AND VULNERABILITY INFORMATION AND
MAPPING SYSTEMS (FIVIMS):
BACKGROUND AND PRINCIPLES
This document was prepared through a collaborative inter-agency effort for consideration by the Committee on World Food Security at its 24th Session in Rome, 2-5 June, 1998. The present draft was finalized in consultation with experts and officials from Member Countries during the Second Meeting of the Inter-Agency Working Group on FIVIMS hosted by IFAD, 15-17 April 1998.
In response to commitments made by Heads of State and Government at the World Food Summit in November 1996, a Technical Consultation on Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping Systems (FIVIMS), held at FAO in March 1997, recommended inter alia the preparation of guidelines for the establishment of FIVIMS at the national level. This recommendation was approved by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) at its annual meeting in April 1997, with the further recommendation that national governments be fully involved in the development of FIVIMS guidelines.
Draft guidelines were subsequently prepared by FAO and technically reviewed by an inter-agency working group (IAWG) in December 1997. Based on comments received at that time, a second draft was prepared for review and comment by national experts from a select number of countries, representing different geographical regions, different kinds of food security problems and different levels of information systems development. These experts participated in a second meeting of the IAWG, hosted by IFAD in Rome in April 1998, at which time the second draft was discussed. At that meeting, further recommendations for improving the draft were made, and a third draft was produced for consideration by the CFS at its Twenty-fourth Session in June 1998. The IAWG also decided to produce subsequently a series of FIVIMS technical notes that will contain methodological guidance to national programmes. These notes will serve as a companion to the present document.
The draft guidelines are organised in six chapters, covering the problem to be addressed by FIVIMS, the current state of relevant national information systems, the main objectives and operating principles of national FIVIMS, the expected benefits and main user groups, typical information products and dissemination methods, and steps to institutionalization. Definitions of key terms and citations of relevant World Food Summit commitments are incorporated at appropriate points throughout the text, together with information provided by national participants at the second meeting of the IAWG about existing information system activities in their countries.
1. The World Food Summit estimated that approximately 840 million people in developing countries subsist on diets that are deficient in calories. Roughly 96 percent of these food insecure suffer from chronic deficiencies, and approximately 4 percent experience temporary energy shortfalls caused by natural or human induced events. Approximately 170 million children under five years of age are underweight, representing 30% of the developing worlds children. The number of people who are food insecure due to specific nutrient deficiencies is less well known mainly because of difficulties in definition, measurement, and lack of data, but the numbers are likely to be much greater. The best available estimates suggest that approximately 250 million children are deficient in vitamin A, over 800 million people suffer from iodine deficiency, and up to 2 000 million people are affected by iron deficiency and anemia. The vast majority of the food insecure, whether their undernourishment is due to deficiencies in energy or micro-nutrients, live in low income developing countries. Millions more live in conditions which expose them to varying degrees of risk - a concept which is generally well-understood but rarely quantified.
What is meant by food insecurity and vulnerability?
Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Household food security is the application of this concept to the family level, with individuals within households as the focus of concern.
For the purpose of FIVIMS, food insecurity exists when people are undernourished due to the physical unavailability of food, their lack of social or economic access, and/or inadequate food utilization. Food insecure people are those individuals whose food intake falls below their minimum calorie (energy) requirements, as well as those who exhibit physical symptoms caused by energy and nutrient deficiencies resulting from an inadequate or unbalanced diet, or from inability of the body to use food effectively because of infection or disease. An alternative view would define the concept of food insecurity as referring only to the consequence of inadequate consumption of nutritious food, considering the physiological utilization of food by the body as being within the domain of nutrition and health.
Vulnerability refers to the full range of factors that place people at risk of becoming food insecure. The degree of vulnerability for an individual, household or group of persons is determined by their exposure to the risk factors and their ability to cope with or withstand stressful situations.
