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This paper provides an overview of the concepts, issues and challenges that planners and policy makers face in designing food security and nutrition monitoring ...

FoodPolicy

1994 19 (3) 218-233

Food security and nutrition monitoring A conceptual framework,

issues and challenges

Suresh Chandra Babu Research Fellow, International

Food Policy Research Institute,

Washington,

DC

Per Pinstrup-Andersen Director General, International

Food Policy Research Institute,

Washington,

DC

This paper provides an overview of the concepts, issues and challenges that planners and policy makers face in designing food security and nutrition monitoring systems and using their outcome in the formulation of policies and intervention programmes. The principles involved in various types of monitoring systems are outlined after a brief review of their objectives. This is followed by a description of necessary steps in implementing a monitoring system and possible flows of information and its use in various stages of decision making. Identifying relevant issues in designing different types of food security and nutrition monitoring, future challenges facing governments, academic institutions and donor agencies in developing sustainable monitoring systems are discussed. Presenting some of the leading research issues in improving the design and implementation of food security and nutrition monitoring, some guidelines for evaluating their performances in meeting the objectives of improved policy making and reduced food insecurity and malnutrition are provided. The paper concludes that a monitoring system which is simple, user-driven, based on existing institutional structures which increases the capacity for analysis and interpretation and has the commitment of relevant decision makers for using the information in policy design is more likely to be sustainable and successful. Keywords:

food security,

nutrition

monitoring,

methodology

Food security and nutrition monitoring is undertaken to provide timely and relevant information to enable policy makers in formulating prudent policies and in implementing effective interventions to improve food security and nutrition 1990). Food security and nutrition monitoring (Habicht and Pinstrup-Andersen, has been implemented in a number of sub-Saharan African countries for the past two decades without much success. Poor understanding of the principles, inapproseveral objectives, operational priately designed monitoring systems, combining inefficiencies in implementation and limited capacity to convert the information into specific policies and intervention programmes are among the reasons provided for such a dismal picture (Babu and Mthindi, 1992a). The need for and the nature of food security and nutrition monitoring efforts generally differ from one country to the next. Even with well-designed monitoring The authors would like to thank J. P. Habicht, Ken Williams and Victoria Quinn for discussions on the contents of the paper. The responsibility of the contents of the paper remains with the authors.

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0306.9192/94/030218-16

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1994 Butterworth-Heinemann

Ltd

Food security and nutrition monitoring:

S. C. Bahu and P. Pinstrup-Andersen

systems in place, there is no guarantee that the information generated will be used fully in the process of decision making. As a consequence, these monitoring systems tend to remain as data collection exercises. Such low use of information militates against the sustainability of the already existing monitoring systems in several countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the concepts, issues and challenges that planners and policy makers face in designing food security and nutrition monitoring systems and using their outcome in the formulation of policies and intervention programmes. After a review of various objectives of food security and nutrition monitoring, the principles involved in the various types of systems are outlined. This is followed by a description of necessary steps in implementing a monitoring system and possible flows of information and its use in various stages of decision making. Identifying relevant issues in designing different types of monitoring systems, future challenges facing governments, academic institutions and donor agencies in developing sustainable systems of food security and nutrition monitoring in sub-Saharan Africa are discussed. Presenting some of the leading research issues in improving the design and implementation of food security and nutrition monitoring in Africa, some guidelines for evaluating their performances in meeting the objectives of improved policy making and reduced food insecurity and malnutrition are provided. The paper concludes that a monitoring system which is simple, user-driven, based on existing institutional structures which increases the capacity for analysis and interpretation and has the commitment of relevant decision makers for using the information in policy design, is more likely to be sustainable and successful.

Types and objectives of the food security and nutrition monitoring

systems

The classification of nutritional surveillance systems has expanded over the years to include new types of information systems based on emerging needs in information generation and use. Depending on the purpose for which the information on nutritional situation was generated and on the time involved in planning, the nutritional surveillance systems were originally classified into three major types. For short-term planning in rationalizing and maximizing impact of programmes, the system of programme monitoring and evaluation was suggested; to undertake long-term development plans and policies with enhanced nutritional outcomes, the system of development planning and policy design was conceptualized; and to meet the needs of emergency planning and prevent the short-term critical reductions in food availability and nutrition situation, the system of timely (early) warning and intervention was proposed (Rothe and Habicht, 1990). Later, to assess and monitor the indicators of nutritional status of the population as a basis for allocating resources towards a particular problem, a system of nutritional surveillance for problem identification and advocacy was recommended (Tucker et al., 1989). While these systems are designed to play specific roles in meeting the information needs, information generated through one system could also be used for other objectives of monitoring. More recently, several developing countries, and particularly countries in sub-Saharan Africa, have been implementing structural adjustment policies and programmes which may have deleterious effects on some sections of the population, at least in the short run. To monitor the impact of structural adjustment policies on the food security and nutritional status of the poor and to provide feedback to the policy makers, a system of monitoring effects of structural Food Policy I994 Volume 19 Number 3

