presentation for the Plenary. Have in mind that the presenter has to present all the conclusions and recommendations discussed in the group regardless of whether everyone in the group agreed with them fully or partially.

Group Tasks

Group 1

As a result of the tsunami, everyone has something in place now. Use the checklist provided (Annex 3) as a tool to evaluate where your information management and coordination system is at present and what you need to do to ensure your system remains in place and is effective for the next disaster.

Group 2

The overall goal of the FAO project was to enhance the capacity of governments to coordinate tsunami assistance and manage information. What were the achievements of the FAO OSRO/RAS/503/CHA project and how was its impact perceived by the Ministries? Of these achievements, which ones are sustainable? Which ones will governments maintain and develop?

Review the coordination role of FAO in the tsunami emergency and rehabilitation activities.

Group 3

Discuss the way forward in terms of information management, exchange and coordination mechanisms in the transition phase from rehabilitation to development and longer-term projects in the sectors of agriculture, fisheries and forestry. How will the existing coordination mechanisms evolve in the post rehabilitation environment? How will they serve the long-term vision of development? Is there a vision?

Group 4

What are the values and benefits in a regional (Asia-wide) approach? Are there potential drawbacks to regional approaches? Who are the regional actors? Are countries building back better or just building back newer (i.e. replacing losses)?

Outcomes of the group discussions

Group 1: Evaluating the state of information management systems

Group 1 Discussion

The headings are taken from the checklist provided (Annex 3). The text in blue denotes the edited comments added by the Rapporteurs during their presentation to Plenary.

1. Define the audience: Government agencies, NGOs, Donors, communities and organization, private sector.

All the relevant stakeholder groups should be included. In our experience, in the early stages of an emergency, universities and NGOs were not well engaged yet they played an important role. This aspect of coordination can be improved as there is now wider recognition of the role they play.

2. Define the stakeholders: Line ministries, NGOs, universities, INGOs, FAO, collaborating agencies, research institutes.

3. Define the requirements for information:

Ideally, data gathering needs to be done by experienced personnel. In a large-scale disaster these people are not always available.

Baseline data is essential to information management systems, otherwise there is nothing to measure against. In too many cases we saw that baseline data was either lacking or inadequate. Sadly, in some cases there is still not sufficient baseline data two years after the disaster.

Information systems could be improved with the use of standardized indicators developed in collaboration with the public sector and NGOs. This would help ensure that the data collected was useful to the end users. Standardized indicators would also help determine what kind of baseline data is needed, data priorities, the tools needed to gather the data, and training needs for personnel. Such a common framework in terms of indicators would greatly facilitate information exchange.

4. Reviewing 1 and 3 in context of budget: Information systems are often asked to deliver far more than the available funding can support. Be realistic about what is achievable.

We need livelihood indicators in addition to technical indicators. The latter do not say much about human welfare. An important consideration is the budget available as systems are often expected to provide data and information far beyond what the resources allow.

5. Define the unit of assessment, e.g. village, subdistrict, and district: Information collected at all levels (but including local level). Budget constraints may dictate what is feasible and what is not.

Generally, we need information at all levels, from villages, subdistricts, and districts down to individual households. “Information” has to be built up from small sets of data.

6. Define the population of concern: Individual, family, household. Depends on indicators of concern and also affected by budget. Other non-population based approaches may be necessary such as surveys of donor activity, village headmen, or needs-based surveys.

Budgets are an issue here as well. Certain data sets may be desirable but there may be no budget available to collect that data. For example, it is desirable to have detailed data on the projects donors are running, and household surveys, but gathering such information can be prohibitively expensive.

7. Define the time period for which data will be collected: Depends on the situation, but an “exit strategy” is a key consideration. Need to build on existing institutions that are around for the long-term. An exit strategy should be part of the initial plan and project design of the information system or else the system is likely to collapse when the funding is withdrawn.

Recovery assessment and sample surveys are another key consideration. Projects are set up for a limited time period but often there is little or no thought given to how to sustain a project after the funding period. We need an exit strategy developed during the project phase that at least estimates the ongoing operating costs of an information management system.