2. Food insecurity is a complex phenomenon, attributable to a range of factors that vary in importance across regions, countries, and social groups, as well as over time (Figure 1) These factors can be grouped in four clusters representing four areas of potential vulnerability:
Figure 1: Conceptual Framework for Understanding Possible Causes of Low Food Consumption and Poor Nutritional Status
3. To achieve success, strategies to eliminate food insecurity have to tackle these underlying causes by combining the efforts of those who work in diverse sectors such as agriculture, nutrition, health, education, social welfare, economics, public works and the environment. At the national level, this means that different ministries or departments need to combine their complementary skills and efforts to design and implement integrated cross-sectoral initiatives that must interact and be coordinated at the policy level. At the international level, this means that a range of specialized agencies and development organizations must work together as partners in a common effort.
4. The World Food Summit resolved to reduce the number of the undernourished people in the world by at least 50 percent by the year 2015. In addition, it set the longer-term goals of eventually eradicating hunger and achieving food security for all. If these objectives are to be achieved, appropriate policies and action programmes need to be developed and implemented that are targeted specifically at the people who are undernourished or at risk. An important first step is the identification of food insecure and vulnerable groups, the prevalence and degree of low food intake and undernutrition among them, and the causes of their food insecurity and vulnerability. This information makes it possible to monitor and assess their situation, and to design and eventually evaluate possible policies and interventions.
5. Policies aimed at promoting food security require accurate and timely information on the incidence, nature and causes of food insecurity and vulnerability if they are to be effective. Unfortunately, such information is lacking in many countries, both developing and developed. Particularly lacking is good information at the sub-national and household levels on key questions such as:
6. Such information is critically important for both national and local decision-makers if they are to formulate effective policies and programmes that address the real needs of the food insecure, and if they are to design and target interventions that actually reach undernourished and vulnerable people efficiently. Most countries have established statistical services and information systems that generate and analyze such information. Yet many of these national systems are currently constrained by a number of inter-related factors such as:
7. The World Food Summit recognised these problems and stressed the importance of finding practical solutions. Paragraph 4 of the World Food Summit Plan of Action concludes thus: "It is necessary to target those people and areas suffering most from hunger and malnutrition and identify causes and take remedial action to improve the situation. A more complete, user-friendly source of information at all levels would enable this." FIVIMS is the response to that challenge.
8. Most countries already have a range of statistical services and information systems that generate and analyze information that is relevant for measuring and monitoring food insecurity and vulnerability. National statistical services normally conduct periodic censuses and surveys, and line ministries such as those responsible for agriculture, health, trade, labour, industry, or the environment, often maintain subject matter databases that contain a wealth of useful information.
9. Many countries have also established information units or systems for specific purposes such as providing early warning, promoting market efficiency, monitoring health and nutrition status, or preparing food security situation assessments. In many developing countries similar information systems are maintained by donor agencies or non-governmental organisations, either in parallel to ongoing government-supported information systems or in partnership with governments. These activities are usually established for purposes of monitoring specific programmes or for assessing the need for food aid and targeting its delivery.
10. General categories of existing national information systems relevant to FIVIMS include the seven examples listed below:
11. Typical examples of national information systems of relevance to FIVIMS are shown in the following six boxes:
Mozambiques National Early Warning System (SNAP)
Purpose: timely transmission of information on potentially serious food shortages.
Institutional Set-up: although the secretariat of the early warning system is not yet formally established,
methods and procedures for the acquisition, management, interpretation and dissemination of information relevant for early warning purposes are well established.
Data and Information: agronomic monitoring, field surveys, agrometeorological and satellite information for forecasting and estimates on area planted, yields, and staple food production; staple food supply and demand balance sheets.
Products: regular reports and bulletins (10-daily; monthly); alerts and special technical notes, as needed in the form of tables, graphs and satellite images.
Constraints and Challenges: lack of formal structure challenges future sustainability of the information system; there is need for more formal linkages with other partners for better coordination, and for further decentralisation of information system activities, including the provincial-level analysis.
