Re: Addressing food insecurity in protracted crises: adequate and appropriate funding mechanisms

Tessa Vorbohle HelpAge International, United Kingdom
17.05.2013

Given the complex nature and non-linear dynamics of protracted crises, with countries experiencing recurrent shocks and both, transitory and chronic food insecurity, what would appropriate funding mechanisms look like?

Appropriate funding mechanisms would provide multi-year funding that goes beyond addressing the symptoms of the crisis and would – right from the onset - pro-actively protect people’s productive assets before a process of attrition starts. Where possible it would also promote people’s livelihoods by addressing issues that tend to be perceived as long term developmental issues such as adapting to changes, facilitating access to local markets or resolving land disputes.

Such funding mechanisms and programmes need to be guided by and draw their effectiveness from strong contextual analysis, able to capture intra-country differences and changes over time. HEA based assessments and the IPC framework with their ability to assess livelihood-zone- specific opportunities and constraints for protecting and promoting livelihoods and their ability to assess and predict both, transitory and chronic food insecurity, provide a good basis for this.

Personally, I think that the Protracted Relief Programme (PRP) carried out in Zimbabwe (2004-2012) is a positive example of a funding-mechanism/programme that helped to protect and - to a certain extent – promote livelihoods of poor and vulnerable households in the context of a protracted crisis. Initiated and led by DFID, it became a multi-donor funded programme over time. PRP provided an alternative to the prevailing more traditional types of relief programmes in the country.

The programme supported livestock protection schemes and the production of food by promoting improved and drought resilient techniques and this even during very severe phases of the crisis. Its grounding in strong contextual analysis – over time increasingly using HEA based concepts and tools - allowed the programme to make informed and strategic choices about appropriate interventions for the different livelihood zones and considering how the crisis affected the zones differently, balancing livelihood protection and promotion needs. The inclusion of MoA extension workers in training and delivery efforts built capacity at the local level. T

he programme was flexible and responsive in that it allowed for including new beneficiary groups such as internally displaced people when the need arose. PRP was not only effective in pooling funds but also in establishing a ‘community of practice and learning’ among the various implementing partners (ranging between 23 - 36 NGOs at different times).

The evidence and learning informed the re-design of activities within PRP from one phase to the other but it also had an influence beyond the programme. The analysis framework and generated evidence was for example useful to challenge the timing, targeting and type of the more traditional relief assistance (mainly in-kind food assistance) that was provided separately from the PRP by other programmes. To conclude, to me the biggest lesson to learn and to replicate in other protracted crises is the value of using pooled funding to facilitate collaborative learning, evidence gathering and sharing for being able to grasp and respond to the complex and changing reality of protracted crises.

Another strength of the PRP was that it included most vulnerable households in its livelihood protection and promotion work.

This included elderly headed households and households affected by chronic disease. This is something to highlight, learn from and develop further. While these and other households characterized by constrained labour capacity generally benefit from short term relief and - where in place - from social protection measures, the PRP experience shows that labour constrained households can engage in productive livelihood activities when these are designed with labour saving considerations in mind. This is not meant as an argument to replace relief assistance and social protection for vulnerable households but rather a call for greater inclusion of labour constrained households in (appropriately designed) livelihoods activities as a complementary intervention. Given the unpredictability of short term relief provision and the limited adequacy of current social protection measures in most protracted crises, the inclusion of labour constrained households in interventions that actively protect and promote their productive assets and activities will contribute to increased and sustained food security and livelihoods outcomes of a group that tends to be overlooked in this type of programming.