Capacity Development for Information and Statistics (IFA-CDIS)
Whether the goal is to forecast crop yields, monitor or measure food insecurity, prevent famine or inform policy-makers on emerging food security concerns, gathering and sharing accurate data and statistics is an essential first step.
In today’s digital world, where the flow of information is instant and global, raw data collected at local level feeds into systems that merge data across topics,countries or regions, building complex pictures of on-the-ground reality, and giving decision-makers a better understanding of who is food secure and who is not. The challenge is to ensure capacity exists for credible cross-sectoral analysis of the food security situation and for communicating effectively.
Given the many actors involved – including governments, development organizations, civil society and the private sector – there is a risk of their differing approaches leading to conflicting information or information overflow. FAO is well-positioned to support the harmonization of these approaches for better quality results.
If you wish to become a partner in a specific activity, or are simply looking for more information, please see the section below for some of the key programmes which fall under this IFA, and where further resources are required for follow-up actions.
To have an impact, statistics and information have to be widely accessible and used in policy formulation and decision-making. Alongside working to develop the capacity to generate accurate statistics, FAO also works to improve access to this information. FAO has a range of innovative programmes designed to inform and empower everyone concerned with evidence-based policies addressing food insecurity, sustainable use of natural resources and agriculture development.
What FAO has done: FAO has developed CountrySTAT, a web-based information system for food and agriculture statistics at the national and sub-national levels. It provides decision-makers access to statistics across thematic areas such as production, prices, trade and consumption. This supports analysis, informed policy-making and monitoring with the goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger.
Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with a budget of US$6.4 million for three years the project is assisting 17 sub-Saharan African countries to better organise, manage and disseminate their national data. Thanks to CountrySTAT, national capacities are strengthened at the institutional, technical and functional levels. In each country, the national government makes a substantial contribution to ensure its deployment and continued training and maintenance. Moreover, coordination within the national statistical system is improved by creating a one-stop shop for all official statistics related to food and agriculture and facilitating the dialogue between different data producers. CountrySTAT is now fully operational in all 17 sub-Saharan countries, plus Philippines and Bhutan, and is being expanded to more countries and regional organizations like UEMOA, EAC and ECO, facilitating regional integration.
The agricultural census in Niger meanwhile has been one of the first censuses worldwide to use the new FAO recommendations of linking the agricultural and population censuses and using a modular approach in data collection. The advantages of using this approach are manifold: high degree of flexibility for countries, substantial cost reduction, collection of information on emerging issues, increased relevance and improved coordination within the national statistical system. This first joint census of both agricultural and livestock resources, released in November 2007, revealed that agricultural assets, particularly livestock, had been substantially underestimated in the past and that only three percent of the irrigable land was being exploited. The overall results are being used to inform the national and international policy agenda on food security.
What Next? Currently, FAO is working with several partners to develop a second phase of CountrySTAT with a target of 30 countries in Africa, for which an estimated budget of about US$12 million is needed. The system is also being developed in other regions, including Latin America, Near East and Asia.
FAO, together with the World Bank, member countries and other international organizations has also developed a Global Strategy to Improve Agricultural and Rural Statistics. Its purpose is to provide a framework to substantially enhance the capacity of national statistical systems to produce the data needed to guide policy and decision making in support of food security, rural development and sustainable use of natural resources.
Global and Regional Implementation Plans are being prepared by FAO in close partnership with the UN Regional Commissions and the Regional Development Banks so as to avoid duplications and facilitate the establishment of synergies with other global and regional initiatives. The focus of the Global and Regional Implementation Plans will be to create the right institutional environment for conducting sustainable statistical activities and to strengthen basic food and agricultural statistics through a comprehensive training and technical assistance programme. A detailed research agenda will support the Plans with the objective of developing new guidelines on the most advanced and cost-effective statistical methods for data collection and dissemination. The Implementation Plans will have a long-term horizon (10- to 15-years with a first phase covering the next five years) allowing countries to effectively plan and manage their development programmes. Robust country and partner support will be needed to ensure full implementation of the Strategy in Africa and the other developing regions: it is estimated that the Africa plan alone will require USD 50 million for implementation.
FAO’s information systems are designed to guide decision-making in a neutral manner to build food and nutrition security based on accurate and concrete facts. FAO helps member countries strengthen their information systems capacities to identify the underlying causes of food insecurity and vulnerability, while also providing the food security information need to take investment decisions.
What FAO has done: FAO's Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping System (FIVIMS) promotes better understanding of the characteristics and causes of food insecurity and vulnerability with a focus on people and their livelihoods. It contributes to improved policy and programme formulation, and to targeting and monitoring the progress of interventions to reduce hunger and poverty at local, national, regional and global levels.