Linkages with FIVIMS: FIVIMS activities in Mozambique are seen as being able to promote greater collaboration and networking among the many different information systems in support of the overall food security development objective.
Senegals Information Unit for Food Security and Early
Zambia's Food, Health and Nutrition Information System (FHANIS)
Purpose: advocacy role; strengthened design and implementation of food and nutrition programmes; improved targeting of food relief, supplementary feeding programmes; research activities and monitoring of the impact of government policies on the welfare of the population.
Institutional Set-up: based in the Population and Development Department of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development; close linkages with the Central Statistics Office; governed by two committees: a multi-ministerial Steering Committee and a Technical Committee. FHANIS provides a multi-sectoral forum for discussion on household food security, health and nutrition issues to be brought to the attention of senior policy makers.
Data and Information: general food security information at household level (food availability, stocks, prices, trade and markets, livestock); health and nutrition variables; water and sanitation; food consumption and employment levels in urban areas.
Products: baseline and evaluation reports; district profiles; regular tabular reports; monitoring reports (including maps and graphs).
Constraints and Challenges: currently understaffed and still largely dependent on donor financing; receives erratic and inadequate funding from Government; demand for data and information by users increasing and unable to cope with requests; analysis of already available information and data-sets to be improved; information to be used for longer-term development planning in addition to use for emergency purposes.
Linkages with FIVIMS: FHANIS addresses many tasks and products envisaged under FIVIMS.
Perus Food and Nutrition Surveillance Information System (SISVAN)
Purpose: improved efficiency and effectiveness of food and nutrition interventions in the country.
Institutional Set-up: Ministry of Health (lead institution), with collaboration of the Ministry of Agriculture, and the National Statistical Institute. Different user groups' information needs have been determined and a food and nutrition data bank designed; a remote, cross-sectoral network to be established with Ministry of Health.
Data and Information: country profile on food and nutrition; indicators on nutrition status, health, and access to health facilities; food security indicators; monitoring of demographics and education facilities; database on ongoing projects and programmes.
Products: bulletins, graphs, tables and maps.
Constraints and Challenges: difficult to satisfy all of the users' interests in the SISVAN database; for greater effectiveness, existing databases need to be linked direct (electronically) to SISVAN.
Linkages with FIVIMS: SISVAN being established in the spirit of FIVIMS; an inter-sectoral initiative, which provides a solid basis for further FIVIMS-related work in Peru.
Poland: Towards a National Food Security, Nutrition and Health Information System
Purpose: elimination of food insecurity and prevention of deficiencies and diseases related to inadequate nutrition.
Institutional Set-up: preliminary proposal made for the establishment of a national information unit on the state of food security, nutrition and health in Poland.
Data and Information: information unit expected to compile data on demographics and general living conditions of the population; assess the health status of specific population groups; monitor poverty indicators; analyse household budget surveys, particularly in respect to food consumption; compile food balance sheets.
Products: not yet determined.
Constraints and Challenges: multi-sectoral policy required to enhance the understanding that food security, nutrition and the prevention of diet-related diseases to be treated as one complex problem, which can only be resolved through inter-sectoral collaboration.
Linkages with FIVIMS: in support of improved food security and nutrition, it is absolutely necessary that ongoing and planned information systems work in Poland is linked to the FIVIMS initiative. However, this will have to be a step-by-step process. In this regard, the National Food and Nutrition Institute is prepared to cooperate with the UN agencies and other organisations in the realisation of a FIVIMS in Poland.
Vietnams FIVIMS-Related Information Systems
Purpose: support policy decisions regarding movements in rice markets and satisfaction of food and nutritional requirements of population.
Institutional Set-up: at least four information system activities produce information of relevance to FIVIMS: (i) Crop Monitoring System (CMS) and (ii) Market Information System (MIS), both run by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development; (iii) nutrition surveys conducted by the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN); (iv) household income and expenditure surveys produced by the General Statistics Office.
