RFSAN improves the quality of food security and nutrition information and early warning systems in the countries affected by the Syria/Iraq crisis, supporting decision-making in humanitarian and development interventions through assessments, analysis, partnerships, capacity development and data/ knowledge exchange.
RFSAN was launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and iMMAP in 2015with financial support from USAID Food For Peace (FFP) and FAO.
In strengthening the quality of food security information, RFSAN focuses on evidence-based data that improve food security analysis and knowledge exchange in the sub-region. While responsive to the humanitarian information needs of the Syria and Iraq crises, RFSAN is increasing its investments in resilience, taking into account the importance of medium to long-term interventions, critical in achieving and sustaining recovery and attaining sustainable food security at the household, community and national levels.
Mission, Vision and Guiding Principles
Vision –Immediate, intermediate and long-term improvements in food security, nutrition and resilience of vulnerable population groups in the sub-region through strengthening of evidence-based decision-making among government and non-government actors.
Improve the quality of food security and nutrition information, provide a better understanding of resilience building to support decision-making in humanitarian and development interventions through partnerships, analysis, capacity development and data and knowledge exchange.
- Cooperation and partnership with governments, FSS/C Secretariat and partners;
- Use of existing information, strengthening of existing information systems, promoting of cost effectiveness and avoiding duplication;
- Supporting development of national/local capacities.
- Focus on clearly identified information products, where RFSAN holds a comparative advantage, with possibility to respond to ad-hoc requests for support;
- Integration of household-level analysis and gender disaggregated information into programming and national and sub-national policy making;
- Incremental implementation that takes into account lessons learned.
Thematic Areas of Assessments and Analysis
RFSAN’s technical assistance focuses on thematic areas that help define the broad parameters of information necessary to guide action and develop interventions directed at tackling food insecurity and vulnerability in a comprehensive and effective manner. RFSAN’s work has been structured around five separate but complementary types of assessment and analysis: Needs Assessments, Early Warning (for Early Action), Situation analysis (IPC), Resilience Analysis and Natural Resource Monitoring.
Needs assessments are crucial in identifying vulnerable populations and in determining appropriate response modalities. In the context of protracted crises, the depth and volume of information on food security and resilience needed for an effective response increase over time. These demands increase the need for more in-depth and specialized assessments to inform planning and operations, which necessitates harmonized approaches and consensus-based joint-needs analyses.
Market analysis with a focus on entire agricultural commodity value chains is required to identify areas where resilience interventions can take place. With many of the displaced populations in the sub-region having prior working experience in agriculture, the sector offers the greatest prospects for creating livelihoods opportunities and building resilience. RFSAN uses the following survey instruments and tools:
- Market and Value Chain Analysis: Emergency Market Mapping and Analysis toolkit (EMMA), and other assessment market assessment and analysis tools;
- Food Security and Livelihoods Assessments (FSLAs);
- Damage & Loss Needs Assessments (PDNAs);
- Seed Security Assessments;
Early Warning for early action
While the response in the region is slowly shifting towards recovery, there is still a need for a robust humanitarian response, including the ability to respond to new emergencies and risks facing food security and agriculture while also taking into account the seasonality of responses. RFSAN has developed a series of information products centred on various triggers of early warning at individual country levels that lead to early action mitigating the identified risks. Instruments and tools include:
- Agricultural Stress Index (ASI) (based on information from FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning Systems (GIEWS);
- Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) Anomaly;
- Precipitation Anomaly;
- Situation overviews of conflict and displacement;
- Price trend monitoring;
- Crop calendars and forecasts;
Situation analysis (IPC)
Strong joint situation analyses are an important ingredient for all national (humanitarian) response plans as they help qualify the needs and location where to programme.
At the request of the Food Security Sector/Cluster in Syria and to be conducted bi-annually thereafter, IPC Acute Food Security Analysis offers a structured, widely-recognized, evidence-based methodology able to provide a nation-wide, comprehensive analysis centred on a consensus building process with partners. The resulting situation analysis will serve as the basis for the sector’s contribution of the 2018 multi-sectoral Humanitarian Needs Overview.
RFSAN has played a prominent role as evidence provider by coordinating assessments and data collection while also sharing datasets through its own networking platform. In addition, RFSAN has provided training and technical advice to actors that increase the quality of information available while co-facilitating IPC training and analysis in different Syria response hubs. Conduct of assessment and technical support to partners includes:
- Food Security and Livelihoods Assessments (FSLAs), including breakdown of statistics by sex, adding additional indicators on nutrition such as IDDS
- Quarterly FS Updates
- Technical support to IPC classification WOS
Resilience measurement and analysis provides the basis for evidence-based food security programming, targeting, ranking, and evaluation. As the crisis in the sub-region has become protracted, the concept of resilience has emerged as a viable framework for integrating humanitarian and long-term development initiatives in the sub-region by reinforcing livelihoods against shocks and strategies to combat them.