8. Data collection, analysis and reporting mechanisms

Data exchange should use multiple mechanisms and appropriate channels. Websites and e-mail are appropriate for large international organizations and well-resourced government agencies. For local organizations or less well-resourced agencies, telephone and fax machines may be the appropriate channel. Unless we can translate information into local languages it probably is not going to be of much use. This sounds obvious but it does not always happen due largely to under funding or simply neglecting to add this line item to a budget.

Damage assessment: the precondition is the baseline information

Government agencies need to consider emergency information needs in their current data collection policies.

Project formulation

Based on our collective experience, we see a need to concentrate on specific sectors and a need for a livelihoods approach. Too many organizations are still divided along sectoral lines, even internally.

Project monitoring

Recovery Indicators

Impact indicators

These need to include production and income changes, import trends, price changes; some indicators can be used to indirectly measure household income changes and debt levels, for example, in Thailand the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives has such data. Trends are important, so it is useful to collect data on a periodic basis.

Recovery assessment


Often it is better to use simple tools like Microsoft Excel than more complex database systems that require advanced knowledge and expertise. The people managing the data have to have the skills to use the software.

Information exchange and dissemination

It is important to have meetings with stakeholders. Local meetings are particularly useful. Use appropriate dissemination channels and do not rely on passive techniques, for example, just put your data on a website and expect people to find it. We need to “push” the information out to those who need it.

Group 2: Achievements of the FAO OSRO/RAS/503/CHA project and how its impact was perceived by the Ministries

Project achievements

Overall, the project helped people realize the importance of Information Management and Coordination.

We consider it as an achievement that overall the FAO project has got people talking and improving data collection. The data we are talking about is useful for emergencies of course, but it is also useful to other projects. The government agencies involved agree that more resources should be made available for this kind of work.



Fisheries and forestry

Perceptions of Ministries

Sustainable achievements


Agriculture and fisheries

The database will be maintained by the Ministry. It will be used for project management as well as emergencies and considered “very useful”. Training for data collectors to continue using feedback from the data collectors to improve the training. The working group will continue and will help ensure the sustainability of the database. The household survey will continue.

Perceptions of Ministries

Overall, the Project is greatly appreciated and considered to be “highly useful” for planning and data analysis for a wide range of programmes.

Sustainable achievements:


National level; established in Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and FAO

All activities were replicated on the provincial level. There were workshops in two provinces. Information was collected on “who, what and where”, i.e. who has what information and where it is. The Ministry plans to continue the work of the units established and will use these units for future disaster response. At this stage, it is assumed that the Units will be maintained for 4-5 years. The project is very much appreciated. There were some limitations in terms of capacity of data collectors to get data from some agencies, but this can be improved.

Provincial level

Perceptions of Ministries

The most serious limitation was/is the capacity of data collectors.

Sustainable achievements


Project achievements

The computer and data collection training will be sustained, the database is to be maintained and developed, and the Ministry hopes to further develop reporting mechanisms.

Perception of Ministries

“Very useful” for Government. There should be more interventions. Short time span for project implementation.

Many initiatives need to be further developed. Governments and other national agencies, including local NGOs, need more support and would like more resources to continue building on what they have achieved.

Sustainable achievements

Group 3: Information management, exchange and coordination mechanisms in the transition phase from rehabilitation to development. Is there a vision?

1. Is there a vision? Yes. Building Back Better. The Strategy: Rebuild with improved standards taking the opportunity to use the additional resources made available by donors such as FAO. Rebuild by consulting and involving more communities.

2. How do coordination mechanisms serve the long-term vision of development?

3. How will the existing coordination mechanisms evolve in the post rehabilitation environment?

4. What is the way forward in terms of information management and transition mechanisms from emergency to development?

Group 4: Values and benefits in a regional, Asia-wide approach

Benefits of a regional approach

Drawbacks of a regional approach

Regional actors

Are countries building back better?

Consequences of a disaster

Conclusions and recommendations

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