Data and Information: CMS established for paddy production forecasts and estimates on a monthly bases; CMS also reports on the main agricultural activities, aggregating information from the community level; MIS primarily concerned with prices of rice at key market centres of all 61 provinces; nutrition surveys of NIN provide information on food consumption and nutrition status of specific population groups; surveys conducted by the General Statistics Office important for understanding of income and expenditure patterns of farming households in selected provinces.
Products: CMS produces 10-daily reports and monthly reports on agricultural production and conditions affecting the rice crop in the field; MIS produces reports on a monthly basis, whereas the NIN and the General Statistics Office produce ad hoc reports. Mapping techniques are rarely used in all areas of data and information dissemination.
Constraints and Challenges: Crop Monitoring System: experiencing operational problems after technical assistance ended; financial constraints in the updating of baseline data. Market Information System: needs of vulnerable population groups should be assessed, however resources are limited. National Institute of Nutrition and the General Statistics Office: national databases are poor; methods used to have accurate data and information at the national level require improvement.
Linkages with FIVIMS: An inter-ministerial National Food Security Committee chaired by the Minister of Agriculture has recently been established; through this committee, good linkages with FIVIMS may be established in support of improvements in national information systems.
12. Although a great number of national information systems of various kinds have already been established around the world, or are in the process of being developed, they vary widely across countries. Variation relates to the number of systems established and their content, how well they are integrated, their geographic coverage, the indicators and analytical techniques used, the quality and reliability of the information produced, and their institutional sustainability. Differences regarding the availability of financial resources, access to state-of-the-art technology, the skill levels of officers responsible for day-to-day operation and management, and the strength of the institutional support structures may all affect performance. Components of many national systems are funded and managed as projects, often dependent upon external financial and technical assistance.
13. The wide variation of information systems development across countries has several important implications. First, not all national systems have an equal need for strengthening. Second, not all countries that do need support, require it in the same areas. Third, many lessons can be learned from the experiences of countries where these information systems are better developed, and these countries may play an important role in transferring best practices to countries requesting assistance. Finally, there can be no single formula for strengthening national food security and vulnerability information systems. Each case must be considered individually to determine its unique set of objectives, particular constraints and specific needs.
14. Although many countries have already established information systems that provide FIVIMS-related information at the national level, locally-collected information having a direct bearing on the situation of food insecure and vulnerable households and individuals is still lacking in many others. To encourage greater effort in this area, the World Food Summit Plan of Action calls for the development and further elaboration of food insecurity and vulnerability information and mapping systems at both national and global levels.
Summit Commitments relating to Establishment of Food Insecurity and
15. At the national level, strengthened and more integrated food insecurity and vulnerability information systems will provide better and more up-to-date information to policy makers and members of civil society concerned with food security issues at all levels in their country, and will facilitate assessments of policy and programme options to improve the situation. National systems will also be called upon from time to time to provide information that will enable the international community to monitor and guide progress towards meeting the global targets set at the World Food Summit.
What is a food insecurity and vulnerability information and mapping system?
A food insecurity and vulnerability information and mapping system is any system or network of systems that assembles, analyses and disseminates information about people who are food insecure or at risk--who they are, where they are located, and why they are food insecure or vulnerable. The World Food Summit negotiations produced this name from an original proposal made by several Latin American countries that called for the use of "Hunger Maps", a much more evocative but politically sensitive and somewhat ambiguous term and concept. It is noteworthy that the negotiators deliberately decided not to capitalise the initial letters of the words used for this concept, precisely to avoid giving the impression that a heavy new system was being created.
What is the FIVIMS initiative?
FIVIMS is a framework within which a wide range of activities may be carried out at both national and international levels in support of improved information to achieve World Food Summit goals. At the national level it is implemented through a network of information systems that gather and analyse data relevant for measuring and monitoring food insecurity and vulnerability, which may be collectively referred to as a national FIVIMS. At the international level it is implemented through a programme of activities, generally referred to as global FIVIMS. The idea behind FIVIMS is that improved information can be actively used to produce better results in efforts to reduce the number of undernourished and achieve food security for all. The acronym FIVIMS in English (SICIAV in Spanish and French) refers to the overall framework and the concepts and ideas associated with it, and not to any one particular system or network of systems.
