Topic 3 – How to make the FSIN work for you?

03.09.2012 - 06.10.2012

Innovative multi-stakeholder food security information networks, such as the Technical Secretariat for Food Security and Nutrition (SETSAN) in Mozambique, the Institutional capacity development program on Food Security Information for Action in South Sudan (SIFSIA) and the Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSSG), have demonstrated how community food security information capacities can be mobilized and employed by governments to serve crisis prevention, response and food security policy. The 2009 FAO-WFP joint thematic evaluation on Information Systems for Food Security concluded that such multi-stakeholder networks are a successful and lower cost approach to more sustainable food security information capacity and institution building.

The community of practice that FSIN intends to construct will be built on national and regional level networks and platforms. FSIN will support national and regional level networks where they exist, or facilitate their establishment, where needed.

Through its website FSIN will bring together information from different global food and nutrition security information systems and initiatives. It will also provide links to national and regional level food and nutrition security information networks and platforms. Besides, the website will be a venue for discussion on relevant issues and sharing of best practices. Regular email newsletters will keep members informed of developments.

We would like you to respond in particular to the following questions:

  • Do you already belong to a food and nutrition security information network at country/regional levels? Which one(s)?
  • How do you think FSIN can best support existing food and nutrition security information networks at country and regional level?
  • Where they don’t exist yet, how can FSIN best facilitate the creation of national and regional level networks?
  • How can the FSIN website, and other communication means, support national and regional level networks? How should it coordinate with existing global initiatives?

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Dr. Nancy Mutunga FEWS NET, Kenya
10/02/2012 - 10:40

Do you already belong to a food and nutrition security information network at country/regional levels? Which one(s)?

 

Yes. The Eastern Africa Food Security and Nutrition Working Group (FSNWG). How do you think FSIN can best support existing food and nutrition security information networks at country and regional level? The FSIN is well positioned to support country and regional networks by virtue of its global experience with multiple food security networks. In this regard, the FSIN can support country and regional networks by developing practices or guidelines (especially for food security networks in their formative stages) that are more likely to enhance the efficiency and stability of food security networks. In this case, missteps that have characterized other networks can be minimized. Most country and regional food security networks are generally ‘inward looking’ and in many instances oblivious to occurrence of global food security phenomenon that often impact other countries or regions. The FSIN can facilitate provision of ‘early warning’ information to food security networks on external events that may not appear significant at the time but could end up being key food security drivers in unexpected areas. The FSIN has correctly observed that while information systems are, in general, fairly efficient in articulating the nature, extent and magnitude of a food security crisis, there is a deficit of timely decision making for early response. The FSIN could, from its experience with different networks, provide input to country or regional networks regarding the characteristics of response analysis strategies (or frameworks) that have greater likelihood of eliciting interest and response from governments, donors and development partners.

 

Where they don’t exist yet, how can FSIN best facilitate the creation of national and regional level networks?

 

From experience, the timing for the creation of national networks is rather important. Governments are usually more receptive to forming and participating in transparent multi-sectoral and multi-organizational food security networks in the face of a crisis that is bigger than the capacity of national governments to mitigate. This does not suggest that FSIN waits until a crisis is imminent. However, the FSIN’s entry point can focus on identification of key food security players, initially senior food security technicians in key government ministries, FAO, WFP, FEWS NET and NGO representatives etc... The goal would be to facilitate an initial brainstorming session. Most potential network partners also benefit greatly from familiarization or exchange visits to functional networks in countries that have similar governance structures or food security characteristics. The FSIN can facilitate such exchanges with networks that most closely resemble the FSIN vision.

Ms. Gilda Walter FEWS NET, Guatemala
10/01/2012 - 19:25

1. Do you already belong to a food and nutrition security information network at country/regional levels? Which one(s)? Yes, as FEWS NET, I belong to a technical committee in Guatemala, chaired by the National Food Security and Nutrition Secretariat (SESAN), to compile data related to food security, analyze it and make a 3-month projection on future food security conditions. In this committee participate government institutions as well as international organizations and NGOs.

 

2. How do you think FSIN can best support existing food and nutrition security information networks at country and regional level? By facilitating the exchange of data collection methods and methodologies for analysis,or the experiences of others, so that the existing networks can learn from other initiatives.

 

3. Where they don’t exist yet, how can FSIN best facilitate the creation of national and regional level networks? By providing ideas on how to create and manage them according to others' experiences. By enabling direct communication with the members of existing networks and those who are interested in create one. The knowledge and guide of those who have walk the path could be very welcome and useful. Also, the diversity of circumstances, since each experience will be different, could be very enlightening.

