By Marijke de Graaf and Martijn Marijnis
Measure impact on Food and Nutrition Security Situation
Development actors which have food and nutrition security as part of their mission are usually involved in a wide variety of interventions. This in order to deal with the availability of food at local level, the access to food at household level and the utilization of food at individual level. All of this is needed for sustainable food and nutrition security and resilient food systems.
Measuring the effects of interventions on the food and nutrition security situation of households and individuals is key for internal learning processes, lobby, advocacy and reporting. In a set of five blogs Marijke de Graaf (food and nutrition security expert – FSAS) and Martijn Marijnis (monitoring and evaluation specialist – ICCO) share their experiences with indicators and tools for impact measurement.
In the first blog the importance of measuring impact on food and nutrition security is further elaborated. The second and third blog go into the details of measuring access to food at household as well as at individual level. The later provides an opportunity to take into account differences between men, women and age groups and the quality of their diet. Blog number 4 focuses on mobile device based field surveys, while blog number 5 is dedicated to effectively process, interpret and use the data taking into account common challenges. In these blogs references are made to more detailed information and tools. These are also online available at the ICCO supported Food and Nutrition Security portal (hosted by AKVO).
Blog # 1 (of 5) Why Food and Nutrition Security Impact Measurement?
The demand for data to show impact of policies, programs and interventions on food and nutrition security (FNS) is rapidly growing. Inclusive economic development and sustainable livelihoods can only be reached by ensuring food and nutrition security at household and individual level. There is growing commitment to improve food and especially nutrition security. This is not only driven by ethical and social motives but is also based on findings that overall improvement of FNS increases productivity and contributes to sustainable economic growth. The recently launched Global Nutrition Report 2015 states: “Establishing outcome indicators for food systems can guide policy makers in fostering nutrition-friendly and sustainable food systems while also helping citizens hold their governments accountable for their policy choices.”
During the design phase of development interventions it is important to have a proper understanding of potential pathways for improvement of the FNS situation. During subsequent implementation, validation and scaling of intervention strategies it is essential to monitor effects on the FNS situation of households and individuals. To this end practical and reliable indicators are needed.
FNS is determined by different dimensions including: availability, access and utilization of food at different levels being: national, local, household, and individual.
For all dimensions and levels stability and sustainability (ecological, social and financial) are key
Household food security depends on availability of adequate food at local level. In addition it depends on the household’s possibilities to obtain this food, either by producing, buying or exchanging it. This is referred to as access to food at household level. Access to food is necessary but not sufficient for adequate food consumption or utilization at individual level. This depends on a number of other factors including the division of food within the household, health status and care. All these conditions have to be in place at all times, which implies stability of services and supplies of inputs, food and prices.
Given the various dimensions and levels of FNS, measuring food (in)security has been an ongoing challenge to researchers and practitioners. Macroeconomic planners look at availability of food at national level (e.g. FAO food balance sheets and National Demographic and Health surveys). Development programs focus in general on availability at local level, access at household level and/or food utilization at individual level.
Information on access to food is important for measuring effects of specific food and nutrition security projects and also forms an interesting indicator for projects that aim to contribute to poverty alleviation and sustainable livelihoods. Changes in agricultural productivity and income indicate changes in a household’s ability to acquire food, but these indicators do not confirm that a household actually acquired and consumed these foods.
There is broad experience with measuring food access and utilization, such as income levels and caloric content of diets. However, they turn out to be technically difficult, data-intensive, and costly to collect. The same goes for measuring nutrition status based on anthropometric data, i.e. weight and height, at individual level. Therefore the USAID supported Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance Project developed and validated a number of tools, among which the so-called Household Food Insecurity Access Scale – HFIAS and Dietary Diversity indicator. We have supported ICCO colleagues and partners in various countries in Asia and Africa to actually apply these two indicators.
In the following four blogs Marijke de Graaf and Martijn Marijnis provide more detailed information on the aforementioned indicators and tool as well as potential results and challenges.
Marijke de Graaf – Food and Nutrition Security Expert – FSAS