Should national food insecurity and vulnerability information and mapping systems be called FIVIMS?
The answer to this question, of course, is no. As long as national infomation systems are playing their role in the struggle against food insecurity and malnutrition, they can be called whatever decision-makers judge appropriate. However, existing national organisational units that manage the FIVIMS functions, would still be referred to as FIVIMS focal points within the context of the World Food Summit commitments.
16. The goal of national FIVIMS is to contribute to the reduction of food insecurity and vulnerability.
17. The purposes of national FIVIMS are to facilitate different user groups' access to more comprehensive information that is up-to-date and easy to interpret, to enhance food security policy formulation, to improve the design and targeting of interventions directed at reducing food insecurity and vulnerability, and to facilitate monitoring of progress in achieving these goals, through providing focused and precise information about the nature and extent of food insecurity and vulnerability, the underlying causes, and the changes that are occurring over time.
18. The immediate objectives of FIVIMS are:
19. Eight principles underlie the present approach to strengthen and consolidate national FIVIMS. They can be briefly summarized as follows:
20. By supporting the development of national information system activities, and raising the awareness of policy-makers and other concerned members of civil society about the plight of the food insecure and the vulnerable, the FIVIMS initiative is expected to generate the following immediate benefits:
21. In a number of countries, improved information has already led to the introduction of new legislation and formulation of specific programmes targeted at food insecure and vulnerable population groups. These policy decisions are expected to result in an overall reduction of specific problems associated with undernutrition as illustrated for the cases of Eritrea and Zambia in the text boxes presented in this chapter.
Eritrea: A Nutrition Survey on Micronutrients Leads to Key Policy Decisions
In 1994, a National Nutrition Survey was conducted in Eritrea, with a focus on micronutrients (iron, vitamin A, and iodine). The survey included anthropometric measurements on children under 5 years of age, pregnant women and school children. The following were some of the main findings:
- Iodine deficiency disorders (IDD) were found to be a major nutrition problem among school children;
- Vitamin A deficiency among infants was not as high as in other developing countries, which was partly explained by the habit of Eritrean mothers of breast-feeding their children until they are at least two years of age; and
- most pregnant women were found to be anemic.
Upon analysis of the National Nutrition Survey data, they were presented to the policy makers. In response to the problems identified in the report, the following actions were taken, the first one of which has been supported by legislation:
- Iodine deficiency: the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with UNICEF, promoted iodine enrichment in salt produced near the coastal regions of Massawa and Assab; all salt producers were equipped with the necessary machinery and fully trained in its use;
- Vitamin A: the Ministry of Health supplied vitamin A tablets during the polio immunization campaign in December 1997; another distribution of vitamin A tablets will take place in May 1998;
- Iron deficiency: the Ministry of Health has supplied iron tablets to anemic pregnant women through hospitals and local clinics.
In order to monitor progress towards micronutrient deficiency control, a second survey will take place in the near future, using the first National Nutrition Survey as a benchmark. The scope of the next survey will be enlarged in that the level of micronutrients present in the milk of breast-feeding mothers will also be measured.
22. The information and reports generated through the national FIVIMS will be useful to several groups of people across different sectors of society. Main user groups may include the following:
Zambia: New Policy Decision Based on Lessons Learned from Sugar Fortification
Vitamin A deficiency is a well-recognised public health problem in Zambia. Among the short term interventions promoted by the National Food and Nutrition Commission are supplementation and fortification of basic food stuffs. The primary vehicle used for Vitamin A fortification has been sugar, the choice of which was based on a success story in Guatemala. While sugar is assumed to be consumed widely in Zambia, at the time the decision was made to fortify the sugar, there was no information on the extent of sugar consumption; hence, it was difficult to determine whether the programme would be reaching the targeted population groups.