 

4. How can the FSIN website, and other communication means, support national and regional level networks? How should it coordinate with existing global initiatives? * Enabling interactive exchange of information within the members, through chat rooms, direct e-mail communication, blogs and other types of communal communication. * Publishing documents of standards, methods and tools for food and nutrition security information gathering, analysis and decision-making. * Providing access to new research related to food and nutrition security and its results.

Mr. Getachew Abate Mussa FEWS-NET, Ethiopia
10/01/2012 - 16:01

Dear Moderator,

 

Please find my comments on each Topic

 

Topic1:

I fully support the FSIN initiatives as it is designed to improve the system for timely and appropriate food security information for action in support of decision making process. Since the quality of food security information depend on the level of technical as well as institutional capacity, a strong focus on capacity development has to be the first priority of the initiative The food security issue is multidisciplinary. It can not be done by one agency unless coordinated system is in place at national level to bring together all sectoral issue pertinent to food security. Therefore, I am always ready and interested to work with other stakeholders. In Ethiopia, different agencies are working in different parts of the country on food security issues. The majority participate in different sectoral task forces where food security information is shared widely on ad hock base. However, the food security information network is not yet fully integrated. Therefore, FSIN can promote to establish food security information network at sub national levels (regional/Zonal/District) and linking with national food security coordination system.

 

Topic2:

In the case of Ethiopia, different agencies are collecting different food security information as per the agencies interest. The main sources of information are those government office at district level . The data collection and management issues at district level is challenging. lack of skilled manpower, lack of equipments, and poor communication system affect the timeliness, consistency, relevance of the information provided. More over lack of data backup system at different administrative level, it is not easy to do time series food security data analysis. Therefore, to address these problems, I would like to suggest the following specific activities to - Intensive training on food security data collection and management for all level - improve accountability and institution capacity of the Government Offices of different administrative level to have a sustainable food security information network - improved information communication systems of all level for timely information exchange - develop sector specif standards and methodologies to be used as the integral part of national/local food security analysis. The current national level methodology being used in Ethiopia is more food aid focused.

 

Topic3:

I am participating at national level task forces including Disaster Risk Management Technical Working Group (DRMTWG), Disaster Risk Management Agriculture Task Force (DRM-ATF), and Multi-Agency Nutrition Task Force (MANTF)are some to mentioned Since Sectoral Task Forces are active in Ethiopia which are dealing with issues specific to their sector, it would be good if FSIN design a strategy to help each task forces in the country to link the sectoral issues with food security in general The lesson I learn from East Africa Emergency Coordination in 2010, the web based information network is so important to inform division makers timely. Likewise it would be good if FSIN support to establish or strengthen the existing country level Food and Nutrition Information and communication systems

Dr. Vedasto Rutachokozibwa FAO, United Republic of Tanzania
09/25/2012 - 09:17

My contribution to this topic is on gaps related to data capturing, data analysis and communication of information on food and nutrition security.

 

Data capturing gaps: This constitutes a) weak data management processes in the collection, keeping/storage and access at national and sub-national levels; b) lack of standardized tools and instruments for collecting quantitative data (volume/weight), in particular but also in qualitative data. In other instances, formalities to access data and information (the so called official data) are too bureaucratic and cumbersome, making it difficult to access data timely. These circumstances lead to incomplete datasets to support rigorous data capturing and analysis. Furthermore, methodologies for capturing data and analysis for urban food and nutrition security situations are not well developed and known by many analysts.

 

In addition, even for those captured data, there is often failure and/or delays to systematically transfer them from source to higher levels; and associated with data aggregation at each higher level (may be due to high transportation costs or other logistical problems), create gaps in data availability for analysis at the time when required. Consequently, there is loss of useful details required for a detailed geographic understanding. This may affect making appropriate intervention decisions where needed. Improved technologies such GPS, PDAs SMSs as well as training in their use, would improve data collection and reduce delays.

 

There is need for 1) developing standardized data collection tools and instruments for data collection; 2) support countries, institutions to develop protocols for sharing data and information; and 3) provide additional technical and financial support to facilitate the collection and transfer of data from sources for analysis.

 

Data Analysis gaps: In some instances, data are collected and reported raw with no analytical value addition to support decision making for planning and development. In addition, there is tendency for using a narrow analytical framework focusing on, for example, a few indicators such as food availability, and even so, focusing on key staples and ignoring significant other source such as indigenous foods and minor crops, livestock and fisheries products, issues of food access (including income sources, consumer price indices, and purchasing power), utilization-nutrition (key actions or intervention on nutrition), and stability (livelihood systems). Furthermore, addressing vulnerability to food insecurity and malnutrition requires an integrated multi-sectoral approach, which most analysts do not often consider; or sometimes they are forced to ignore it in order to service their institutional mandates, demand and/ or results. There is need for strengthening multi-sectoral institutional analysis capacities in terms of skill development and provision of analytical tools such as those from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC).