219

Food security and nutrition monitoring: Table

1. Evolution

of types and objectives

S. C. Babu and P. Pinstrup-Andersen of food security and nutrition monitoring

Type

Objectives

Programme management and evaluation (1984) Development planning and policy design (1984) Timely (early) warning and intervention (1984) Problem identification and advocacy (1985-87)

To rationalize and maximize the effectiveness of health and nutrition programmes To enhance nutritional effects to development policies To prevent short-term critical reduction in food availability and nutrition To assess and monitor indicators of nutrition as a basis for allocating resources towards particular problem To monitor food security and nutritional status of the poor to provide feedback to policy makers on the effects of structural adjustment policies

Monitoring adjustment

effects of structural programmes (1990)

Source: Mason

et al. (1984);

Habicht

and Pinstrup-Andersen

(1990);

Arnold

et al. (1990)

adjustment policies has been suggested (Arnold et al., 1990). While the objectives towards which these systems of food security and nutrition monitoring provide information are equally important, it is extremely difficult to meet all these objectives through a single monitoring system. Thus, there exists a need for identifying and implementing a methodology of monitoring household food security and nutritional status which could be modified and fine-tuned to meet the information needs of different objectives. A summary of various types of food security and nutrition monitoring systems that have evolved over the years is given with their associated objectives in Table 1. Food security and nutrition monitoring systems designed for various purposes have been elaborated by several authors (Mason et al., 1984). A brief description of each system is given below. to assist programme Programme management and evaluation. This is designed managers, administrators and donor agencies in the operation and evaluation of Information generated in this type of food ongoing intervention programmes. security and nutrition monitoring system is useful in decision making on modifying, redesigning and continuation of intervention programmes. In addition, this type of monitoring includes evaluation of the actual impact of the intervention programmes on the welfare of the targeted population. While the majority of the programmes that use food security and nutrition monitoring for programme management and evaluation in the past have been in the health and nutrition sector, agricultural programmes such as small-scale irrigation schemes, commercial cropping and other agricultural based income generating schemes, increasingly use this type of monitoring for management and evaluation. Pelletier and Jonsson’ describe a community based food security and nutrition monitoring for programme management and evaluation for Iringa region in Tanzania (Yambi et al., 1989). Development planning and policy design. Food security and nutrition monitoring for the purpose of development planning and policy interventions addresses information needs of planners, policy analysts, and policy decision makers at the local, regional and national level. While information is generated largely by one or two sectors such as agriculture and health, it is used also by national planning ‘D. L. Pelletier and U. Jonsson ‘The use of information in the Iringa Nutrition lessons for food security and nutrition monitoring’ Food Policy (this issue).

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Program

- some global

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agencies and policy analysis units. Emergency, short, medium and long-term policy alternatives are analysed using data from this system to design appropriate interventions. Data are also used to evaluate the impact of policies and programmes. Using a wide range of data sources, but essentially through primary data collection methods, the system attempts to target resources to poorest geographical areas and population groups in a country. More decentralized approaches are possible with the use of food security and nutrition monitoring for development planning and designing policy interventions. Outcomes of this type of monitoring system include quantification of food insecurity and malnutrition on a national basis, analysis of causal factors, assessment of various policy alternatives and programmes to address the problems and designing and targeting specific intervention strategies. An example of food security and nutrition monitoring for policy interventions is elaborated by Babu and Mthindi.2 Timely warning and intervention. Monitoring food security and nutritional status to inform food planners of impending food shortages at national and local levels is the main objective of this system. It is more useful in countries that are faced with periodic food deficits due to drought and famine. By monitoring appropriate indicators of food security at local, regional and national levels information is provided in advance to decision makers to intervene with emergency relief and food distribution schemes. Agriculture continues to be the major sector in several sub-Saharan African countries for this purpose which collects information on the food production and rainfall through its extension system, although the information is shared by national planning agencies, drought management units, district level offices, and food aid distribution mechanisms. A successful example of implementing food security and nutrition monitoring for drought management in Africa has been documented by Belbase and Morgan for Botswana.” Problem identification and advocacy. Generating information on specific food security and nutritional problems and quantifying them are the major focus of this system. The information needs are minimum for this system which generally include specific nutritional outcomes. In addition to identifying the problems and measuring the number of people affected, information from this system is also used for sensitizing the public and the decision makers in the government and donor community. Increasingly, it is felt that this objective of food security and nutrition monitoring should be integrated with planning and policy design objective or programme management and evaluation objective so that capacity created for these systems could also be used for problem identification. However, starting this type of food security and nutrition monitoring system could be a precursor for designing other types of systems based on it. Monitoring impact of structural adjustment. Initiated to monitor possible negative effects of structural adjustment and stabilization policies, this system also fits in very well with systems designed for planning and policy making and for programme management and evaluation. Although it does not require a separate system and could use information generated by systems with other objectives, this system helps *S. C. Babu,

and G. B. Mthindi ‘Household food security and nutrition monitoring - the Malawi approach to development planning and policy interventions’ Food Policy (this issue). ‘K. Belbase, and R. Morgan, ‘Food security and nutrition monitoring for drought relief management the case of Botswana’ Food Policy (this issue). Food Policy 1994 Volume I9 Number 3

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Food security and nutrition monitoring:

S. C. Babu and P. Pinstrup-Andersen Situation assessment, and diagnose the causal factors of food insecurity and malnutrition

Identify

Analysis, and

the

constraints

policy decisions prescription

Planning interventions and plans of action 1 Implementation policies and

I-

Figure 1

General

methodology

of intervention programmes

1 Evaluate interventions for improvements in food security and nutrition

of food security

and nutrition

monitoring

in designing programmes to protect the vulnerable group of population and to prevent short-term negative effects of policy reforms. Like the system for problem identification, it could form the impetus for expanded systems for food security and nutrition monitoring in countries where no monitoring system currently exists.

