Twenty-seventh Session

Rome, 28 May - 1 June 2001


Table of Contents


1. Eight months ago, the Secretariat of the Inter-Agency Working Group on FIVIMS reported to the CFS (document CFS:2000/6) on the first two and one half years of operation of the international FIVIMS programme. This document is the second of the annual progress reports requested by the committee at its 25th session in 1999. Here, in addition to describing actions taken over the past eight months since the last report, we will focus on constraints and difficulties encountered at national and international levels in promoting the collaborative objectives of the FIVIMS initiative. This is done in order to make concrete proposals for strengthening the programme, so it can make a maximum contribution towards meeting the 2015 target for reduction of the number of undernourished persons.



2. The IAWG Secretariat and individual IAWG member organization have sponsored a large number of country-level activities either to diagnose the current state of national information systems and/or to assist in the development of operational strategies on how those systems can more effectively assist food insecure and vulnerable population groups. Several countries on their own initiative have also begun to promote FIVIMS principles at national and sub-national levels. Developments since the last progress report are highlighted below:

Progress on Normative Work to support National FIVIMS

3. A number of guidelines and manuals have been produced by IAWG members during the past eight months that could be useful for the implementation of national FIVIMS initiatives, and other In addition, the IAWG itself has commissioned the preparation of a certain number of general guides to supplement the original Guidelines for the Establishment of National FIVIMS, which were produced in 1998. These include:

- Guidelines to Incorporate Nutrition Considerations into Agricultural Research Plans and Programmes,
- Incorporating Nutrition Considerations into Development Plans and Programmes: A Brief for Policy Makers & Programme Planners,
- Targeting for Nutritional Improvement.

Further normative work and production of new reports, maps and profiles, based on latest methodological developments, is continuing in 2001. Highlights include:

Progress on FIVIMS Sensitization Activities

4. The IAWG Secretariat has supported a number of awareness-building activities since September 2000, primarily through presentations and discussion of the FIVIMS initiative at regional meetings convened by various IAWG members for related purposes. FAO, in its role as catalyst for the FIVIMS initiative, has also supported awareness-building activities at national level in several countries. Highlights of these activities include:

5. During 2000, UNDP provided financial support to the FIVIMS Secretariat for the publication of key documents, including printing Guidelines for National FIVIMS: Background and Principles, reprinting FIVIMS brochures, and a major up-dating of the IAWG FIVIMS website. The IAWG Secretariat has been distributing the FIVIMS quarterly newsletter and other materials through an e-mail list serve. A draft FIVIMS Start-up Kit will be reviewed at IAWG5 in June.

Progress in establishing FIVIMS at Country Level

6. Activities to improve existing information systems in line with FIVIMS objectives are underway in several countries. Highlights of a few such activities are presented below:


Development of a Global Food Security Database

7. As reported last year, there is general acceptance that a global FIVIMS database, containing a wide variety of national-level summary indicators and internet links to more detailed sub-national data, is a desirable inter-agency product of the FIVIMS initiative. Concepts involved in such a distributed global database project have been addressed by a specialised IAWG sub-group. Two areas of work have followed: (a) the development of the Key Indicators Database System (KIDS); and (b) support to a more limited collaborative inter-agency effort, the African Nutrition Database Initiative (ANDI).

8. KIDS, being developed by FAO/WAICENT and other IAWG partners, will be the approach used to develop the global database. It will provide an internationally comparable database of key indicators. It will be Internet-based but its architecture also will be distributed on CD-ROM (for areas with weak or no Internet connection). Countries or regional organisations will be able to set up their own version of KIDS if desired. These systems will be able to feed the Global KIDS, or act as a subset node within the KIDS network. KIDS will provide multi-language support, allowing each country to adapt the system for local usefulness.

9. Various IAWG members (FAO, the World Bank, UNESCO, and UNICEF) have provided support to ANDI, which was developed in parallel to FIVIMS, with initial financial support from the Government of Italy and the World Bank. ANDI is made up of 26 or so indicators that are monitored annually, for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa only. Since mid-1999 this inter-agency database effort has been available on the internet at the address FAO funded the updating of this database for the year 2000; the World Bank is assuming these modest maintenance costs in 2001. KIDS will draw on lessons learned from this ANDI experience as it broadens coverage to include more agency partners, more indicator categories, and extends coverage to all developing countries.

10. In April 2001, in Nairobi, Kenya, a one day workshop was held to evaluate the mid-term lessons learned regarding ANDI and to decide how this more specialised experiment in inter-agency database co-operation for sub-Saharan Africa would relate to the Global KIDS. The latter, while similar to ANDI, would expand coverage to all countries and have a broader range of presentation features. It was decided that ANDI would continue to provide specialised analysis for sub-Saharan Africa and would receive its data from Global KIDS once the latter is operational. In order to make progress towards making the Global KIDS operational, it was recommended to seek project funding to assist in solving problems of inter-agency collaboration, establishing standards for harmonising data series, and finishing the programming needed for a global database dissemination web-site.

