Local Sourcing of Inputs for Seeds & Tools
Bahr El Ghazal, South Sudan - Save the Children (SC)
It has been two years since a famine in Bahr-el-Ghazal (BEG), southern Sudan, resulted in an estimated 70,000 deaths in excess of the rate that would be expected in an average year. In the intervening two years, SC (UK) has distributed seeds and tools as a key part of a broader range of food security interventions both in BEG and Upper Nile regions. Other interventions include the provision of fishing equipment and the supply of veterinary services.
The Seeds and Tools Package: Based on regular consultations with local communities, a package of inputs tailored to regional needs is put together each year. The package aims both to provide some diversity within the diet and, to produce a variety of crops that can be harvested at different times and thus spread the risk of food insecurity in an area that is susceptible both to floods and drought. Sorghum, groundnuts, simsim (sesame), maize and rice were distributed for the year 2000 planting season. Those targeted included families whose crops were destroyed by floods and pest infestations in 1999, and returnee families.
Sourcing of Inputs: In southern Sudan there is practically no manufacturing capacity other than through small numbers of local artisans. Previous attempts by SC (UK) to produce tools using local blacksmiths ran into a number of problems, the most important of which was simply a lack of capacity. For the 2000 programme, a compromise was reached: locally-produced samples of the tools required were replicated by manufacturers in Kenya and then transported into Sudan. Almost 400 metric tonnes of seed for distribution were sourced within SC (UK's) operational areas of BEG. Although there are significant food deficits in these areas, ranging from 9-21%, surplus areas do exist. The advantages of local sourcing are (a) that locally-appropriate varieties are secured and reproduced, (b) that cash or other resources used to procure the seed are injected into the local economy, and (c) that costs are greatly reduced as the seed does not have to be transported as far. Two methods were used to secure the seed: local purchase, and "food-for-seed" swaps.
Food-for-Seed Exchanges: Following a successful trial in 1999, SC (UK) and WFP collaborated in arranging food-for-seed exchanges in 2000, whereby for every bag or sack of seed that was presented, double the amount of relief food was provided to the supplier. Initially it was assumed that this project would attract surplus producers who would accept food as an alternative form of payment to cash or barter items. However the seed swaps attracted a middle-ranking socioeconomic group who typically did not produce a surplus of grains, but produced enough to last until the "hunger gap". For these farmers, exchanging the last of their food stocks as seed for twice that quantity of food from WFP was a useful way of stretching their food stocks longer into the year.
One risk with such a strategy is that "seed" intended to be food may not be of the high quality required for seed for planting. Time constraints meant that SC (UK) was not able to implement the desired level of quality control on the seeds. Furthermore, the NGO was unable to ensure that the seed had been stored in good conditions. Results of germination tests received after the seed had been distributed indicated that over 25% of the samples were slightly below Kenyan standards for seed germination. In one of the lesser-affected areas, the community was unwilling to swap their seed for food. They preferred monetary exchange, however, and a compromise was reached by increasing the exchange rate to 3:1.
Local Purchases: Local purchases, although successful in terms of acquiring sufficient amounts of seed, were beset by administrative and practical headaches. In preparation for the purchases, SC (UK)'s Sudanese field officers gathered information on the quantities of seed that might be available for purchase from farmers and local authorities throughout the region. Because trade in BEG is still at very basic levels, the NGO had to deal directly with individual farmers and traders who could only provide a few sacks or, at most, 10 MTs each. This meant that sourcing was very time-consuming and labour intensive.
Meetings were held with suppliers and local authorities to fix purchase prices in each of the counties covered; the prices were generally set at or close to prices prevailing on the few local markets in the area. However, because funds from donors to purchase the seed were only made available about six weeks before the time for planting, it was not possible to purchase the seed directly after the harvest. By the time it was finally possible to purchase the seed, in many cases it was found that the quantities promised were not available and the prices that had been previously agreed were unacceptable to the suppliers who argued that increased scarcity should have resulted in higher prices being paid. Resolving these problems required highly mobile and reactive field staff with very good negotiating skills.
As with the seed swaps, the timing of funding and therefore of procurement meant that proper standards of quality control and storage could not be ensured. Unless donors can reduce the time between submission of proposals and the release of funds, this will continue to be a problem with local purchases in areas with well-established suppliers. One further difficulty was the issue of exchange rates: in BEG there is no formal means of exchanging currencies. SC (UK) overcame this by setting prices in US$ which were equivalent to a fair price in local currency exchanged at local traders' rate, and subsequently negotiating assurances from local authorities to allow farmers to exchange hard currency on the market. In conversations with suppliers after payments in US$ were made, many of them indicated that they would take the currency to Uganda - approximately 400 miles away - to purchase various goods for trading.