Methodology of food security and nutrition monitoring Based on the general principles of nutritional surveillance and the experiences gained in several developing countries, a general methodology of food security and nutrition monitoring could be developed (Arnold et al., 1990). An overview of the methodology of food security and nutrition monitoring, which could be modified for different objectives, varying information needs and resource availability, is presented in this section in two parts. First, a general methodological framework, to be followed in designing a food security and nutrition monitoring system, is given. Secondly, the stages of implementing food security and nutrition monitoring, with emphasis on data collection systems and modalities of converting information into policy action, are described. A general methodology of food security and nutrition monitoring is presented in Figure 1. The overall objective of any system of food security and nutrition monitoring is the provision of timely information for interventions to improve the food security and nutritional status of the population. To accomplish this objective, it is important as a first step to assess the food security and nutritional situation at various levels such as national, regional, community and household levels. Such an assessment should be accompanied by diagnosing the causal factors that are responsible for food insecurity and malnutrition. The next step in the methodology is to identify the constraints that impede changes in the causal factors that will enhance the food security and nutritional status of the households. Once these constraints are identified, alternative plans, policies and programmes 222

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could be analysed for their potential impact in alleviating food insecurity and malnutrition. In sub-Saharan Africa such analysis has been done with limited or no information on the existing nutritional situation and the associated causal factors. Also, it is well recognized that failure to explicitly and correctly identify the factors that cause food insecurity and malnutrition may result in designing erroneous policies and programmes (Pinstrup-Andersen, 1989). Hence, for efficient analysis of intervention policies and programmes, adequate data on the indicators of food security and malnutrition and their causal factors are a prerequisite. The intervention policies and programmes that are identified require an action plan for implementation. It is generally suggested that food and nutrition related policies and programmes which attempt to change the welfare of the households should be introduced on a pilot scale and evaluated for their actual benefits, before they could be implemented on a national level. However, a situation of impending food shortages which require immediate transfer of food may not allow for detailed evaluation before large-scale implementation. Intervention policies and programmes, either of emergency or of a long-term nature, should be evaluated for the benefits and costs of improving food security and nutritional status of the population. Based on the analysis of such information, the food security and nutritional situation and their causal factors could be further studied and the intervention strategies could be modified. As mentioned earlier, the nature of food security and nutrition monitoring and the time involved in assessing the situation and realizing the impact of policy interventions could vary depending on the specific purpose for which it is undertaken. However, the methodology presented here is common to different types of food security and nutrition monitoring systems discussed earlier.

Stages in implementing

food security and nutrition monitoring

In following the general methodology presented above, several stages of implementing food security and nutrition monitoring should be recognized. It is not difficult to find monitoring systems in sub-Saharan Africa which are viewed merely as data collection mechanisms. This is largely because the process of data collection tends to become a goal in itself rather than a means of providing information for decision making (Babu and Mthindi, 1992a). A good understanding of the process of food security and nutrition monitoring is essential for its successful implementation. Various stages of implementing food security and nutrition monitoring are given in Figure 2 and briefly described below.

Situation analysis and identifying the decision points Before initiating a system of food security and nutrition monitoring, it is essential to identify the nature and types of food security and nutritional problems that are to be addressed. A broad definition of the problems is generally useful in specifying the information needs and the level of monitoring. It also helps to identify potential decision points and decision makers for the use of information. For example, the chronic and transitory natures of food insecurity situations need to be delineated. It is also important to specify information needs based on the geographical location such as food deficit and food surplus areas, on the socio-economic characteristics of the households, and on the population groups that are most vulnerable to food insecurity and malnutrition - such as infants, pre-school children, pregnant women and female-headed households. The need for information to be generated and compiled at various levels such as national, sectoral, community and household levels should also be identified. Food Policy 1994 Volume 19 Number 3

223

Food security and nutrition monitoring: S. C. Babu and P. Pinstrup-Andersen Situation

Analysis

(problem identification, information needs, demand potential clients) 4 of

Organization

Institutions

(agencies for data collection, processing, analysis and action)

Designinq

Information

Generation

(conceptualization and analytical methodology) Informationedata 1 Collection

Data (sources

and

Data

methods

Processing

(institution

and

of collection)

and

Analysis

capacity

building)

Data-information

Results

and

Policy

Discussions

L ’ (interpretation

Review

the

and

1 Monitorinq

transfer)

System

(use of information for intervention and impact)