Asia Regional FIVIMS Project

11. The development of an Internet-based data management, sharing and analysis tool known as the "Asia Key Indicator Data System (Asia KIDS)" has been continued by the Asia FIVIMS project with financial support from the Government of Japan. The system makes use of the digital data sets produced by the Global Information and Early Warning System (FAO-GIEWS) and the Key Indicators Mapping System (KIMS) mapping technology (see paragraph 15 below). The Asia KIDS enables users to have rapid access to FIVIMS-related information in map, image, chart, tabular and text formats maintained in a single database. It also allows users to browse key FIVIMS indicators, which are critical for understanding food insecurity and vulnerability situations in Asia.

12. The Asia KIDS prototype was demonstrated at the 25th "FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific", held in Japan in August - September 2000 as well as to a "Regional Expert Consultation of the Asia-Pacific Network for Food and Nutrition on the Follow-up on the Establishment of FIVIMS" organised by the FAO regional office in Bangkok in November 2000. Feedback from the conference and consultation participants assisted the project in undertaking further refinements of the system. New database and mapping technologies developed by Asia KIDS will contribute to the development of country-level FIVIMS databases and the "Global KIDS" discussed above.

13. As part of its support to the establishment of National FIVIMS, the project will send FIVIMS start-up missions to selected countries in Asia this year. The missions will (a) conduct rapid user needs assessments, (b) identify existing and planned information systems relevant to FIVIMS, (c) define critical indicators and data required to assess food insecurity and vulnerability, and (d) assist the countries to prepare National FIVIMS workplans by providing specific recommendations and strategies for developing and institutionalising National FIVIMS. The project will also test and assess the usefulness of the Asia KIDS technologies for both national and sub-national level vulnerability analysis in those countries.

14. Regarding acute food insecurity caused by natural disasters, the project collaborates with the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) at the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium. The joint effort aims at geo-referencing over 12,000 mass natural and technological disasters in the world from 1900 to the present known as the "Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT)." The project has so far geo-referenced a total of 992 national disaster events and 2422 provincial level events during the period of 1990-1999. These geo-referenced data will be used to produce disaster frequency or occurrence maps for various disaster types for Asia. These can also be used to assess country and sub-national level vulnerability to natural hazards which can lead to acute, transitory food insecurity. An interim report on this work will be presented at the "Asia-Pacific Conference on Early Warning, Prevention, Preparedness and Management of Disasters in Food and Agriculture" in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in June 2001.

Development of other FIVIMS Software Products

15. Progress continues to be made in the development of the Key Indicators Mapping System (KIMS), to respond to the mapping dimension in FIVIMS. KIMS is designed to be a "map viewer", used for data-sharing and information retrieval. If the boundaries of any level of geographic unit have been mapped in a standard GIS format, KIMS can display data as maps, tables and graphs. It is an easy-to-use complement to more complex and expensive commercial GIS systems. KIMS will be distributed free of charge to partners at national and international level. Its main purpose is to encourage greater use of mapping at all levels in the fight against food insecurity. Using the newly-released version 1.0 of the software, KIMS training will be undertaken in French and English in the next 12 months as part of the EC-funded national FIVIMS "start-up" project in at least 5 or 6 countries and will be demonstrated in regional workshops.

Work on Improvement of the Estimates of the Number of Undernourished

16 A new initiative in this area is FAO's intention to hold a FIVIMS International Scientific Conference on the Measurement and Assessment of Food Deprivation and Under-Nutrition, with principle funding coming from the food security component of the FAO-Netherlands Partnership Programme (FNPP, mentioned above in paragraph 3). The main objectives will be to compare and contrast the main alternative methods in current use in the estimation of food deprivation or undernourishment, which are those based on:

The conference will be held in 2002 and will result in detailed guidance for countries in the use of these methods individually or, more likely, in combination for best diagnostic results and greatest utility in targeting resources to those who need them.

Selection of Core Indicators for Global FIVIMS

17. The IAWG-FIVIMS has repeatedly stressed that, since the main purpose of a national FIVIMS is to meet information needs of users within the country, selection of indicators to be monitored should be essentially a matter for each country to decide. To aid countries in making their selection, the IAWG has developed a menu of indicators from which to choose. These are organised in subject matter modules, based on the various structural factors that cause food insecurity and vulnerability, as presented in the flowchart contained in the Guidelines for National FIVIMS (CFS:98/5). This modular structure for organising data on relevant indicators will also be used in constructing the Key Indicators Data System (KIDS).

18. Nevertheless, it is recognised that a small set of core indicators need to be established as common to all national FIVIMS to facilitate cross-country comparisons when monitoring progress at global level. The CFS at this session will consider for endorsement a list of indicators that are particularly relevant for annual monitoring of the world food security situations (see CFS:2001/2). The IAWG later in June may add a few additional indicators from its modular menu, consistent with the set of outcome indicators established under the United National Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) and the list of indicators for monitoring Millenium Development Goals currently underbeing finalised.