New information: The Food, Health and Nutrition Information System (FHANIS) responded to the lack of information by including a question on sugar consumption in one of its regular surveys. The results showed that whereas more than half (53%) of urban households consumed sugar, less than a third (29%) did so in rural areas. This new information on sugar consumption also highlighted that sugar was consumed mainly by the higher income groups in both the urban and the rural districts, and that sugar was least consumed in those provinces where vitamin A deficiency was actually the highest.
- Vitamin A capsules are now given to children in worse-off areas (more effective than sugar fortification);
- An initiative has also been taken to fortify maize meal, the main staple food in Zambia. However, maize meal among the rural population is processed locally, either by hand or through small hammermills, rather than in the large mills, through which fortification may be possible. Hence, it is expected that, similar to sugar fortification, the target groups will not be reached. Moreover, cassava meal is a more important staple in those provinces where the Vitamin A deficient population groups live.
- Based on the above information, increasing the production and consumption of food stuffs which are naturally rich in vitamin A is now seen as the most sustainable way of improving dietary intake of vitamin A.
23. Each country is unique with respect to the nature of its food security problems and thus the information products needed to address them. Because the primary aim of a national FIVIMS is to aid national and local decision-makers, it must provide products that respond first and foremost to their priority needs as determined by the specific circumstances of that country. Hence, the data that a national FIVIMS will assemble, the objectives and methods of its analysis, and the products that it develops and disseminates, will ultimately depend upon who will use those products, and for what specific purposes. Although the content of these products is determined by users needs, some typical products might include those described below.
24. In order to provide an initial guide for national programming and to establish benchmarks for monitoring progress toward achieving Summit goals, an initial assessment of food insecurity and vulnerability in the country is needed.
25. In many countries an up-to-date assessment of the food security situation may have been carried out and reported in published documents in preparation for the World Food Summit, or immediately thereafter. There is no need to repeat this work. In other countries, much of the information needed for the baseline will already be available, either in recent assessment reports or in existing databases and special-purpose survey reports that are still current. However, a FIVIMS baseline information report that summarizes this information will usually be needed. This information can be compiled and presented in the form of summary tables, charts and maps, and should not involve the writing of overly-lengthy or academic reports. Baseline information reports will generally need to be updated at least once every ten years, if not more often.
26. Monitoring reports interpret key indicators that are regularly followed by various national and sub-national data collection systems for a range of purposes. Monitoring reports are meant to signal adverse movements in medium-term trends or warn of impending shocks to the food system at national or sub-national levels. Reports containing the latest assessment of the current situation should be routinely released at regular intervals that correspond to user needs within the country and any reporting requirements that may be established by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in line with the World Food Summit commitments.
27. The frequency of data collection and reporting is influenced by cost as well as users needs. Monitoring reports and current situation assessments are generally needed at regular intervals, at least yearly, and even more frequently for early warning reports. Data that is difficult and more costly to collect may be updated at less frequent intervals. A schedule for periodic updating of such costly types of data should be established; and in-depth assessments covering a broader range of data than the monitoring indicators can be prepared at the same time, perhaps every three to five years. In-depth situation assessments are more likely to give a more complete picture of changes occurring in underlying causes of food insecurity and vulnerability than annual monitoring reports. These periodic in-depth assessments may serve at times to update the baseline information against which progress is being measured, and, when appropriate, to establish new reference points for future monitoring.
28. Evaluation studies provide ex-post assessments of the impacts of policies and programmes on reducing food insecurity and vulnerability, whereas feasibility studies provide ex-ante estimates of the future costs and benefits associated with alternative policies and interventions. Such studies provide information that is essential to ensure the most efficient use of scarce public resources in food security programming. At the sub-national level, for example, the results of such studies can guide the formulation of participatory community action programmes. At the national level, information can help in designing or re-orienting national food assistance programmes (in the short term) and broader national food security policies and programmes (in the longer term). At both local and national levels, information from these studies is critical when formulating requests for external assistance. And at the global level, information from policy studies can guide the programming of investments, technical assistance and international food aid. Such studies will generally be produced when the need arises.
