Optimal global monitoring of food insecurity calls for annual data at country level that is made available with a quick turnaround. This will greatly assist national policy and decision making as well as global monitoring of the development agenda objectives.
Measuring personal experiences of food insecurity
FAO’s Voices of the Hungry (VOH) project is an innovative approach to assist countries in accessing timely and valid information on the severity of food insecurity as experienced by individuals in the population. This initiative aims to establish a new global standard for measuring food insecurity experience that is valid, endorsed at the international level, and used for global and country monitoring.
The food insecurity experience scale
FAO has developed the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) which is modeled after the 15-item Latin American and Caribbean Food Security Scale (Spanish acronym: ELCSA). The FIES has the potential to become the global standard by providing comparable information on food insecurity experience across countries and population groups. The FIES builds upon established tools, such as the USDA Household Food Security Survey Module and the ELCSA, both of which have been tested and validated in various parts of the world in developed and developing countries. As it is not exclusively tied to any particular sector such as nutrition, agriculture or economics, the FIES has the advantage of contributing to multi-disciplinary approaches for estimating food insecurity severity, and can be used as part of food security initiatives within and across different sectors.
Partnering with Gallup, Inc.
FAO is partnering with Gallup, Inc. that has carried out nationally representative surveys in more than 150 countries annually since 2005 in its world poll study. Starting in 2014, the Gallup® World Poll (GWP) questionnaire will include the FIES, modified to a 10-item survey module, in order to gather information on food insecurity experiences of individuals. Currently, FAO is carrying out a pilot study to include the FIES in the 2013 Gallup® World Poll in four sub-Saharan countries – Angola, Ethiopia, Malawi and Niger. An extensive linguistic adaptation was carried out in the major national languages to ensure that translations of the FIES module for the Gallup® World Poll questionnaire are culturally appropriate and well understood.
In preparation for the global launch in 2014, this pilot study will help to consolidate procedures for proper linguistic adaptation of the FIES questions, to identify the optimum set of questions that effectively cover the range of conditions from being food secure to experiencing severe food insecurity, and to develop the analytic methods required for compiling comparable indicators across nations and linguistic groups. Results from the pilot study will be available through this website in early 2014.
Using the FIES information
By including the FIES in the annual World Poll, FAO will collect cross-culturally comparable, real time information from individuals at a relatively limited cost. The FIES data will be used to derive estimates of the prevalence of mild, moderate and severe food insecurity. Also, because the information is collected from individuals’ experiences rather than those of their households as a whole, investigation into possible gender disparities in food access in the population will be feasible. Data on scale responses from the World Poll surveys as well as a detailed food security analysis will be available to Governments and to the public through a open-access platform. To strengthen capacity for evidence-based policy making in support of national and sub national food security, FAO is available to provide technical assistance to countries that choose to include the FIES in their large-scale nationally representative surveys.