Information Needs for Food Crisis Risk Early Warning: the Role of the Food Security Portal
The 2020 Global Report on Food Crises (GRFC) found that more than 135 million people across 55 countries experienced crisis level acute hunger in 2019. The main drivers include conflict and insecurity, climate shocks, and economic shocks. While these drivers continue to persist in 2020, the health and socioeconomic upheaval created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the crop devastation stemming from severe desert locust outbreaks in East Africa are expected to exacerbate the already serious food security problems and food crisis conditions. The GRFC mid-year update (October 2020) echoed the findings of the 2020 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report which found that the COVID-19 pandemic can be expected to push up to another 132 million people into chronic hunger in the world, over the 690 million people that went hungry in 2019.
To navigate the increasingly complex, interlinked causes of food crises which is exacerbated by new drivers, it is important that governments and other stakeholders have timely, high-quality information to increase the resilience of food systems and cope with future crises. The EC-funded Food Security Portal (FSP), which was initiated in 2010 in response to the lessons that emerged from the 2007-2008 world food crisis, seeks to help improve the ability of governments to respond to and prevent food crises by bringing together policy-relevant tools and information in one place. It was designed to pool together timely, relevant, detailed and high-quality country-level information in a systematic and structured way.
The Excessive Food Price Variability Early Warning System, one of the FSP’s earliest and most innovative tools, was included as a tool by the Agricultural Market Information Systems (AMIS), the inter-agency platform for enhancing food market transparency and policy response for food security under the G20. During the current phase of the project, the FSP has expanded the set of information-and decision-support tools to strengthen the ability of policymakers, food policy experts, and researchers to respond quickly to dynamic developments in the world food system. Among them are the Early Warning Systems Hub and the Control Panel for Risk Monitoring. The recently launched COVID-19 Food Price Monitor is among the tools made available in a COVID-19 and Food Security page that is dedicated to tools and resources for tracking and analyzing the potential impacts of the pandemic. The new tools and features of the FSP and the Africa South of the Sahara sub-portal are now available on the updated website that will be launched in time for the policy seminar.
The need to monitor the various drivers of food crisis, improve data availability, and foster greater information sharing and coordination, including about policy responses, has become even more imperative in light of the current pandemic and the urgent stakes it raises for food security and nutrition.
The theme of this policy dialogue was data and information sharing and coordination, with a focus on the role of the Food Security Portal in monitoring the drivers of food insecurity and food crisis for policy information.
The objective of the policy seminar was to bring together key stakeholders to share challenges, lessons learned, successes and failures, and opportunities for supporting data and information sharing regarding the various drivers of food crisis, including the ramifications of the pandemic on food security. A particular focus was given to the current and potential role of the Food Security Portal and, more in specific, its Africa South of the Sahara portal in contributing to better informed policy and decision-making to improve food security and nutrition and enhance resilience to shocks.
Some key questions addressed at the FSP policy seminar included:
- How are early warning early action systems currently used in food crisis-affected countries especially in light of the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic? Are they serving to provide timely and adequate responses?
- What are the additional challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic on food systems and how can they be addressed by national governments, regional organizations, and the global community?
- What are examples of successful policy responses at the country and regional levels that have been guided by existing monitoring tools?
- Is there a need to tailor the food policy analysis tools to regional and country needs? If so how and what should donors and international organizations do? How could the Food Security Portal support such efforts?
- 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 similar gaps exist in real-time monitoring and how can they be addressed both in a research and policy context?
- Over the years, a series of different tools have been developed by various organizations for monitoring drivers of food crisis. How could greater collaboration facilitate their effectiveness in driving policy responses?
- What additional components, tools, and features should be considered to make the Food Security Portal and Africa south of the Sahara sub-portal more effective in achieving its goal of contributing to better informed policy and decision-making to improve food security and nutrition and enhance resilience to shocks
The dialogue and launch of the renewed FSP website was held as an IFPRI policy seminar. The target audience included, policy makers, experts of development and humanitarian aid agencies, researchers, and representatives from the private sector and civil society organizations, especially those in Africa.
The event included a short introduction to the new FSP website, followed by presentations by experts and practitioners on the key challenges they see to food crisis risks in the short and long run and needs to improve information systems for early warning and early action for the prevention of food crises.
Read the post-event blog here.