Figure 2

Stages in implementing

food security

and nutrition

monitoring

Identifying food insecurity and nutritional problems, recognizing various types of decisions and levels at which they are made and specifying information needs to meet the demand of these decision points also help in the choice of appropriate system of food security and nutrition monitoring. Institutional structure for food security and nutrition monitoring Major institutional structures that are needed for successful implementation of the food security and nutrition monitoring could be classified into four categories: institutions involved in data and information generation; in data processing and analysis; in relating results of analysis to policy; and in intervention decision the data pertaining to the indicators of food making. In most of the countries, security and nutritional status and their causal factors are collected through a lead sector or institution such as ministry of agriculture or central statistical office. In deciding the choice of institution for information generation, it is important to recognize the infrastructural network of the institutions that could have a wider coverage so that information is obtained from all regions of the country. This is particularly essential when the objective of monitoring is for planning and policy making, timely warning of food shortages, and managing nation wide intervention programmes. In addition to the vital statistics collected by the lead sectors for the purposes of monitoring, information and data from other institutions could be complemented for analysis and decision making. 224

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It has been observed that in several instances, by the time the results of the data analysis reach the decision maker, the problem to be addressed by the monitoring system is no longer a critical issue. To avoid such delays, institutions which have the capacity, or at least have the structure which could be strengthened for fast turnaround of data, should be chosen for implementing monitoring systems. To speed up the processing and analysis of the information, experiences show that it is done most efficiently at the decentralized levels rather than at a central office (Babu and Mthindi, 1992b). Similarly, institutional arrangement for relating the results of analysis to interventions should be identified at this stage. Without due consideration to this aspect, information will remain unused by the decision makers. Proper identification of decision points would ensure a constant flow of information from monitoring system to decision making processes. Designing information generation, conceptualization and analytical methodology Understanding of the concepts associated with household food security and nutritional status is essential for identifying variables on which information needs to be generated. This is particularly useful in food security and nutrition monitoring for planning and policy making and for timely warning. For example, analysis of programmes and policies that may influence production patterns would require a different set of information than the ones that address improvements in the coping strategies of households (Maxwell and Frankenberger, 1992). However, given limited resources in implementing food security and nutrition monitoring systems, there is a need to identify appropriate indicators that truly and cost effectively reflect the levels of food insecurity and malnutrition and to select appropriate factors that could be analysed for designing interventions. An example of the conceptual framework for identifying issues and variables for information generation is given by Babu and Mthindi. 4 The subject of choice of indicators is further elaborated by the papers by Haddad and Kennedy” and by Eele’ in this issue. Data collection -sources and methods Unfortunately, most food security and nutrition monitoring activities start with data collection without a clear definition of what data are needed and for what they are needed. Depending on the objective of food security and nutrition monitoring, the requirement of data would differ. The data sources that exist in a country should be identified before initiating any data collection activity. Generally, both primary and secondary sources of data are used for analysis and decision making purposes in any type of monitoring system. In the past, much emphasis has been given to collect secondary data which were already available in several ministries to design intervention (Mason et al., 1984). This was partly due to the poor infrastructure that existed in several sub-Saharan African countries and it was too expensive to collect primary data. Although secondary data sources are useful in explaining the situations of food insecurity and malnutrition, use of primary data plays an important role in several types of planning and policy making efforts. The primary data could be collected either through quantitative or qualitative methods. Both quantitative and qualitative data are collected in most of the food security and nutrition monitoring systems. “S. C. Babu and G. B. Mthindi, ‘Household food security and nutrition monitoring - the Malwai approach to development planning and policy interventions’ Food Policy (this issue). ‘L. Haddad, and E. Kennedy‘ Choice of indicators for food security and nutrition monitoring’ Food Policy (this issue). ‘G. Eele ‘Indicators for food security and nutrition monitoring. A review of experince from Southern Africa’ Food Policy (this issue). Food Policy 1994 Volume 19 Number 3