 

Information communication gaps: The purpose of generating food and nutrition security reports is for meeting the needs of decision makers to respond appropriately. Often, reports generated provide exceedingly detailed descriptions and normative/academic related information and fail to provide relevant conclusions to inform decision making. There is need for developing communication and presentation skills to facilitate production of audience-tailor information.

 

Overall, there is need for establishing standard guidelines and protocols to collect, process, analyze, interpret, write and communicate demand-driven food and nutrition security information/reports.

Koffi N. Amegbeto FAORAF, Ghana
09/21/2012 - 10:55

Dear Moderator,

Topic 2 - What are the information gaps and related capacity gaps?

This contribution is based on a recent evaluation in four West African countries but may be valid in other countries in Africa.

Information gap:

  • I concur with a previous contributor (Mr. Gary Eilerts) about reliance on indirect measures of food insecurity.
  • Food security information where it is being collected is not systematically associated with actions, for example, policy monitoring to document the lack of it or changes in orientation. Yet, this joint monitoring facilitate documentation of best practices, lessons learned which could be shared in similar situations, evaluated for possible replication elsewhere or used for advocacy.
  • Food price data, where available is monthly averages and there is a need to verify if value would be added to say, weekly or bi-weekly information. At the peak of food crises decision makers need a high frequency information than monthly.

Capacities

  • Lack of institutional capacity in food security governance which is critical for an effective management of information systems (and their networks) as a mean for appropriate and timely decision making.
  • Need to strengthening capacities to sustain information collection, dissemination and use at national and regional levels. In many cases, the national government seems to take the back stage on these aspects and at times, it appears as if it is the financial and development partners who need such information and therefore, are in the driving seat with respect to generating /using such information.
  • Except few exceptions in Africa, national engagement in the effort is low and insufficient, as a result, human capacities need to be improved (qualitatively and or quantitatively), and financial resources to be levered for continuity and sustainability. Data quality cannot be ascertained in some cases.
  • Needed capacity for decision makers to make the right balance between politics and effective use FSI that would lead to timely response to any emerging food insecurity and nutrition crises.
  • Poor or inadequate means of operation: internet connectivity /infrastructure, IT equipment, and other required tools.
  • As the national systems have difficulties in sustaining their activities, their contributions to regional networks is either nonexistent, weak or ineffective. Regional networks do not have an efficient financial mechanism or capacity to sustain their activities and support decision making at regional level, for example with the Regional Economic Communities.

Many thanks.
Regards,

Koffi N. Amegbeto
Food Systems Economist
FAORAF, P.O. Box 1628
Accra, Ghana

Mr. Thijs Wissink FAO, Thailand
09/20/2012 - 17:00

Dear participants,

Discussions on our second topic What are the information gaps and related capacity gaps? starts off with two contributions coming from Cambodia and USA. Thank you for these highly relevant interventions!

We hope to receive many more contributions, so don’t hesitate to post your comments by logging in and using the form below. Alternatively, you can also just send back your reaction to fsn-moderator@fao.org, and we will post it on your behalf. Participants working for governments, regional organizations and other country and regional level organizations are particularly encouraged to react. FSIN is being set up primarily for you, so we want to make sure it is tailored to your needs and expectations.

For the second topic of this online stakeholder consultation, we would like you to respond in particular to the following questions:

•    As a user and/or producer of food security information, what do you think are the main data/information gaps and why? What capacities have to be developed to address those gaps? Please clearly separate between what is needed at country level and what is needed at regional level.

•    How do you think FSIN can best respond to these needs? What resources are needed to fill the gaps?

However, reactions on our first topic are also still very welcome!

Looking forward to your comments!

Thijs Wissink, Facilitator

Mr. Gary Eilerts USAID, United States of America
09/18/2012 - 22:19

Governments, donors, and the food security assessment community rely heavily on indirect measures of household food security to assess the presence and severity of food security conditions at the household level. We all look at rainfall to determine drought, and we use drought to estimate household crop production losses, and we use food prices to estimate the impacts of drought-caused lost production on household food security. But in most of these measures, there is no direct measurement of an actual household. As good as these indirect measures may be, it is certain that they are far from perfect. In fact, we don't know how good they are.

 

The reason for this is clear, and forgivable: no one can afford the immense cost of implementing direct measures of houshold food insecurity in all the places where it is needed. Household surveys are expensive to carry out. And even in household surveys, the interpretation of responses, and how they may be compared with other household surveys in other areas, in order to target those who are hungriest, is far from certain.

