1. Food Security and Livelihoods

As defined by the 2009 Declaration of the World Summit on Food Security: “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food, which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” Based on this definition, four food security dimensions can be identified: food availability, economic and physical access to food, food utilization, and stability (vulnerability and shocks) over time. Each food security dimension is described by specific indicators.

  • Food Availability: Quantities and varieties of food available in the area may have been affected and not be sufficient. Food stocks, production, supply systems and markets may not be adequate or functioning optimally.
    • Average Dietary Energy Supply Adequacy.
    • Average Value of Food Production.
    • Share of dietary energy supply derived from cereals, roots and tubers.
    • Average protein supply.
    • Average supply of protein of animal origin.
  • Food Access: A household’s own production, income, purchasing power, transfer from other sources and livelihood assets may have been disrupted or eroded. Households may not be able to access sufficient food without losing productive assets, which will have long-term effects on their livelihoods.
    • Physical Access: Transport infrastructures
    • Economic Access:
      • Domestic Food Price Level Index
      • Prevalence of undernourishment
      • Share of food expenditure of the poor
      • Depth of the food deficit
      • Prevalence of food inadequacy
  • Food Utilization: People may have access to food but may not be able to utilize it efficiently and effectively due to several factors (for example, no fuel or containers to cook, illness prevents full absorption). People’s nutritional status may also be affected, as emergencies may change their food consumption and/or public health conditions and care practices.
    • Access to improved water sources
    • Access to improved sanitation facilities
  • Food Stability:
    • Domestic food price volatility index
    • Per Capita food production variability
    • Per Capita food supply variability
    • Political stability/absence of violence/terrorism

Following any humanitarian crises, it is very important to understand its effects and impacts relative to food & nutrition security and livelihoods of the affected population. This is made possible through rapid assessments to establish needs, existing capacities and opportunities to address the needs. In reviewing the existing capacities, one should understand the affected people’s ability to cover the needs and document any gaps, logistics of meeting the needs, supportive infrastructure, and functionality of markets to supply the required goods and services. Thus the needs analysis should be complemented with analysis of the local capacities to respond including the markets performance and other infrastructure both hard and soft necessary for efficient response. The table below provides a proper assessment checklist useful to establish the effects and impacts on food and nutrition security from any humanitarian crises.

A number of tools have been developed to aid food and nutrition security assessments. The tools could be administered at either general community, household, or individual level aimed to determine needs and capacities. Other tools are used to determine markets performance, organizational capacities of service providers, and availability of necessary infrastructure to aid response. Suggested appropriate tools for different purposes and emergency phases are as listed table below.

Phase (IASC) Phase 0 Phase 1 Phase 2 Phase 3 Phase 4
Timeline Before 0-72 hours 1 to 2 weeks 2 – 4 weeks 5 weeks +
Tools food security HEA


48-hour tool (Oxfam) Coping Strategy Index.

Seed security assessment

Household Diversity Dietary Score.

Individual Diversity Dietary Score.

Food Consumption Score

FAO – Seed Security Assessment – A Practitioner’s Guide
Tools markets Pre-Crisis Market and Analysis (PCMA).

Seed System Profile for Regions of Concern[1]: http://ciat-library.ciat.cgiar.org:8080/jspui/bitstream/123456789/6641/4/pb6-10.pdf

48-hour tool Rapid Analysis of Markets (RAM – needs 4 days).

MARKit (to monitor markets during food assistance program)

EMMA (needs 1 month; specific commodities including water).

MIFIRA (multi-sectors).

Market Analysis Guidance (MAG – IFRC).






Tools livestock HEA See LEGS– chapter 3: See LEGS See LEGS

Take note of the following key points:

  • Food security assessments often broadly categorise the affected population into livelihood groupings, according to their sources and strategies for obtaining income or food. This may include a breakdown of the population according to wealth groups or strata (the Household Economy Approach / HEA provides this type of info; see http://www.heawebsite.org/ ).
  • It is important to compare the prevailing situation with the history of food security before the disaster. So-called ‘normal years’ may be considered as a baseline.
  • Consider the specific roles and vulnerabilities of women and men, and the implications for household food security.
  • Consider food security differences within each household.
  • The checklist must also be adapted to suit the local context and assessment objectives.
  • Additional information must be collected on the wider context of the disaster (for example, its political context, population numbers and movements, etc.) and in relation to other relevant sectors (nutrition, health, water and shelter). Refer to Assessment.

