1. How should real-time monitoring be designed and utilized to strengthen existing early warning systems and support preventative policy responses to food crisis risk.
The real time monitoring be performed in 4 stages
Stage 1: Spatial data collectors (individual or an organization) has to be identified.
A mobile based application can be used for monitoring the data of the approximate amount of food that is generated through agriculture in a particular area after a particular time. An individual in a village or an organization in a village can use this application for adding the data in the mobile application from time to time.
Stage 2: Identification of a regional data transfer point for monitoring
Many of the spatial data collectors are associated with a research institute nearby. The research institute can become a nodal point in getting the data systematically and the institution may help in getting data in those places where individuals and organizations could not get. This can be possible by collaborating with research institutions which can get the data from the students who hail from different villages and help in getting the data. The student groups and clubs associated with social service wings can play a crucial role in mobilizing the real time data which is crucial .
Stage 3: Incorporating the risk coefficients in the region
After the collection of the data at regular intervals, the risk coefficients in the region can be assigned based on crop loss due to floods and droughts, lack of transport etc. Based on the risks associated, the food shortage can be estimated. For instance, in many cases mango trees get heavily damaged due to sudden rains just before harvest. In such cases wide damage is reported but not estimated. Under such circumstances, the data from the spatial data collectors and institutes can help us in identifying the crop loss and inturn the productivity can be estimated and inturn the shortage can be predicted.
Stage 4: Identification of action plans and the way forward
After the identification of the risks, suitable action plans can be formulated to reduce the food shortage risk. For instance, a specially dedicated freight train was inaugurated to transport the turmeric produced in South India to Bangladesh where it is not available. It was planned based on the expected productivity in that area. On a similar lines, a dedicated train for farmers and food products was launched to supply the fruits from one location where they are in excess to the place where they are needed.
3. Local food prices are one way to get a temperature check of local market conditions, but high frequency local market price data is not widely available. Where are the gaps such as this one in real-time monitoring and how can these be addressed both in a research and policy context?
The local food prices are generally published in a local print/electronic media which is generally telecasted in a local or a regional language. As a result, the data cannot be extracted due to the language barrier. Involving more ground level volunteers is one of the ways to bridge this gap.
In the policy context, we need a permanent administrative body which can be made accountable for acquiring this data. If this is not possible, the existing institutions should set up a wing which collects this data along with the volunteers.
4. Advances in early warning technologies and data must be matched by developing capacity within institutions at the country and regional level to transform relevant data into preventative actions. What is needed to initiate and scale up the use of real-time monitoring in early warning early action systems by regional organizations, national governments, and other country level institutions?
Scaling up needs more trained volunteers or staff members who can execute the task of real time monitoring. Many educational institutions have rules which specify that a student should work for certain hours for a social cause to meet the requirements of the course. Such students must be trained and should be involved in the real time data monitoring task by using suitable tools. Since a student stays at an educational institute for 3-4 years, it will be easy if the student is trained to aquire the necessary data in his vicinity. Further, all the educational institutions should make social service mandatory and under these social service initiatives, these trained volunteers in large numbers should be deployed at various locations to complete the tasks. These trained volunteers should be allocated under regional organizations, national governments and other country level institutions to complete the tasks of real time monitoring.
Additionally, many young researchers in various countries are given financial assistance in higher educational institutions. In return, the researchers should dedicate their time to the assigned tasks within the institute. Their services should be utilized to train the young volunteers who can collect the real time data.
In many instances, the governments try to train their existing staff members for executing a new task or using a new tool. This was found to be ineffective in many instances because the government employees are burdened by this extra assignment and as a result, the tasks were found to be incomplete inspite of spending a lot of resources and time.
5. Over the years, a series of different early warming early action systems have been developed by various organizations. How could greater collaboration among the various tools and approaches facilitate their effectiveness in driving policy responses?
Greater collaboration among various tools enable the development of a single platform where data can be made available. When data is made available, various trends and factors affecting the variations in the data can be easily understandable and as a result it would be easier to draft the plan of action and subsequent drafting of policies.
Secondly, if an approach is failed/successful, the collaborators can eventually scale up/ignore the approach and act accordingly which may result in saving efforts and time in improving the situation at a local, regional and global scale.
Dr. Sumanth Chinthala