SC (UK)'s experience in BEG has shown that local sourcing of seed can be successful even within a year or two of a famine. It is certainly not an easy option, especially in an area with such under-developed markets as southern Sudan, and the requirements in terms of time and labour are greater than for importing. Possibly the most important factor is having the resources for acquiring the seed in good time, so that prices can be fixed and seed quality can be ensured. However, local sourcing has a number of advantages in terms of seed varieties, cost efficiency and, particularly, in terms of providing a boost for the local economy, which mean that agencies should have to justify why they would not undertake local sourcing as a first option.
Submitted by Michael O'Donnell, Regional Coordinator - Bahr-el-Ghazal, Save the Children (UK),South Sudan Programme. <http://www.savethechildren.org>
Agriculture in Emergency Situations
Oxfam - Operation Lifeline Sudan
The basic tenets for response in emergencies revolve around relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction. No one is going to argue with such symmetry. More debatable are the circumstances in which we are increasingly asked to operate. This piece - which aims to highlight some of the problems involved in emergency agriculture programmes - is written from an East African perspective, the seat of much of our emergency responses over the last 20 years.
The region provides examples of areas where, because of structural issues, a humanitarian response is the norm. For example, in Somalia, parts of the country are, for all practical purposes, without coherent government. The lack of 'safety nets' in this type of environment requires humanitarian agencies to view food security issues on a long term basis. The role of aid agencies is growing and sliding, seemingly in an intractable manner, into becoming the "government" in certain settings. This governance is seen as institutionalizing assistance in some quarters, and it is at this juncture that the policies and practices we have promulgated in the agricultural sector must surely be questioned.
Farming: Tried and tested, or tired and temporal? In southern Sudan and northern Uganda there are increasing reports that seed distributions are (probably) not always the most effective way to mitigate future crises. Over the last three years seeds distributed in certain areas were found not to be the source of any grains in the harvest, although we, the aid industry, claimed that the harvests were successful partly because of our efforts. There is a danger that we are no longer analyzing a problem and looking for a coherent response, but rather that we are presenting solutions and looking for problems. Moreover, distributions of any type of input (including seeds and tools) are invariably problematic and the wider social issues must be taken into account. Ideally, input work should seek change in the underlying structural causes of food deficits.
Livestock: Invariably, water has been seen as the inhibiting factor for pastoralist communities. What has become apparent is the increasing nature of "commercial pastoralism", often of an exploitative nature which may be detrimental to the long term well being of subsistence systems. There are also societies where cattle ownership is predominantly used to exude wealth rather than improve food security. The requirement to take an all-encompassing approach is clearly apparent. Short-term fixes can often be the root of a future crisis. By taking a holistic approach, the role of animals within the differing classes of a community can be considered. Fodder production (and sale) can be brought into the equation and used to create income for poorer/marginalized people. Social aspects of ownership should be considered and the contribution of animals to the food economy placed in context for all in the community.
Non-Cultivated, Indigenous, Wild Foods: Apart from fishing and beekeeping, this remains a heavily stigmatized area, ripe for exploitation. Indigenous coping mechanisms clearly include the use of "non-cultivated" crops, and this could be further used to improve food security. It is interesting to note that one year after the Bahr el Ghazal famine, southern Sudan produced 87% of its own food, and received only 13% in food aid. Aspects of food insecurity in some regions of Kenya can be plotted to the creep of maize into dryland areas where good cropping years have become sparse. Indigenous crops from similar climatic regimes may be more successful. Species falling under this category may also become income generating possibilities.
Appropriate Technology: Appropriate technology does not just mean machines worked by the elements, people or animals. Some of the most appropriate technology comes through skills-development. Simple acts such as introducing the drilling of seed rather than broad-casting can have a major impact on crop yields. The harvesting and processing of crops, cultivated or otherwise, can reap huge benefits in covering the hunger gaps between harvests. Infrastructure must also be considered. It is not a coincidence that areas with continual "emergencies" are, so often, difficult to access. The development of primary and secondary market linkages to allow trade will have broad benefits. For example, help is needed by those areas unable to trade or preserve a seasonal surplus, such as Tharaka in Kenya with its mangoes. Programmes should also consider the alleviation of food deficits during a seasonal calendar.
New Thinking: Nutritional thinking has started to influence how humanitarian agencies respond to long term emergencies. Some areas are now using a broader approach than the standard seed and tool distributions. The old adage, "Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for life." is outdated. The pressure on fish stocks is such that all those fishing can no longer survive. Agriculture's role in emergencies must be seen in its ability to influence wider issues in the short term while seeking to mitigate longer term problems. Pressure on resources will not diminish. Water and land will become a source of conflict, and the role of agriculture within this scenario must not be undervalued. We must learn from the past, develop innovative approaches to sustainable development, and train in appropriate ways so that expeditious use of resources does not become exploitation. Humanitarian aid agencies must also consider wider social issues including the role of the women, climatic changes and the fragility of the environment.