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In identifying specific food insecurity and malnutrition problems, qualitative information may be useful. This is also useful in identifying beneficiaries and target areas with minimum cost of data collection and with less time lag in feeding information to the decision makers. For example, timely warning of impending food shortages could be done with observing qualitative changes in food availability and eating patterns of the households. On the other hand, information needed for planning and policy making and for programme management and evaluation generally tend to be quantitative. The methods of data collection depend on the variables involved in data collection and the time involved in the process of planning and policy making. Converting food security and nutrition data into policy decisions Conversion of data, both from primary and secondary sources, into policy information is probably the most crucial stage in implementing food security and nutrition monitoring, since the very success of monitoring depends on the speed with which the decision makers are informed with alternative intervention plans and strategies. It should be recognized that in all types of monitoring systems, decision makers need information and not just data. Data processing and analysis transform data into policy information. With the advent of personal computers and their wide use in sub-Saharan Africa, the capability for data processing is generally better than the capacity for analysis. However, data processing is often confused with data analysis, and having some capacity to process data is seen as the capacity for data analysis. While data processing is a highly specialized technical skill, data analysis in food security and nutrition monitoring requires an understanding of the substantive issues in various fields such as nutrition, planning, economics, sociology, policy analysis and possibly other disciplines. In the past, the types of data analysis included conceptualization of nutrition problems and identifying major causal factors; assessment of magnitude and trends of food insecurity and malnutrition; and classifying the nature and extent of the situation according to geographical location and socio-economic groups (UNCEF, 1992). While such analyses are useful as a starting point, they do not go beyond identifying various policy issues. There is an urgent need for providing information on various policy alternatives and their likely impact on the welfare of the population. Additionally, the indirect effects of intervention policies and programmes need to be identified and assessed (Pinstrup-Andersen, 1990; 1992). This would require an enhanced human capacity with advanced analytical skills which is a major limiting factor in designing and implementing policy interventions in several sub-Saharan African countries. At a decentralized level, district level planners and programme managers need to be trained in understanding the food security and nutrition issues along with the data analysis personnel. Increasingly, community participation in managing information and planning intervention is seen as an effective way of improving the welfare (Immink, 1988; Pelletier, 1991). At all these levels, there is a need for multi-disciplinary training involving subject matter specialists such as social scientists, nutritionists, statisticians, agriculturalists and and research institutions within them, health specialists. National universities, provide immediate opportunity to develop planning and policy analysis capacity in food security and nutrition monitoring. Interpretation and transfer of policy information to decision makers Equally important as the process of converting data into policy is the transfer that the job policy information into action plans. It is usually contended 226

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monitoring system ends when adequate information is generated and that it is not responsible for the quality of decisions made. While decision makers cannot be forced to use the information - since improving nutritional status is not the only objective in the decision makers agenda - improved quality of information, method of presentation and provision of several alternatives to choose from help in better decision making. It also helps if possible action plans are prepared for each type of policy alternatives that are being considered and their potential consequences are described clearly. Review of the monitoring system After implementing the various stages as described above, it is important to review the food security and nutrition monitoring system as a whole and at each stage for their intended contribution to the overall objective of monitoring. Such a review would help identify problems and the need for modifying monitoring strategies at different stages. Reallocation of resources could also be made according to the need to strengthen capacity at various stages of monitoring.

Emerging issues and challenges in food security and nutrition monitoring Although food security and nutrition monitoring systems have been implemented for the past 15 years in several sub-Saharan African countries, only a handful of these countries could provide concrete examples of the use of information for effective policy making and interventions to alleviate food insecurity and malnutrition. Even among those countries which have established an operational system, several issues relating to the principles of food security and nutrition monitoring need to be redressed. Some of these emerging issues which are frequently suggested as fundamental for successful implementation of food security and nutrition monitoring systems are presented in this section. Incorporating them, giving due consideration to their operational significance, presents a challenge in developing comprehensive food security and nutrition monitoring systems. Multiple objectives of food security and nutrition monitoring Information obtained through food security and nutrition monitoring could be used for planning, programming and policy making in a wide range of sectors, including agriculture, health, economic planning, social welfare, labour and famine relief. To meet these diverse information needs, five major objectives described in the second section are frequently associated with food security and nutrition monitoring. Although these objectives could operate at national, regional and local levels, it is essential to identify explicitly the objective of the system to be designed since it is impossible to address all five objectives with one type of monitoring system. Whereas food security and nutrition monitoring systems should be designed with a specific objective, separate monitoring systems could be designed to meet each of these objectives within the same country. Once the objective of the monitoring system to be implemented is clear, the approach to develop the system should be tailored depending on the level of decision making that is to be influenced. For example, a system that caters to the needs of district level planning would differ in its extent of coverage from a system designed for community level decision making. Existing vs newly created infrastructure for information generation and processing One of the binding constraints in developing a comprehensive food security and nutrition monitoring system in sub-Saharan Africa has been the limited infrastrucFood Policy 1994 Volume 19 Number 3

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ture to collect and process the data from the field. In countries where there exists a well-developed network of data collection systems, it is generally suggested that the existing infrastructure should be effectively utilized. However, in countries where there are no organized data collection systems, it may be necessary to create new infrastructure. Elsewhere, it is possible to combine the existing but poorly organized structures and reorient them towards specific goals of food security and nutrition monitoring. In deciding whether to strengthen the existing infrastructure or to develop a new system of data collection, due consideration should be given to the sustainability and cost-effectiveness of monitoring systems. It is essential to organize the system of data collection in such a way that it is operational with limited resources. Using the existing data collection infrastructure provides an opportunity also to reduce the cost of data collection. Since the enumerators who have been conducting other household surveys could be trained fairly easily in collecting data for food security and nutrition monitoring, cost of training could be substantially reduced. Similarly, for processing the data collected from the households, it is also important to use the existing structure and strengthen them. This will substantially reduce the cost of human capacity building for data processing. However, in countries where there do not exist any data processing capacity at the local level it is important to develop such capacity. To the extent possible, the data collection and processing activities in a monitoring system should be linked to the ongoing development activities. This would enable utilization of all possible means of data collection systems for improving the quality of information from the field. The early warning systems that have been established to monitor food availability at the national level in several sub-Saharan African countries provide an opportunity to build food security and nutrition monitoring systems at the household level. Timeliness in data processing, analysis and policy interventions One of the major criticisms of currently operating monitoring systems is that too much data are collected while little is analysed and much less is reported of what has been analysed. The time gap between collection of data and analysis and between analysis and reporting has been so wide in the past that when the information is given to the decision makers, it becomes too late to make effective use of it. Experiences also show that lack of human capacity and resources for data processing, analysis and designing policies has been a major impediment in generating timely information for interventions. The nature of the data analysis in the monitoring systems in the past has also concentrated on compiling the data from various sources and analysing them at a single point, which delayed the process of planning and designing policy interventions. To minimize this time lag, it is essential to decentralize the data processing and analysis systems. In order to meet this task attention should be paid to develop appropriate but flexible computer data processing systems at these levels. Also issues related to the sophistication in data analysis and time involved in various types of data analysis at various levels should be given due consideration. For example, simple tabular analysis of geographical classification of food insecure households would meet the needs of decision making at the district level, while a detailed analysis of patterns of expenditures of the households may be necessary to design policies that will influence food consumption behaviour at the sectoral or national level. Matching the data analysis to the decision making needs At all levels of decision making, namely the national, regional 228

