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Conclusions to 'For Food Crisis to Fair Trade' (Special Supplement 3)

Enormous progress has been made over the past few years in food security and livelihoods programming in emergencies. Assessments are increasingly making use of the livelihoods framework and are being adapted to identify a range of interventions, rather than focussing on food aid. The development of criteria for identifying appropriate responses is also a significant step forward.

Steps built as part of a Cash for Work project in Haiti

There is increasing recognition amongst all key humanitarian actors that in many emergencies, providing people with cash to meet both their immediate and livelihoods needs is the most appropriate response. Agencies have increased their cash responses in emergencies in recent years, contributing to greater knowledge of where and when it is appropriate and how to implement such programmes. Cash transfers allow a range of needs to be met. This is appropriate as impact of emergencies on different livelihoods varies. Furthermore, provision of cash ensures choice, which maintains people's dignity and sense of self-worth.

The introduction of seed fairs is a significant step forward in agricultural programming in emergencies, providing another option to seeds and tools as the standard agricultural rehabilitation intervention.. Seed fairs also lead to better assessments of local seed systems and the impact of disasters on these systems. Emergency livestock interventions also cater for people's own priorities in the face of disaster.

The increased interest by governments, donors, and NGOs in providing long term social welfare and protection in chronic livelihoods crises offers real hope for addressing the needs of populations who have shown persistently high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition. The fact that both development and humanitarian communities are engaged in social safety net programmes, can provide the basis for coherent dialogue between development and humanitarian professionals, which offers new opportunities for linking relief and development.

It will be a considerable challenge to maintain the progress of the past five years. Many issues and challenges remain to be addressed. These range from improving assessments, to monitoring and evaluation, to addressing some of the institutional constraints to moving away from food aid as a standard emergency response. Priorities for future work are as follows:

Broadening emergency livelihoods analysis to include policies, institutions and processes

There is a need for improved analysis of the threats and vulnerabilities that create risks to livelihoods. This includes an analysis of the underlying policies, institutions and processes and structural causes of livelihood insecurity. The adoption of a rights based approach, i.e. one that identifies who is responsible for causing livelihood insecurity, and who has a duty to act, should lead to better advocacy.

Linking livelihoods analysis with protection analysis is important, particularly in conflict situations, as this should lead to mutually re-enforcing analysis and action. Protection work can reduce threats to livelihoods by advocating for adherence to IHL by warring parties, and livelihoods work can reduce protection risks by reducing the need for war affected populations to engage in risky coping strategies.

Developing an agreed methodology for market assessments in emergencies

Several agencies are working on market assessment methodologies, but few have been applied to emergency situations. Also, the different objectives of undertaking market assessments need to be clarified and methods developed accordingly. Objectives may include assessing the potential for local purchase of food, whether the market can cope with an increase in demand through distribution of cash, the impact of an emergency on all components of the market and how to rehabilitate a functioning market.

Agreeing on criteria for identifying appropriate responses

Criteria have been developed by a number of agencies for identifying appropriate responses. The next challenge is to obtain agreements amongst key actors on the criteria, and their implementation. Care must be taken, however, that criteria do not limit analysis and do not hinder the development of policy level or innovative responses.

Rigorous monitoring and impact evaluation of emergency livelihoods interventions

The past few years have seen significant increase in knowledge and experience of emergency livelihoods interventions. It is now necessary to capture that experience, examine the lessons learnt, and use this both to improve programme implementation and lobby others for changes in policy and practice. Monitoring and evaluation methods will need to be improved and more rigorously applied. Few documented or published case study material were found in the published or grey literature in compiling this supplement.

Cash programmes are still not applied as widely as they might be, due to a number of fears and assumptions. However, none of these fears have been borne out in practice and the only way to address unproven fears and assumptions is to systematically document experience of cash programmes and disseminate this information.

Supporting social safety nets in situations of chronic livelihoods crises

The increasing acknowledgement of the need for long term programmes to meet basic needs in chronic livelihoods crises, as well as increased donor commitments for multi-year funding for such initiatives, provides important opportunities. For NGOs, this can mean the piloting of social safety net programmes and supporting national governments in larger scale implementation. The engagement of both the development and the humanitarian communities in these initiatives, offers both opportunities and threats. There are opportunities for coherent dialogue between the two communities, and to review thinking on linking relief and development. There are threats in terms of the erosion of humanitarian principles. Careful review will be needed to consider when and how humanitarian and livelihoods principles are appropriate, according to different emergency conditions and contexts.

Upgrading or re-orienting the skills of emergency food security practitioners

Selling local produce in an IDP camp market

Most emergency food security practitioners are experienced in assessments and emergency food distribution. With the shift to cash interventions, as well as other forms of livelihood support, there is a need for re-training professionals. This will need the development of guidelines, training, mentoring and programme exchange schemes which will be a considerable challenge, given that there is currently no formal training or professional qualifications in emergency food security work. Most practitioners have learnt through experience.

Global advocacy initiatives

Some donor policies and some of the global regulations and interests in food aid will need to change if any there is to be any real and lasting change in the way we respond to emergencies. The major opportunity for changing global food aid governance is during the coming year with the revision of the Food Aid Convention, which is linked to current WTO talks on food aid as part of the agriculture agreements. Ajoint NGO vision on the role of food aid can shape the debate, and will also help bring about change in donor policies, as well as the practices of NGOs who are heavily dependent on food aid as a resource. Many donors already support emergency livelihoods interventions, but clearer policies and procedures are needed, particularly in funding cash interventions in emergencies. Joint NGO initiatives are an important way forward in achieving policy and practice change.

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Susanne Jaspars (2006). Conclusions to 'For Food Crisis to Fair Trade' (Special Supplement 3). Supplement 3: From food crisis to fair trade, March 2006. p64. www.ennonline.net/fex/103/conclusion

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