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Emergency Market Mapping and Analysis (EMMA) tool

By Lili Mohiddin and Mike Albu

Lili Mohiddin has been an Emergency Food Security and Livelihoods Advisor with OXFAM GB since September 2005, based in the UK.

Mike Albu is an international projects manager with the Markets & Livelihoods programme of Practical Action since 1999, based in the UK

Many thanks to the agencies, especially IRC-UK, that have made this work possible in Haiti, Myanmar, Kenya and in UK and via USA-based discussions and forums. In Haiti, the collaboration of Red Cross (Haiti and Canada), Oxfam (GB, Intermon and Quebec) and ACDI/ VOCA was vital. Our gratitude goes to Emmet Murphy and Anita Auerbach who contributed hugely to both the development of EMMA and the pilot in Haiti. Thanks also to the project donors that include OFDA, Waterloo Foundation and Oxfam GB.

This article describes a work in progress by Oxfam GB in developing a new tool to enable emergency practitioners to map and analyse markets in emergencies.

Good practice standards1, guidelines and evaluations, all emphasise the importance of including markets in emergency situation and response analysis. However, in practice, emergency practitioners have often overlooked the potential and actual role of markets in emergency and early recovery responses. This is mainly due to uncertainty of how to understand or work with traders and other market actors in an emergency setting, and unfamiliarity with the private sector. Commonly cited challenges include not knowing what data to gather and from where (macro versus micro levels), how to interpret basic information collected, such as prices, or how to translate analysis into programme decisions.

Recent trends in humanitarian responses indicate an increase in agency use of cashbased initiatives alongside or in place of conventional relief distributions of food and non-food items and local procurement. Some of these cash interventions are also implemented without proper assessment of market actors' capacity to respond to households increased purchasing power, or analysis of the risks of abuse of market-power (uncompetitive behaviour).

Banana plantation in Cabaret, 35 km north of Port-au-Prince. The area's key crop, destroyed by the hurricane.

These analytical challenges and implementation trends indicate the need for better market analysis capacity. The EMMA (Emergency Market Mapping and Analysis) tool has been developed for Oxfam GB and International Rescue Committee UK (IRC) by Practical Action Consulting to enable more appropriate emergency and early recovery responses by enabling agencies to undertake essential market analysis.

Prior to initiating the development of EMMA, a review was undertaken better to understand the need for such a tool in rapid onset emergency settings2. The review sought to better understand market analysis needs, decision maker information requirements, identify existing market analysis tools, and get a better understanding of the capacity of field level staff who would undertake such analysis. Conclusions underlined the need for a userfriendly non-specialist analytical tool, as many existing market analysis tools were too specialist or development orientated and therefore not suitable to emergency settings where specialists are hard to locate.

Why is market analysis in emergencies important?

During the early phase of a rapid onset disaster, humanitarian priorities are essentially concerned with ensuring survival and protecting livelihoods rather than the assessment of market-systems3, even if the need for this kind of analysis is increasingly recognised.

Why market-systems matter in designing early responses
For ensuring survival For protecting livelihoods
Market-systems could supply food and essential items or services related to basic survival needs Market-systems could supply or replace urgent non-food items, agricultural inputs, fuel, tools and vital services Market-systems could maintain demand for labour, employment or production that restores incomes

The rationale for EMMA is that better understanding of the key market-systems in any given situation could enable humanitarian agencies to consider a broader range of responses. These responses might include cashbased interventions, local procurement and other innovative forms of support to market actors (e.g. traders) that enable programmes to make better use of existing market-system capabilities. This could lead to more efficient use of humanitarian resources, as well as encouraging recovery and reducing dependency on outside assistance.

Two men stand on the roof of their flooded home in Gonaives, the fourth largest city in Haiti, following tropical storm Hanna.

With few exceptions, crisis-affected households use markets or other forms of exchange for acquiring food, hygienic items and services, or for selling products and labour to others. There is a growing realisation that unless our responses are designed with a good understanding of key market-systems, they may inadvertently damage livelihoods, jobs and businesses; thus undermine recovery and prolong dependence on outside assistance.

EMMA - What is it?