19. Despite growing awareness of FIVIMS objectives and some positive indications of progress in working towards them (reported in Section II above), progress in implementing FIVIMS at country level has been slow, with only a few exceptions. There are several reasons for this, none of which represents an insurmountable obstacle, provided the will is there to tackle the underlying problems. These are summarised briefly below.


20. The demand for better, more co-ordinated, inter-sectoral information and mapping on food security should be coming primarily from countries that are setting their own development policy agendas. However, especially in the poorest countries, demand seems to be greater in development partner agencies where decision-makers have more resources to allocate and greater information needs than do national institutions.

21. On the supply side, as each development agency tends to invest in the gathering and dissemination of information that meets only its own needs, there is often overlapping and duplication of effort. The situation that is often observed in the poorest countries is one of information overload, side by side with incomplete or poor quality data series and an inability of decision-makers to make use of available information to improve their planning and resource allocation decisions.


22. If the main UN, bilateral, and NGO agencies clearly mandated their field personnel to collaborate with each other and with national government co-ordinating units, and to report on progress made in this assignment, most of the above-mentioned problems could be overcome. In some countries technical personnel already do engage in very useful collaborative efforts, most often among donor and technical agencies, and sometimes also with government co-ordination units or structures. However, these are often not sustainable over time because they do not involve the host government and are not supported or encouraged by institutional incentives.

23. The challenge of institutional sustainability, whether it be for early warning systems, monitoring of international goals, or more complete systems incorporating standards for national FIVIMS, is a particularly pressing issue. Over the past 15 to 20 years, a variety of food security information systems have been created in the poorest countries. These constitute the institutional predecessors of the models that the IAWG has been proposing for FIVIMS. However, many of these predecessor systems have proven not to be sustainable once project funding terminates.

24. Key project staff (database and GIS specialists, information analysts, etc.) often have skills that give them excellent opportunities in the upper end of the national job market. Low salaries in national service, even when they are paid regularly, are often not sufficient to retain these skilled staff who have often been at higher salary levels or received salary bonuses when under project funding. In the context of government reform, and competing needs for the financing of high priority social programmes to meet Millenium goals, there may be no immediate prospect that poor countries can or will choose to finance the running costs of information systems that have been established with external funds.

25. Donors and technical agencies have not always had realistic expectations concerning what is required to maintain credible information systems in poorer countries. The uniform donor expectation that developing countries, regardless of their per capita income or per capita government revenues, should be able to support the recurrent costs of a standard set of relatively sophisticated information services, does not seem to be at all realistic for the poorest countries. This is an issue that needs careful exploration in the context of donor programmes to support national efforts for the reduction of poverty and undernourishment.


26. The great potential of FIVIMS is that it is a multi-agency programme that can be conducted collaboratively with countries. The reform process within the UN and Bretton Woods systems is beginning to give agency personnel more incentive to collaborate in information system work. The logical appeal of FIVIMS is strong, especially in an era of shrinking development assistance budgets. However, while inter-agency collaboration at the technical level has proceeded well, clear enagement of senior managers is not uniform among all IAWG partners.

27. To move to the level of collaborative effort that will be required to reach the World Food Summit target for 2015, clear instructions and improved incentives to agency field personnel to collaborate seriously need to come from their agency headquarters. Supporting resource mobilisation efforts are also required, although often the additional amount needed will be quite limited, since substantial resources are often available in the country but are being used in uncoordinated ways.


28. The WFS:fyl event that will be held during the biennial FAO Conference in November, 2001, affords an opportunity for member countries and agencies to reaffirm their commitment to the FIVIMS initiative and raise the level of effort so as to bring the benefit of improved information to decision-makers at all levels as soon as possible.

29. The largest concentration of opportunities to do information system development work is in sub-Saharan Africa. This is because of the large number of countries with absolutely low levels of income, high donor and technical agency presence, large numbers of related programs being implemented by IAWG members, and weak national government capacity (where even routine agricultural and health statistical systems have, in many cases, almost ceased to function). A special focus of strengthened IAWG efforts on developing the FIVIMS initiative in this region would be appropriate, in light of the projections for continued high incidence of undernourishment in that part of the world.

30. Through the incorporation of livelihood analysis methods, information system efforts supported through the FIVIMS initiative can be closely linked to, if not co-terminus with, related initiatives to set up national monitoring units (especially those under UNDP, Bank and OECD sponsorship for monitoring international development goals (IDGs), poverty reduction strategies (PRSP) and the CCA-UNDAF initiative). This means that previously independent efforts can at least be harmonised, if not merged, with a major objective of developing sustainable national capacity.

31. The Secretariat intends to bring these matters to the attention of the IAWG, which will hold its fifth annual meeting in Rome from June 26 to 28 this year, and will propose the convening of a meeting of senior-level managers from key IAWG agencies later this year, to discuss and solve problems relating to staff and budget commitments to FIVIMS and practical measures for promoting greater collaboration at national as well as international level. The Secretariat will also encourage IAWG members to organise a joint inter-agency evaluation of what has been accomplished over the past four years and what might be done to strengthen the programme.