Submitted by Paul Crook, Oxfam - Operation Lifeline Sudan. <http://www.oxfam.org.uk>
"The Management of Nutrition in Major Emergencies"
in collaboration with UNHCR, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent
Societies and WFP
All major emergencies, by definition, threaten human life and public health. They often result in food shortages, impair the nutritional status of a community, and cause excess mortality in all age groups. Nutrition is, therefore, a key public health concern in emergency management. WHO'S newly updated Management of nutrition in major emergencies is intended to help health, nutrition and other professionals involved in the management of major emergencies that have nutritional implications, whether at the local, national or international level.
The newly published manual replaces the 1978 edition, and reflects scientific and conceptual advances in understanding prevention, causes and treatment of malnutrition in emergencies. It reflects the input of a wide range of individuals and agencies. One of the major conceptual advances incorporated is that emergency management is viewed as a multi-sectoral venture; ministries and departments of local government need to plan and work together for emergency prevention, preparedness, response and rehabilitation. Safeguarding the nutritional status of the population also requires a holistic and proactive approach, which implies more than food distribution and health protection. Action is called for in the areas of environment, population, economic and human development, land and water management, production and trade, services, human rights, governance, empowerment and growth of civil society.
The book covers the concepts, principles, and precise measures needed to ensure adequate nutrition in both the relief phase and the subsequent rehabilitation and development phases. Details range from a list of the equipment needed for a weight-for-height survey, through a diagram illustrating arrangements for ration distribution in camp situations, to instructions for preparing feeding mixtures for the treatment of specific deficiency diseases. Throughout, particular attention is given to conditions in developing countries, where inadequate nutrition and infectious diseases can make populations especially vulnerable to malnutrition in emergencies.
The book has seven chapters. The first, on meeting nutritional requirements, explains the importance of nutritional assessment as a fundamental tool for calculating food needs, monitoring the adequacy of food access and intake, and ensuring adequate procurements. The chapter also sets out recommendations for mean daily per capita intakes of energy and protein and for micronutrients and other specific nutrients. The major nutritional deficiencies are covered in chapter two, which includes detailed information on the signs, symptoms, prevention, and treatment of protein-energy malnutrition, iron-deficiency anaemia, vitamin A deficiency, iodine deficiency disorders, beriberi, pellagra, and scurvy. Chapter three describes the methodology for measuring malnutrition. Information includes target audiences for assessment, advice on body measurements and clinical indicators of malnutrition, and precise instructions for conducting rapid nutritional surveys, individual screening, and nutritional surveillance.
Chapter four provides a detailed guide to the planning, organization, and delivery of general feeding programmes. Topics covered include basic requirements for suitable food commodities, principles of good organization and coordination, and the composition of a general ration calculated to meet the populations' minimum requirements for energy, protein, fat, and micronutrients. Guidelines for selective feeding programmes are presented in chapter five, which covers both the supplementary feeding of vulnerable groups and the therapeutic feeding of individuals suffering from deficiency diseases.
In view of the close link between infectious diseases and malnutrition, chapter six offers advice about organizing services to ensure priority immunizations and to monitor and treat infectious diseases commonly seen in developing countries. The book concludes with advice on the planning, administration, and logistics of emergency preparedness and response programmes, emphasizing the need to detect vulnerability to nutritional deficiencies and monitor early warning indicators.
The essential purpose of this manual is to help build national capacities and human resource development within the country. Thus, the manual could be used as a framework for developing teaching modules and training programmes.
Food security assessments are not within the scope of the manual. Some topics mentioned in Management of Nutrition in Major Emergencies that would have deserved fuller coverage include:
· infant and young child feeding in emergencies;*Many of these topics, particularly those related to anthropometry, are not fully covered due to the lack of scientific evidence.*10 Guiding Principles for feeding are included in an annex. Full details will be available in 'Guiding Principles for feeding infants and young children in emergencies (document in preparation, will be available from WHO NHD).· validated reference values to interpret anthropometric measurements of children 0-5 months old;**** "It has become common to exclude infants from 0-5 months of age from anthropometric surveys as it is commonly recognized that children up to 6 months tend to be less malnourished than older infants. Nevertheless, because infants of that age group are at risk of malnutrition in certain situations, WHO recommends, at least initially, the inclusion of the 0-5 month age group in surveys.· validated indicators for anthropometric measurements in adolescents and in pregnant women;
· nutrition in elderly populations;
· cost-effectiveness of different nutritional interventions. (The use of an economics approach to humanitarian interventions is a new concept, and one that is gaining acceptance as humanitarian resources dwindle.)
Management of Nutrition in Major Emergencies is available from Marketing and Dissemination, World Health Organization, 1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland. The price of the book is Sw.fr. 72 (US $64.80), in developing countries Sw.fr. 50.40. Newly published related WHO publications include: Rapid health assessment protocols for emergencies (1999); Community emergency preparedness: a manual for managers and policy-makers (1999); Management of severe malnutrition: a manual for physicians and other senior health workers (1999).