and local levels, the

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data analysis should closely match the needs of the decision makers and various alternative intervention scenarios should be presented to them. Lack of attention to this important issue has resulted in the information from data analysis not being fully used in the decision making process. This has also rendered several wellintended food security and nutrition monitoring systems data-driven rather than user-driven. One way to avoid the efforts of data collection and analysis becoming futile is to involve the decision makers in the generation of information. This is best done by developing the monitoring system in continuous collaboration with the decision makers through the initial stages and frequently modifying content of information generated to improve relevancy of information for their decision making needs. It is generally suggested that a user survey be conducted to identify the information needs before designing the monitoring systems which should be followed by periodical workshops for decision makers to generate feedback on how useful the information is to help the decisions related to the food and nutrition problems faced at various levels. This will increase the user participation in the monitoring system and reduce the probability of its becoming a process-driven system. Information and action linkages Once the data collected from the field have been converted into policy information, implementing these policies is usually left to the decision makers. The political, cultural and bureaucratic environment in which these decision makers operate tend to influence the speed with which the decisions are converted into action. In addition, availability of timely information for making appropriate decisions and the quality of information presented to the decision makers play an important role in strengthening the information-action linkages. It is also the responsibility of policy analysts to go beyond just presenting the information to help the decision makers to use the information to the fullest extent possible. One of the ways to achieve this is to provide decision makers with several policy alternatives that emanate from the information collected. Lack of capacity to convert information into decisions and decisions into action plans has been suggested as a crucial factor in implementing interventions. To increase the likelihood of the use of information in decisions and the timely implementation of intervention policies it is important to organize workshops and other advocacy activities to sensitize the decision makers towards understanding food security and nutrition issues and the importance of information-based decisions that reduce food insecurity and malnutrition. Creating demand for information and making decision makers accountable Lack of demand for food security and nutrition information obtained through monitoring systems from the decision makers has frequently been suggested as a factor that diminishes the role of information in decision making. The assumption that the supply of relevant food security and nutrition information would create its own demand and result in effective decision making towards intervention has been proven to be unrealistic by past experiences in food security and nutrition monitoring. Thus, it is a responsibility of policy analysts to simultaneously find opportunities to create effective demand for their policy analysis output. The issue of creation of demand for food security and nutrition monitoring is closely associated with holding government authorities and donor agencies accountable for the food security and nutrition situation in a country. Unless this is done, provision of information and creating effective demand for such information will have very little impact on improving food security and the nutritional status of the population. Food Policy 1994 Volume 19 Number 3

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Nature and extent of decentralization Decentralizing the process of data analysis, decision making and implementing interventions to alleviate food insecurity and malnutrition has been suggested as an improvement to the currently operating national level systems of food security and nutrition monitoring. It is often suggested that the food security and nutrition monitoring systems that are designed and operated by the local communities could be more effective in implementing interventions and in evaluating their benefits (Pelletier, 1991). Although this is seen as the most ideal, decentralization of the processes of information generation and decision making has been slow in several sub-Saharan African countries, Decentralizing the process of information generation and use also has the advantage of reducing the time gap between problem identification and the necessary action. A decentralized decision making process also involves the officials who implement locality specific interventions. In decentralizing various activities of food security and nutrition monitoring due consideration should be given to factors such as types of data collected, types of analysis to be conducted, existing capacity to process and analyse the data, and the types of decisions that could be made, since these affect the nature and extent of decentralization. National focal point for information dissemination Although the food security and nutrition monitoring systems could be implemented by various sectoral ministries to meet their planning and policy making objectives, it is important to have a focal office at the national level to have an overview of understanding of various systems operating in a country. This helps in maintaining and providing an inventory of activities and in avoiding duplication of efforts among the sectoral ministries. More importantly, the food security and nutrition monitoring focal office should play the role of ‘clearing house’ for information related to food security and nutritional situation of the population in a country. Institutional and human capacity for food security and nutrition monitoring For successful implementation of food security and nutrition monitoring systems, having a critical mass of people trained in food and nutritional policy analysis from various sectors, including the university and other academic institutions, is a prerequisite. Lack of such capacity to translate the data collected through monitoring systems to policy decisions and to design interventions, poses a formidable challenge in all sub-Saharan African countries. Despite the efforts of several donors and institutions in developing capacity for the past 10 years, only a little more than 200 participants have been trained in food and nutritional surveillance and policy analysis (Babu and Mthindi, 1992a). Associated with this is the need for strengthening policy analysis capacity at the decentralized levels. This would require reorientation of the approaches to capacity building in food and nutrition policy analysis to meet the specific requirements for such an approach. Given the wide variations in the existing capacity to undertake food security and nutrition monitoring for planning and policy interventions among the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, there exists an urgent need for strengthening the capabilities of training institutions in this region to ensure the long-term sustainability of capacity building efforts. This is better done through collaboration of institutions in the region in sharing the information and facilities in capacity strengthening. Also the right balance should be struck between investments in long-term post-graduate training and the short-term in-service training efforts. One of the weakest areas in the process of translation of food security and nutrition information into useful decisions is the effective communication and presentation of information. The 230