The EMMA toolkit is a set of tools and guidance notes, designed to encourage and assist frontline humanitarian staff in sudden-onset emergencies to better understand and make use of market-systems.

EMMA aims to provide accessible, relevant guidance to staff who are not already specialists in market analysis. The EMMA toolkit is intended to complement established humanitarian practices in diverse contexts, so that the EMMA process can be integrated flexibly into different organisations' emergency assessments and response planning. Above all, the EMMA tools are adaptable, 'rough-and-ready', speedorientated processes, designed to reflect the information constraints and urgency of decision- making required in the first few weeks of a sudden-onset emergency

EMMA's Scope

  • Sudden-Onset Emergencies: where fast-moving events mean agencies have little advance knowledge of markets and limited resources to investigate.
  • A Broad Range of Needs: any market system that may be critical in addressing priority needs, including food, non-food items and supporting services.
  • Rapid Assessment and Decision-making: supporting humanitarian teams to take urgent response decisions faced in the first few weeks.

Four 'strands' run throughout EMMA. At the start, they may be relatively separate, but like the strands of a rope, as EMMA proceeds they (should) come together to provide a strong and coherent rationale for the final recommendations to hang upon (see diagram). The four strands are:

  1. Gap Analysis: to understand the needs, livelihood strategies, emergency situation and preferences of the target population.
  2. Baseline Mapping: to develop a profile of the 'normal' pre-crisis market-system. Seasonal analysis is included.
  3. Emergency Mapping: to understand the crisis situation, the impacts on marketsystem, its constraints and capabilities to play a role in humanitarian response.
  4. Response Analysis: to explore different opportunities for humanitarian assistance: their respective feasibility, likely outcomes, benefits and risks.

EMMA helps humanitarian agencies to understand the important market aspects of an emergency situation and communicate this knowledge promptly and effectively into programme decision-making processes.

Understanding market-related aspects of an emergency situation means knowing:

Answers to these questions are relevant to agencies considering the use of cash-based interventions or prolonged in-kind responses. They are also important for thinking about how any response might either encourage subsequent recovery or prolong dependence on outside assistance.

Communicating this knowledge means ensuring analysis results feed into the key decision- making processes of the organisation. The toolkit emphasizes succinct, accessible, nontechnical formats targeted at the analysis users: programme managers responsible for planning initial and early responses to crisis.

Market-System Map

A main tool in EMMA is the Market-System Map (examples given in case studies). The maps and other data make comparisons between the baseline and emergency situation. As they give a brief visual representation of the impact of a shock on a market system, the maps are a key communication tool for busy decision-makers.

As market-systems are different and particular to every good, crop, non-food item or service, EMMA has to independently analyse the marketsystems for different items (e.g. sorghum, clothing, transport services). Prior to using EMMA and using their needs and gap analysis, practitioners select which market-systems (i.e. which item, crops, product) are critical from the humanitarian emergency perspective.

Mapping requires research and interviews with different market actors and other informants. The aim is to rapidly draw up comprehensive baseline and emergency-affected pictures of the system, which capture the most relevant available information about the situation before and since crisis onset.

Why use EMMA?

Selling sugar on Carrefour-Feuilles Market - with prices rising, these traders are selling 3 sacks a week compared to 2 per day previously.

When can EMMA be used?

EMMA has been conceived to help address the limited capacity and confidence for doing rapid 'rough-and-ready' market-system analysis during the first few weeks of a sudden onset emergency situation, when staff time is precious and expert market analysis capabilities are not yet available to agencies.

In principle, EMMA can be used as soon as an emergency situation has stabilised sufficiently that the findings are not in danger of becoming immediately out-of-date due to further changes. Typically, this means that absolute priority needs are being addressed, any displaced people will have settled, and market-system actors (producers, retailers, traders) will have had a chance to assess their own situation and begin devising coping strategies. This could be within two weeks of an emergency, if staff and resources are available.

Equally, EMMA may continue to be useful for many weeks (or even months) into a crisis, if for whatever reasons humanitarian agencies' understanding of key market-systems that relate to emergency needs remains sketchy.

Who is EMMA for?