FAO compiles and maintains Global Indicators and Statistics on Food Security, including prevalence of under nourishment in total population, number of undernourished persons, intensity of food deprivation, hunger map etc. These information are used for global analysis and for monitoring MDG1. They are key inputs to the State of Food Insecurity in the World Report (SOFI), which annually ever since 1999 has been presenting the latest statistics on global undernourishment. SOFI raises awareness about global hunger issues, discusses the underlying causes of hunger and malnutrition and monitors progress towards hunger reduction targets established at the 1996 World Food Summit and the Millennium Summit.
FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) uses satellite imagery, field observations and other information, to compares food availability with needs and alert the world to any imminent food shortages. It comprises a worldwide network which includes 115 governments, 61 NGOs and numerous trade, research and media organizations. Objective information and early warning is vital to ensure that timely and appropriate action is taken to avoid people starving. In this regard, GIEWS has repeatedly demonstrated its capacity to alert the world to emerging food shortages — most recently during the 2007-2008 food crisis.
What Next? FAO has now developed a five-year Corporate Strategy on Information Systems for Food and Nutrition Security (ISFNS) to improve its support to member states and the global community. The Strategy will serve to sharpen organizational response to known and emerging threats to food security, renew commitment to provide timely and reliable, demand-driven services and improve internal and external communication channels. The Strategy is based on the following four pillars:
· Statistics and analyses for food and nutrition security (global public goods).
· Standards, methods and tools for information systems on food and nutrition security
· Capacity Development to support ISFNS of member countries.
· In-Country assessments to address food insecurity and malnutrition
FAO is particularly looking to raise resources in support of the capacity development pillar to improve the technical potential of member countries in the generation, analysis and management of high quality data and information.
Agricultural knowledge and information systems are in a state of rapid change. Traditional mechanisms are being supplanted by local, national and regional networks and by new technologies, such as wireless networks, that cut across social and political boundaries and organizational structures. The efforts of individuals and institutions to embrace and build on these changes accordingly need to be fostered and strengthened.
What FAO has done: A variety of models of knowledge-sharing networks using multi-disciplinary, participatory and gender-sensitive approaches have been developed across Africa, in Burkina Faso, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Ghana, Niger, Senegal, and Zambia. Normative frameworks for policies and practices derived from this work are now being shared in other African countries and in other regions of Asia, including China and India, and in Latin America, including Brazil and Costa Rica. The use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) is proposed when and where possible, with an emphasis on the development and sharing of locally-generated content by rural populations and institutions.
Among successful interventions to date:
• Development of Knowledge Sharing Methodologies for capitalizing on good practices relating to food security and rural development from development programmes in areas such as rural input credit schemes and micro-gardens. These approaches use a variety of formats and techniques, such as share fairs, community listeners’ clubs, adult literacy training, community rural radios, exchange visits, newsletters, websites, and workshops.
• Global Framework for Access to Information and Knowledge: A global consultation process has drawn together a wide range of lessons learned on institutional approaches to making information truly accessible, under the Coherence in Information for Agricultural Research for Development Initiative (CIARD). Global and regional policy-making bodies have further endorsed a CIARD Manifesto, a checklist of good practices, and a set of pathways illustrating how the checklist items can be achieved. After less than a year, more than 120 organizations worldwide have become partners in the CIARD initiative.
• Innovative Approaches to Capacity Development in the application of methodologies for knowledge/information exchange and gender in rural institutions and communities (e.g. government bodies, rural service providers, civil society, producers’ organizations). Such approaches have included resources for computer-based learning distributed on CD-ROM in at least three languages to more than 100,000 people worldwide through Information Management Resource Kits.
• Rural Women Leadership and Empowerment: Through the FAO-DIMITRA network, rural populations, men and particularly women in DR Congo and Niger have developed their leadership by using solar radios and mobile phones which give them access to information for the first time and the possibility of expressing in their own language their needs and priorities through community listeners’ clubs grouping a total of nearly 9000 people. The results obtained were: 1) recognition of the role of women by their communities; 2) adoption of ICTs and mobile phones in rural areas enabling women and men to network and be heard; 3) various partnerships with development agencies and FAO's emergency unit to support this participatory communication practice.
What Next? Building on existing successes, the aim is to develop local capacities in the mobilization and sharing of knowledge and information through the introduction of sound practices and the creation of an enabling policy environment. Two main areas of work will be taken forward:
• Continued consultative preparation of practical toolkits and policy frameworks for good practices in knowledge-sharing approaches that mainstream gender aspects, using tools such as: mobile telephony, share fairs, exchange visits, radio programmes, printed media, web platforms, web 2.0 and social media, community (radio) listeners’ clubs, adult literacy training. The toolkits will capitalize on experiences already gained in various countries of Africa, as well as in Asia and Latin America.
• Broad-scale integrated approaches led by national partners and international development networks to strengthen capacities in knowledge and information sharing and gender mainstreaming for rural communities and institutions in low-income food deficit countries.
The consolidation and validation of sound policies and good practices requires around USD 2 million, and an additional USD 8 million for the development of existing or new partnerships and networks for capacity strengthening and outreach with regional and national bodies through Africa and the less developed countries in Asia and Latin America.
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