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presentation of information must be user-specific and sensitive to the level of decision making. This would enhance the use of information for intervention planning and appropriate decision making at national, regional and village levels. However, this requires additional and specialized training in developing communication skills and should form an integral part of capacity strengthening initiatives in food security and nutrition monitoring. Recognizing the political economy issues, power structures and appropriate planning of institutions Even with adequate capacity to implement food security and nutrition monitoring systems and to undertake food and nutrition policy analysis, no significant improvement could be made in the food security and nutrition situation unless issues relating the political economy are recognized and addressed on a country1993). It is also important to recognize the specific basis (Pinstrup-Andersen, power structure and its influence towards policy reforms to make any headway in implementing food and nutrition policies. It is not enough just to provide policy research reports from data analysis, although it is a necessary factor in convincing the politically inclined power structures towards making appropriate decisions. Related to this is the placement of policy analysis units responsible for food security and nutrition policy making appropriately within the government to achieve the objectives of utilizing the capacity in food security and nutrition monitoring more effectively. Lessons learned in the past decade in such attempts point to the variations in accomplishments in improving the food security and nutrition situation due to this consideration. Cost of operating food security and nutrition monitoring An important but often neglected aspect of implementing food security and nutrition monitoring systems is the cost associated with operationalizing them. In the past, information on the cost of implementation has not been documented adequately. Information on the investment and maintenance costs is vital for future planning of activities. Such information is essential also to evaluate the benefits of food security and nutrition monitoring against its costs. The monitoring system which is not cost effective may not be sustainable. The costs and benefits of food security and nutrition monitoring system as a policy generating mechanism has been documented for Malawi elsewhere (Babu and Mthindi, 1993).

Guidelines for evaluation of monitoring systems and research needs Evaluation of food security and nutrition monitoring Evaluation of food security and nutrition monitoring systems for their intended objectives is essential for reorienting them towards changing information needs and clients. Usually two types of evaluations are necessary; first, evaluating the performance of the monitoring system for the quality of information generated and in meeting the information needs; and secondly, evaluating the impact of information in influencing the policy decisions. Several criteria are used to evaluate the performance of monitoring systems. Timeliness of information both in terms of quick turn-over of data for decision making and periodicity of information generation is considered a good criterion. Other qualities, such as decentralized use of information, user-driven nature, use of existing infrastructure, adequate capacity for analysis and interpretation of data and continuous use of information from the monitoring systems for decision Food Policy I994 Volume 19 Number 3

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making, are also seen as equally important as the quality of information and decisions made using it. Information from evaluation of monitoring systems for their benefits in influencing policies may be useful as an instrument to gain resources and support for sustaining the monitoring systems. It is important also to compare the cost of information generation to the benefits attained in terms of changed policy impacts although it is generally agreed that such benefits are not readily quantifiable. One approach could be to document the use of information from food security and nutrition monitoring systems for various planning and policy making purposes on a case-by-case basis and estimate the costs saved in those analysis if the information were to be generated for each of these purposes in the absence of a comprehensive monitoring system (Babu and Mthindi, 1993). For example, a part of information collected by monitoring systems could be used by donor agencies in their planning exercise, which otherwise would involve additional donor resources for data collection. These benefits are in addition to the benefits of information for which the monitoring system is originally intended.