29. Advances in computer technology have made possible the use of mapping techniques, in particular GIS, to analyze and present complex food insecurity and vulnerability information in ways that greatly facilitate understanding and decision-making. Maps generated from geo-referenced data can provide easily understood visual information about the location of food insecure and vulnerable population groups and geographical areas. Once these locations have been mapped, a wide variety of other data relevant to understanding and monitoring the food and nutritional status of vulnerable people can be over-laid on the base maps. These techniques can communicate a large amount of information in a simple format, and can also be used as an analytical tool. A range of user-friendly GIS tools is now available for use on affordable PCs. Investment in appropriate hardware and software, and training of national technicians in their use, will be essential components of modern and effective national FIVIMS.
30. Information by itself is of no value unless it reaches those who need it, can be easily understood and is actually used. National information systems must develop dissemination plans and approaches that ensure that these conditions are met. A starting point is a user needs assessment to ensure that decision-makers real information needs are correctly identified. The participation of decision-makers in the preliminary stages of planning for various types of surveys will also be useful to provide input and to confer a sense of ownership in the final results. Reports should then be prepared keeping in mind the specific needs, interests and perspectives of well targeted users. For most users, long reports containing a large amount of data and information and covering a range of topics are less effective than shorter theme-specific reports that address the specific interests of a particular type of user.
31. How information is presented is also critically important. Data analyses should be fully transparent and easily understood. Results should be attractively presented in ways that facilitate the drawing of conclusions. To this end, maximum use should be made of well-prepared and attractive graphs and maps that communicate patterns and complex relationships in ways that can be quickly grasped by policy-makers. Depending on technological capacity within the country, media other than printed documents, such as radio, posters, town meetings, and computer networks, may be used to communicate information and reports generated by national FIVIMS. Workshops to present and discuss results with sub-sets of users can be an extremely effective means to help decision-makers interpret and internalize results and their implications for policy.
32. A number of steps may help strengthen national information systems within the FIVIMS framework in such a way that permanent national institutions are reinforced and political commitment is mobilized to ensure sustainability. A series of actions that can be implemented as appropriate, depending upon conditions in particular countries, are set out below. Not all steps need to be applied in a strict sequence nor in all countries.
33. In countries where policy-makers are not yet fully aware of the need for strong food insecurity and vulnerability information systems, an effort should be made to sensitize them to the nature and potential benefits of such systems. This step is essential to establish the political commitment necessary for success. A variety of means can be used. High officials in ministries concerned with food security, as well as those responsible for broader development planning and resource allocation, can be briefed individually to ensure that they understand how information products can be of direct value to their work. Sensitization workshops involving key representatives of concerned ministries can also be useful to foster the formulation of an official national policy, and to reach agreement on the need and mechanisms for close cross-sectoral and inter-ministerial cooperation in the sharing of key data and information.
34. A national focal point will need to be designated who can play a catalytic and/or coordinating role in initiating implementation of FIVIMS activities. Subsequently, the focal point will need to arrange for the management of any shared FIVIMS database networks that may be established, for the production of consolidated FIVIMS reports and for the maintenance of relationships with relevant international organizations and databases.
35. The selection of the focal point is strictly a national decision and should be based on considerations of effectiveness. Countries may designate a person, an existing information unit or a government department. In making the selection, countries should consider that the focal point will need to have the authority to officially communicate with and obtain the cooperation of a number of different information systems operated by different line ministries, independent government departments, NGOs and other private sector organizations. Thus, rather than selecting a focal point from among line ministries, countries may wish to place the focal point functions in a unit or department that traditionally works on cross-cutting, inter-ministerial issues, such as the Office of the President or Prime Minister, the Planning Ministry, Ministry of Finance, or the Central Statistics Office.
