RE: What can we do to improve food security data? | Eval Forward

 Hi Emile,

How to measure food and nutrition security is a critical one which must be effectively addressed if we must adequately determine the effectiveness of the huge investments in this area and track the global efforts in achieving the respective SDG indicators.

As for us at the Nema Program in The Gambia we use three mechanisms, namely: 1: Number of hungry months in a year per household, 2: Amount of rural income and 3: Food and nutrition security scores provided by the National Nutrition Agency which publishes these data annually.

The number of hungry months is counted as the number of months in a year when farming households run out of stock of food they produced by themselves and have to resort to other means to acquire food for the family. In other words it is the number of months in the year when rural farming households have to buy rice from a shop. In The Gambia in a baseline study of 2013/14 revealed that this was at 5 months on average and the project target was to reduce this to two months by the project end.

Rural incomes are measured by the Bureau of Statistics and Planning and it compares the average annual incomes generated by rural households as compared to urban dwellers. Let me however state this one is particularly very difficult to define and as such we have tried as much as possible to avoid using this method.

The annual data produced by the National Nutrition Agency is promising one except that the agency needs to be well funded to conduct the survey in regular frequency. This has been a challenge over the years hence it’s not been entirely depended upon by projects.

In terms of general challenges food and nutrition data collection have cultural implications as Gambia rural dwellers hold this information dear to their heart, it relates directly to their prestige and so do not willingly give it out to. Aside from that other methods of measuring yield and productivity data are costly as it requires field presence of extension service personnel to ensure local secretaries record yield accurately. Extension coverage is very low in Gambia hence the data recorded by local community based secretaries can be subject to quality opinions. Then there is also the disharmony in food and nutrition data reporting requirements by the various players and donors. This does not help the situation either. And finally the capacity of evaluation staff to collect and report on food and nutrition security is not up to scratch in many developing countries, Gambia being no exception.

Looking forward to hearing your stories too!