Food security and nutrition monitoring research To enhance the effectiveness of food security and nutrition monitoring systems, it is important to provide the planners, designers and field staff with recent innovations in data collection, processing, analysis and interpretation, and decision making. This could be done by observing the monitoring systems operated for various objectives and under different circumstances in other countries. Such learning process should be reinforced by additional research on the theory and practice of food security and nutrition monitoring systems. Research is needed to develop new technologies of cost-effective data collection that would not compromise the quality and coverage of information. For example, comparing rapid rural appraisal methods and traditional household surveys for their appropriateness under differing information needs would throw some light on minimizing the cost of data collection. Research is also needed in the choice of indicators which could reflect and predict the food insecurity and malnutrition with minimum cost and efforts involved in their collection. Information technology and their appropriateness for compiling, processing and analysing the data from the field should be studied in terms of their requirement for training and capacity building. This includes computer hardware and software that are flexible and compatible for information exchange among various agencies in a country. Research on the appropriate institutional structures for food security and nutrition monitoring would provide useful information in designing monitoring systems. Information on the success of bottom-up vs top-down approaches in information generation and decision making should be analysed under various circumstances. The use of information in the process of decision making and the power structures that are involved should be understood on a country basis using case-studies. Additionally, the political economy issues related to food and nutrition intervention that emanate from food security and nutrition monitoring information should also be studied for their influence on policy implementation. Cost-effective methods of improving the quality of data collected, and reducing the errors in compilation and processing should be identified. Training methods in developing skills for data processing, analysis and interpretation at district, sectoral and national levels should also be researched for their effectiveness in generating adequate capacity in a shorter period of time. 232

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remarks

This paper presented an overview of concepts involved in food security and nutrition monitoring systems implemented in sub-Saharan African countries. It also identified issues and challenges that need to be addressed by policy makers and planners in designing food security and nutrition monitoring systems. Implementing monitoring systems for improving the welfare of the population should be viewed as a dynamic process which should be modified as more information on the design and monitoring procedures are available. Inclusion or deletion of specific information to be generated through the monitoring system should be done on a continuous basis to meet the decision making needs. A general principle of food security and nutrition monitoring valid for different objectives could be summarized as follows: a monitoring system which is simple, user-driven, based on existing institutional structures which increases the capacity for analysis and interpretation and has the commitment of relevant decision makers for using the information in planning and policy design is most likely to be sustainable and successful.

References Arnold, J, Alarcon, J A and Immink, M D C (1990) ‘Food security and food and nutritional surveillance in central America: the need for functional approaches Food and Nutrition Bulletin 12, pp 2633 Babu, S C and Mthindi, G B (1992a) Lessons from Food Security and Nutrition Monitoring in Southern Africa. Report of a conference on Household Food Security and Nutrition Monitoring for Development Planning and Policy Interventions, Government of Malawi/Unicef-Malawi Babu, S C and Mthindi, G B (1992b) ‘Designing decentralized food policies-lessons from food security and nutrition monitoring in Malawi’. Paper presented at the International Seminar on Food and Agricultural Policy Analysis. FAO Montepellier, France Babu, S C and Mthindi. G B (1993) ‘Costs and benefits of informed policy decisions: lessons from food security and nutrition monitoring in Malawi’. Paper presented at the National Workshop on Food, Agricultural and Nutrition Policy Research - Setting the Priorities 4-T May, Lilongwe Habicht, J P and Pinstrup-Andersen, P (1990) ‘Principles of nutritional surveillance’ Pew/Cornell Lecture Series on Food and Nutrition Policy. Cornell Food and Nutrition Policy Programme, Ithaca, New York Immink, M D C (1988) ‘Community-based food and nutrition surveillance as an instrument of socioeconomic development in Central America: a point of view’ Food and Nutrition Bulletin 10, pp 13-15 Mason, J B, Habicht, J P, Tabatabai, H and Valverde, V (1984) Nutritional Surveillance World Health Organization, Geneva Maxwell, S and Frankenberger. T R (1992) ‘Household food security: concepts, indicators and measurements - a technical review’ UNICEF/IFAD. New York and Rome, pp 274 Pelletier, D (1991) ‘The uses and limitations of information in the Iringa Nutrition Programme, Tanzania’ Working Puper 5 Cornell Food and Nutrition Policy Program, Ithaca, New York Pinstrup-Andersen, P (1989) ‘Government policy, food security and nutrition in Africa’ Pew/Cornell Lecture Series on Food and Nutrition Policy. Cornell Food and Nutrition Policy Programme, Ithaca, New York Pinstrup-Andersen, P (1990) ‘Agricultural research and nutrition’ Food Policy 14, pp 475-478 Pinstrup-Andersen, P (1992) ‘Targeted nutrition interventions’ Food and Nutrition Bulletin 13, pp 161-169 Pinstrup-Andersen, P (1993) Political Economy of Food and Nutrition Policies Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore Rothe, G E and Habicht, J P (1990) ‘Nutritional surveillance: state of the art’ in Brun, T A and Latham, M C (eds) World Food Issues 2, Cornell International Nutrition Program, Ithaca, New York Tucker, K, Pelletier,‘D, Rasmussen, K, Habicht, J P, Pinstrup-Andersen, P and Roche, F (1989) Advances in Nutritional Surveillance CFNPP Monograoh 89-2. Cornell Food and Nutrition Policv Program, Ithaca, New York United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (1992) Towards an Improved Strategy for Nutritional Surveillance. Report of a workshop. UNICEF, New York, pp 54 Yambi, 0, Jonsson, U and Ljungquist, B (1989) ‘The role of government in promoting communitybased nutrition programs: experience from Tanzania and lessons for Africa’ Pew/Cornell Lecture Series on Food and Nutrition Policy. Cornell Food and Nutrition Policy Program, Ithaca, NY Food Policy 1994 Volume 19 Number 3

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