EMMA is intended for humanitarian staff doing early assessments on the frontline during sudden-onset emergencies, and by extension, for their managers and decision-makers responsible for planning initial and early responses to crisis.

EMMA is designed for generalists, as well as staff working in food security, shelter, water and sanitation, who have little or no previous experience of economic or market analysis specifically. For this reason, EMMA tries to avoid technical language, or tools which require detailed quantitative skills.

Time and human resources needed

It is difficult to predict how long EMMA takes to implement. There are many variables, such as context, scale of the emergency and travel distances. Two scenarios are envisaged:

Work in progress - EMMA to date and next steps

Following the development of a draft toolkit and manual, EMMA has been piloted in three locations, (Haiti, Myanmar and Kenya), with the last and fourth pilot planned for Pakistan in January/February 2009. To ensure toolkit suitability and effectiveness, modifications are made after each pilot using lessons learned and reflections from pilot teams and the pilot consultant.

To facilitate tool relevance and adoption once completed, from inception the development of EMMA has aimed to involve as many international agencies as possible. This has included the establishment of a common information and discussion website (details below) and multi agency piloting and updates.

With the toolkit and technical manual planned for completion in early 2009, EMMA training materials will be developed and piloted over the next 6-9 months. All EMMA outputs (toolkit, manual and training materials) will be made available to agencies for their own/ combined coordinated use in rapid onset disasters.

Haiti case study

The case study below outlines a recent use of EMMA in a post emergency situation and response analysis4. More information and details are available on request.

EMMA was piloted in Haiti in September/ October 2008 by three agencies, the Red Cross5 (Haitian, Canadian), ACDI/VOCA6 and Oxfam (GB, Intermon, Quebec) responding to the tropical storms (Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike)7 that struck last summer. Each organisation was involved in emergency response activities to address basic needs or protect livelihoods and in the phase of designing future programme activities based on assessments. EMMA was used to understand the market systems as part of a process of ascertaining appropriate response modalities. Two market systems - timber for construction and beans - were analysed.

The timber market system

The Red Cross identified shelter as a priority need in their implementation areas of St. Marc, Desdunes and Grande Saline. As the majority of households use timber for construction, they decided to analyse the timber market. EMMA was used to identify the most appropriate intervention modality. Some specific programme questions that needed answering included:

  • What is the market capacity to supply timber (for reconstruction) to the affected population?
  • Can cash be used or direct purchase?

EMMA analysis enabled the teams to answer these questions but also consider the timing and organisation of a potential response.

Findings included:

  • Imported timber market system had to be analysed in detail as target households previously relied on locally grown timber, thus contributing to unacceptably high levels of environmental degradation.
  • The timber supply chain is normally stable and was functioning well in both the non-affected and affected areas (see market map in Figure 1).
  • As traders were importing more than double the whole target population timber needs in one week, the market system had the capacity to respond to the predicted population household timber demand at every level of the chain.
  • Timber suppliers would only require one month notification.

Recommendations included:

  • Using basic seasonal calendar analysis in the target area, the reconstruction period was planned not to coincide with peak labour/agricultural activities.
  • As weak competition was identified in one implementation area (Saint Marc), additional care and attention to agreements and contracts was warranted.
  • The intervention should try, where possible, to source timber from the nearest available supplier to inject cash into the local economy and affected area.
  • Although most cash preconditions were favourable and traders would have been compliant, households expressed a preference for an in-kind response. This was due to concerns regarding trader corruption and their financial and logistical inability to transport the timber to their household. These constraints could be overcome and cash/vouchers used, with further investigation and discussion with communities, traders and transport agencies and through establishing a monitoring and accountability system.
  • Additional analysis is required to ascertain other factors, including the availability of other shelter materials, the willingness of communities to participate, local labour skill levels to guarantee minimum stan dards in construction and land tenure agreements.
The beans (haricots) market system

This market system was analysed by ACDI/VOCA and Oxfam teams because it was considered an essential component of the Haitian diet and a good indicator of the overall functioning of the national food market. EMMA analysis was undertaken in two areas - Artibonite (Gonaives) and the South East (SE) (Jacmel, La Vallee and Bainet).