 

So, my question is: are we forever consigned to monitor household hunger indirectly? As I look at a new generation of short household surveys, new methods of communicating with households, and a desire and an ability for multiple parties to work together efficiently, can't we find a way to directly consider the presence of hunger in a community or even household?

Mr. Darith Srun Council for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD), Cambodia
09/18/2012 - 09:46

On behalf of the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD), I wish to express my strong support to the Food Security Information Network (FSIN, and I am very pleased and honoured to be in the network which is useful, I think, to better communicate the cross-cutting issue of food security globally. In response to the current topic, I wish to provide small contribution as follows.

There two main information gaps in Cambodia:

 

1. weak communication between: (a)technical people and decision/policy makers and (b) national and sub-national levels

 

2. limited coordination of the food security-relatd information systems/invitiatives. To fill the above mentioned gaps, the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) has taken several measures including:

(1) Establishment of coordination mechanism (creation of Food Security Forum and Technical Working Group on Food Security and Nutrition;

(2) Creation of a Food Security and Nutrition Information System (Website: www.foodsecurity.gov.kh);

(3) Establishment of Food Security and Nutrition Information Management Task Force consisting of representative from government institutions, development partner agencies and NGOs. The Task Force aims at improving the coordination of various information systems and initiatives related to food security and nutrition; and

(4) Creation of Food Security and Nutrition Data Analysis Team (FSN-DAT)

 

However, there is a need to strengthen the existing systems and structure, and develop the capacity of the key actors in the systems, especially the capacity of the FSN-DAT needs to be strengthened so that they can have better skills to analyze food security-related data and information.

I would very much welcome any comments or questions.

 

Regards,

Srun Darith

Mr. Thijs Wissink FAO, Thailand
09/11/2012 - 17:24

Dear participants,

First of all I would like to thank all for your participation in this online stakeholder consultation, especially those of you have posted comments. Your initial comments are very useful and below you will find a short synthesis of what has been said so far.

Among the interventions received there was wide support for the FSIN initiative and its overall thrust. All participants welcomed the initiative and some mentioned it was high time or even overdue (Omiti, Mukhala). FSIN is thought to be especially relevant given the increasing complexity of emergency situations (Obong’o), increased attention to effective use of resources (Obong’o, Rutachokozibwa), and the need to draw lessons from recent food price crises (Omiti). Many interventions stressed the importance of decision makers and policy makers to base their work on high quality information (Omiti, Obong'o, Rutachokozibwa). Advice on the main thrust of FSIN included the need for FSIN to be flexible to tailor to different situations in the countries (Obong’o, Hlaing), to have a multi-sectoral approach (Hlaing) and to change the name into ‘Food and Nutrition Security Information Network (FNSIN)’(Rutachokozibwa).

Interventions generally supported the strong focus on capacity development under FSIN (Kilembe, Obong’o, Rutachokozibwa, Mukhala, Stacy). Specific aspects of capacity development that were mentioned included the need for a comprehensive approach addressing all four pillars of food security (Mukhala), the effective linking of new capacities to local policy making (Stacy), creation of a pool of expertise (Kilembe) and an education programme (Hlaing). It was also argued that information providers need to develop their capacities to enable them to produce demand-driven information using standard procedures, which enables comparison of data within and across countries/regions (Rutachokozibwa, Obong’o). In fact, standardization of methods for data collection and analysis was stressed by some participants as another area where they expect FSIN to play a key role (Mukhala, Rutachokozibwa). Mukhala also called for FSIN to play a role in sharing of datasets from different agencies. In addition, Rutachokozibwa mentioned advocacy and awareness raising among decision makers as means to increase their commitment to improve information systems. In vulnerable countries where resources and skills are lacking FSIN should play a role as a focal point for resource mobilization and promote sustainable capacity development.
Participants seem to be motivated and ready to cooperate with other stakeholders. To ensure a bottom up approach it was suggested that countries learn from each other (Kilembe) and extensive country-level stakeholder consultations (Obong’o). Interventions stressed the importance of national level networks/communities of practice to include a variety of stakeholders (Omiti, Obong’o, Stacy). Obong’o adds that different organizations bring on board key organizational strengths and resources, creating synergies. Stacy sees the encouragement of communities of practice under FSIN as a promise of greater sustainability. Hlaing calls for coordination mechanism to be strong enough to advice the decision-making process.

Thijs Wissink, Facilitator

Mr. Lutangu Mukuti COMESA, Zambia
09/10/2012 - 10:24

I am happy to note that this system will help us in the region to discuss the region’s food security issues. This is a component which needs to be supported by all, as it involves each human being. Regards