RFSAN is gearing towards well-established approaches to resilience measurement, which will serve as a baseline for understanding resilience in the sub-region. By gradually adopting these tools and approaches and utilizing its strengths in other programme areas, RFSAN will be able to fill gaps that are currently missing in the sub-region as well as contribute to a better understanding of resilience in contexts of protracted conflict. Technical support includes:
- FAO’s Resilience Index Measurement and Analysis (RIMA II);
- Conflict analysis to inform conflict-sensitive programming;
- Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS) integrated surveys on agriculture;
- Socio-economic and bio-physical baselines;
- Disaster Risk Reduction assessments - better understanding opportunities and challenges associated with building households’ abilities to measure and deal with risks.
Natural Resource Monitoring
RFSAN uses geospatial and remote sensing analysis to track and assess large-scale changes over time, providing a firm evidence base for formulating appropriate strategies aimed at making agriculture more efficient and sustainable in the long term. This is an important contribution to Sustainable Development Goal 2 for the sub-region, particularly by establishing baselines and strengthening monitoring systems, taking into account the protracted crisis, adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, desertification and progressively improve land and soil quality.
RFSAN developed a number of information products that can be extended to other countries in the sub-region such as conducting new land cover baselines and reviewing land cover changes over time. A land cover atlas is ready to be published for Jordan, an initiative piloted by RFSAN. Other methodologies have been used to indicate areas change in cropping intensity over time in the south of Syria, which can be used as a baseline in prioritizing areas to rehabilitate. Similar work is envisaged for the other countries in the sub-region, allowing RFSAN to assess the impact of the Syria crisis on land cover. Technical support includes:
- Agricultural cropping intensity mapping and change analysis (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI));
- Land Cover mapping
- National Agro-Ecological Zones approach
RFSAN has a team of food security and information management experts present in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Iraq. The program also includes experts in food security and livelihoods assessments, market and value chain analysis, geographic information systems (GIS) and infographics. In addition, RFSAN will be able to draw upon FAO’s global expertise in resilience analysis and measurement and global information and early warning systems.
Information Management: As information management is a key element of its strategy, RFSAN aims to be a common platform for stakeholders to share and access data sets and information, supporting analysis, information sharing and use for decision-making. Based on earlier positive experiences, iMMAP will provide such services, which include the use and promotion of the latest proven information and communication technology in all steps of the information management cycle, from data collection, management, and analysis to visualization and dissemination.
Conflict Analysis: Conflict is inextricably linked with food insecurity, and ultimately field access for partners, in the Syria sub-region. On the one hand, conflict contributes to food insecurity, while on the other, food insecurity is one of the factors driving conflict and migration. Needs assessments and early warning analyses conducted by RFSAN have begun to examine conflict dynamics and their impact on food security, but there are opportunities to engage in wider, more forward-looking analyses that examine how food insecurity influences conflict dynamics and how access to food security and livelihoods opportunities plays a role in shaping outcomes related to peace or conflict.
Gender: Patterns of conflict and displacement have increasingly resulted in women being called upon to serve as breadwinners, yet livelihood opportunities have remained geared towards male household members. Integrating gender-disaggregated and disability information into data collection and subsequent analyses will enable RFSAN and partners to better understand gender roles, experiences of resilience, intra-household distribution of food, which may help inform long-term livelihood strategies and promote gender equality.
Nutrition: Nutrition has been overlooked in analyses of food security throughout the sub-region. Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rates have remained low; however, micronutrient deficiencies are high but under-measured. It is important to capture the changes in food quality and access to nutritious foods in surveys that are otherwise focused on food security. Livelihood opportunities, including engagement in agriculture, play a major role in whether households are able to afford or access nutritious foods on their own. Reviewing market and value chains for such nutritious foods should also be prioritized, and RFSAN has already established a firm working relationship with the Nutrition Cluster/Sector in the sub-region to carry out such work.
Capacity Development: In addition to providing technical and analytical support, RFSAN focuses on capacity development support to relevant regional and national nongovernment and government actors and institutions with a stake in food security, nutrition and resilience in Syria and the sub-region.
With financial support from USAID Food for Peace (FFP), RFSAN has supported the FSS/C Secretariat and its partners through the facilitation of the technical aspects of collecting, accessing, sharing, and analysing relevant datasets as well as disseminating information to support the response.
In collaboration with FAO’s Technical Cooperation Programme, RFSAN has engaged with government counterparts in Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon to assess their capacities in food security information systems, through which RFSAN has been able to provide tailored capacity development training programmes to support individual and institutional objectives.
Currently, the program is expanding its reach to local and international NGOs, other UN agencies, National Civil Society and Community Based Organizations, producers and marketing associations, regional and national food security bodies and academic institutions.