At the time of analysis, imported food aid was being delivered to most affected households and many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were curious as to how the hurricanes had affected bean farmers and traders. EMMA was used to understand better the implementation context and investigate potential response decisions. The following questions were of particular interest:

  • How the crisis has affected farmers' access to bean markets (to sell produce)?
  • What is the availability of bean supplies (for purchase/consumption)?
  • How has the crisis affected bean market chain actors and how are they coping?
  • When should food aid be stopped, and how?

Findings included:

  • Due to the timing and impact locations of the hurricanes and storms, bean prices varied significantly across Haiti.
  • With the hurricane season being more destructive than usual, bean crop losses were high (50-90%), which heavily affected the local economy and diet. Agricultural land was damaged and varying levels of rehabilitation required.
  • The relationships between principal market system actors (see market map) were affected, especially in the case of wholesalers and small farmers.
  • The local markets and economy seemed robust enough to respond to an increased bean demand with advance notification. Local and preferred varieties may have to be replaced by cheaper less popular imported varieties.
  • Traders were able to access further supplies and many said they only needed consumer demand to initiate this.
  • Although rural market sellers were fewer than seasonally expected, they mentioned higher than normal surpluses. This could have been due to food aid and lower local purchasing power.
  • The conditions of secondary and tertiary roads were improving gradually, facilitating transportation of commodities to and from markets.
  • Destruction of trader stocks and storage facilities and the breakdown of the informal credit systems would affect the early recovery of market system actors in the affected areas. Therefore it was likely that prices would take time to decrease to pre-crisis levels as traders tried to compensate for their losses.
  • The decrease in bean demand due to lack of cash or food aid reduced trader incentive to rehabilitate and recover their activities. This was especially worrying in Gonaives, where the rehabilitation process would take longer due to enormous amounts of mud clogging the streets and a large number of poorly coordinated responses between agencies.
  • Poor households (including producers) rely heavily on cash to purchase more than half of the food consumed. Higher prices mean that many are forced to consume less and risk nutritional deterioration. Although food aid filled the gap for some households, targeting was difficult and many were not included.

Recommendations included:

  • Increase the purchasing power of target beneficiaries by injecting cash into the local economy via cash transfer programmes.
  • Provide support to some traders that may need access to credit in order to re-stock (particularly in Gonaives) or to rebuild storage facilities (wholesalers in Gonaives).
  • Provide bean seeds and agricultural inputs to farmers to ensure planting of the subsequent crop.
  • Stopping food aid by the time the next harvest begins.
  • Food for Work and Cash for Work activity timing should consider seasonal livelihood activities/opportunities to ensure labour availability.
  • Stagger implementation periods based recovery capacities. In La Vallee and Bainet, targeted distributions may only be necessary until the next harvest if farmers are assisted to recover through targeted agricultural inputs.
  • As households frequent markets 3 - 5 times/week, buying in small quantities (due to lack of cash, storage facilities and refrigeration), organisations should consider these aspects and security risks for those receiving large amounts of assistance.
  • During harvest months, agencies should complement the local availability of food by implementing interventions that harness local production.

How to get involved or access more information

For more information and access to EMMA outputs please sign on to D groups site: or email Mike Albu, email:

Show footnotes

1Sphere Project 2004 edition

2Market Analysis Tools in Rapid-Onset Emergencies - Phase 1 report. Albu and Murphy. July 2007 Practical Action Consulting

3Market-systems involve a web of people, structures and rules. Their interactions together determine how any given item, product or service is produced, exchanged and accessed by different people. The market-system concept includes aspects (infrastructure, services, policy, rules and institutions) that are not always emphasized in value-chain analysis.

4Key Findings and Recommendations EMMA Pilot Test 3 - Haiti Sept 29 - October 14th. Anita Auerbach Practical Action Consulting

5International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

7Tropical Storm Fay was the first to hit, on 15 and 16 August, followed by Hurricane Gustav on 26 August. Tropical storms Hanna and Ike brought with them more high winds and rain on 1 and 6 September. The storms struck all 10 of Haiti's regions.

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Reference this page

Lili Mohiddin and Mike Albu (). Emergency Market Mapping and Analysis (EMMA) tool. Field Exchange 35, March 2009. p2.



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