36. The first task of the focal point may be to establish a collaborative network involving all units operating systems that produce or use data and information of relevance for FIVIMS. The purpose of the network will be to facilitate the exchange of information, planning and cooperation on an on-going basis. Although it would not be necessary to establish a new institutional structure requiring additional resources, at a minimum the network needs to establish rules of procedure for decision-making and reporting, and participants should have the authority to speak on behalf of their respective institutions on food security information issues.
37. An early responsibility of the network may be to conduct an assessment of users information needs. The purpose of the assessment will be to identify and prioritize the major types of information required by different users and their preferred periodicity and format. The assessment can be done through group meetings, individual interviews or questionnaires. It is important to ensure that all potential user groups at national and sub-national level are given an adequate opportunity to articulate their needs. To obtain an accurate and complete enumeration of the needs of potential users who have not previously had access to usable information, it may be necessary to undertake several rounds of meetings or interviews in order to identify the types of information that would be most useful. As the national FIVIMS is further developed, the focal point should obtain periodic feedback from users to monitor the progress being made and to identify areas where further improvements can be introduced.
38. Once the information needs of key food security decision-makers have been identified and prioritized, the network could conduct an inventory of the available data and information, and evaluate the extent to which current information systems meet those needs. The evaluation could consider the range of data and information types, their coverage, periodicity, quality, data management procedures, analytical methods and dissemination approaches. Results of the evaluation would identify significant gaps or weakness in meeting priority information needs, and point out areas where there may be duplication of effort and where collection of low priority information might be terminated. The evaluation should include aspects related to data collection, management, analysis, and dissemination.
39. Results of the user needs assessment and the inventory and evaluation of the current information systems will serve as building blocks for developing a strategy to improve the national information systems belonging to the FIVIMS network. The strategy should define a priority set of information required by national decision-makers and a set of verifiable objectives. Based on the objectives, a national workplan would then set out a scheduled programme of initiatives and activities to meet those objectives. Actions might include institutional changes to achieve greater information integration within and across sectors and ministries, use of new technology and methodologies, human capacity building, and investments in new equipment and software. Initiatives in the areas of data collection, data management, analysis, and dissemination should all be considered, based on the results of the evaluation. The plan should be designed in modules or increments such that the higher priority actions could be taken in a logical sequence as resources permit. Domestic resource requirements to implement the plan and priority areas in need of external assistance should be identified.
40. For FIVIMS activities to survive, they must receive the commitment of key political decision-makers to provide adequate and continued support. To obtain this they must in the first instance produce useful and useable information products which help convince political decision-makers that the information system deserves support. But doing good work alone may not be sufficient unless it comes to the attention of key decision-makers. The national FIVIMS network must also have as part of its agenda not only maximizing information quality and usefulness (supply side considerations) but also specific strategies for building and reinforcing the demand for good information products. The targeted dissemination of well presented products to key decision-makers and to other potentially influential information user groups can contribute significantly to this end. Complementing the dissemination of published products with well-timed, targeted and publicized workshops involving important decision-makers and other user groups can significantly reinforce this support.
41. Most national governments already provide much FIVIMS-related data and information to international institutions as part of well-established cooperative agreements. As a global FIVIMS begins to be established, there may be requests for small amounts of additional data that will assist in better monitoring of progress toward the attainment of the objectives of the World Food Summit and other international agreements. In addition, as national information systems are strengthened, national governments will have better information that can be transmitted as part of normal reporting. The exact nature and configuration of the global FIVIMS is still being planned and debated, but it is likely that it would assemble and analyse a sub-set of the indicators being generated by the national FIVIMS networks that would be common across countries. This would permit inter-country analyses and comparisons in accordance with guidance from the CFS. It is unlikely that this will require governments to establish a new reporting channel for special FIVIMS information. Rather, most, if not all, FIVIMS information will probably flow through existing links to the current holders of international databases.