In the inter-connected world of food security, partnerships – among countries, regions, and development organizations – can play a critical role in achieving research- and evidence-based policies to increase the resilience of global food systems and to improve food and nutrition security for all. In this light, since 2014, IFPRI has held a series of food policy dialogues in Africa south of the Sahara, in collaboration with various regional partners as part of the Food Security Portal project. This series of blog posts examines findings from these dialogues and highlights lessons learned and next steps.
Access to food security information poses a challenge for developing country policymakers on several fronts. First, these countries often face a dearth of reliable, timely data regarding the actual food and nutrition security situation “on the ground.” Second, even when reliable information does exist, it is often scattered and hard to access. Finally, policymakers often lack the understanding and coordination needed to make proper use of information to enact appropriate policies to fight hunger, malnutrition, and poverty.
In March 2015, food security stakeholders met to discuss how to meet these challenges head-on in Burkina Faso. The policy dialogue, held in Kaya, was organized by IFPRI and GRAD Consulting Group and focused on ways to improve the country’s food information system.
During a panel discussion, led by representatives of the Department for Policy Formulation from the Ministry of Agriculture, the National Agriculture and Environment Research Institute (INERA), the University of Ouagadougou, and the Polytechnic University of Bobo-Dioulasso, attention was drawn to the fact that most of the country’s existing food security policy and strategy documents will expire in 2015. There remains an urgent need for updated, accurate data to inform the formulation of a new country-wide food security strategy. Currently, it is very difficult to make accurate long-term projections to inform new policies and programs that will effectively address existing constraints to food security. This is in large part due to unreliable data that is not disaggregated to the household level and that does not cover all major food crops.
Gilbert Yelemou, representative from the Executive Secretariat / National Food Security Council (SE/CNSA), emphasized the need to coordinate all of the country’s food security stakeholders in the creation, implementation, and monitoring of a national food security strategy and a national emergency preparedness plan. He called for increased networking with colleagues in Mali, Niger, and Senegal in order to learn from these countries’ experiences, particularly with respect to their food security information systems. He also stressed the need for a national response plan targeted to vulnerable, food-insecure populations at the end of every agricultural season. One of the biggest challenges that the SE/CNSA sees, according to Yelemou’s presentation, is moving Burkina Faso from an emergency intervention approach to a resilience/development approach, and creating a reliable database focusing on the actual needs and conditions of the country’s vulnerable populations.
Panelists also highlighted the need for increased financial and political commitment to improving the country’s information systems. As political control changes hands, new leaders may not understand the need for sustained, continuous data collection. Similarly, many information systems are run through development programs; as these programs come to an end, so, too, does the funding for these systems. More sustained sources of financial backing are needed to ensure that information systems are carried forward in the long term. Youssion Napon, representative from the National Council for Emergency Intervention (CONASUR), highlighted this point, calling for the implementation of a centralized emergency information system that will support early warning capabilities and high-level decision-making during times of risks and humanitarian crises.
The dialogue concluded with several important recommendations. First, Burkina Faso has an urgent need for a basic, integrated, and operational information system with an accessible database that all stakeholders have the capacity and training to use. Second, there is a need for appropriate institutional arrangements and other measures to achieve real-time delivery of the information produced throughout the country. Third, stakeholders and policymakers need to engage in efforts to create a harmonized framework for data collection and dissemination to all sector-based information systems. Finally, a sustainable financing system needs to be put in place to support these sector-based information systems; this system needs to include commitments from the government as well as from the development community and private-sector actors.
By: Sara Gustafson, IFPRI