2.1 Food security and response options analysis

2.2 Food security of livelihood groups

3.1 Options for food and nutrition security interventions

3.2 Types of activities

3.2.1 Food distribution and nutritional support

3.2.2 Primary production

3.2.3 Income and employment

3.3 Key considerations

3.3.1 Early Warning: Triggers and decision-making

3.3.2 Early Response: Closing the gap between early warning and response

3.3.3 Design issues with common interventions 

3.3.5 Seeds and tools

3.3.6 Gender and protection

3.3.7 Integration with long-term programmes

3.3.8 Monitoring and evaluation

3.4 Case study: CARE’s emergency livestock interventions in Ethiopia

  • Standard and inappropriate responses are often implemented due to inadequate response analysis based on the needs assessment. ‘Off-the-shelf’ interventions that do not take account of local priorities rarely work. Each intervention must be designed to suit the local context.
  • Do not assume that a need for food also means a need for seeds. Specific seeds assessments should be conducted before major seeds and tools distributions.
  • A ‘food-first’ bias, which assumes that addressing food security alone, will achieve significant impacts on malnutrition. It is important to assesses the relative importance of the three underlying determinants of malnutrition, and design the interventions accordingly.
  • Do not implement food- or cash-based interventions without a sound market analysis. The introduction of food or cash and vouchers will have an impact on the local market, which can make food less accessible for the most poor if market dynamics are not properly understood or the right interventions planned.
  • Do not implement food programmes without attention to gender roles and power. This can lead to food programmes providing opportunities for abuse of power and exploitation. Measures to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation must be integrated into programmes.

If a CO has in-house capacity for food and nutrition security, it should be used given familiarity with local and national norms, customs and standards. Specialist advice should be called upon where local capacity is overwhelmed, or where the scope or nature of the emergency demands support.
CARE International rosters for deployable emergency personnel include specialists with experience in food & nutrition security, food distribution, food logistics, and markets and cash based programming. CARE’s emergency food & nutrition security capacity is strongly rooted in COs and the projects they implement. So, many of these staff are located in other COs, supported by a limited number of deployable specialists at a CARE International Member or regional level. To access these personnel, COs should follow the procedures for activating emergency personnel described in Human resources.
Technical advice for food security programming is available by contacting the following people in the CARE USA Emergency and Humanitarian Assistance Unit:

In addition:

  • For advice on nutrition or infant and young child feeding, contact CARE USA’s Sexual Reproductive health unit, via Kamlesh Giri iycf&e@care.org (see Chapter Health, and Chapter Infant and young child feeding in emergencies).
  • For advice on livelihood programming and economic recovery in emergencies, contact the CARE USA Economic Development Unit, Laté Lawson, economicrecovery@careinternational.org (see Chapter 8.6 Economic recovery).
  • To request deployment of a food and nutrition security expert, contact the CI Emergency Human Resources Coordinator, emergencyHR@careinternational.org.

External to CARE, the Emergency Nutrition Network (ENN) has launched an online forum for people working in emergency nutrition and food security.  The forum is en-net and aims to provide fast support and guidance challenging issues in the field, prompt technical advice for operational dilemmas, as well as links to key resources.  En-net hopes to link field practitioners, researchers and technical experts to discuss the current issues for which there may not be accessible published guidelines.  You can find the forum here or via the link on the ENN website.

CARE also recognizes that no single organization can address today’s complex food and nutrition security challenges. Partnership is more important than ever. CARE should work closely with local governments and a wide range of other actors, including international organizations, NGOs, civil society and private-sector businesses.

6.1 CARE’s emergency food and nutrition security strategy

6.2 CARE policy documents relevant to food and nutrition security

” CARE has experience and a strong reputation in emergency food and nutrition security programming. A recent assessment has outlined CARE’s capacity in this area (Annex 23.22). CARE’s capacity is strongest in food security analysis (early warning, emergency needs assessment, M&E, and scenario analysis and planning) and food aid delivery. CARE’s emergency food security capacity is strongly rooted in COs and the projects they implement. CARE is known for its ability to deliver food aid in emergencies, and has extensive experience in supporting productive activities and protecting assets in emergencies, especially seeds and tools. Worldwide, CARE is one of the WFP’s large implementing partner and typifies CARE’s reliance on in-country capacity. A new strength building rapidly is capacity to implement cash based interventions and this is again well embodied at the Country offices.
The role of the WFP and Title II projects warrants particular attention. CARE has historically received significant funding from USAID FFP for both Development Food Assistance Projects and Emergency Food Security projects. Much of CARE’s in-country capacity is closely associated with these projects and the ongoing funding they provide.
The emergency food security strategy aims to promote the expanded food assistance tool box which includes food aid, cash transfers, and seeds & tools and embarks on capacity-building in emergency food security programming. Work to strengthen CARE’s capacity in food security may consider further developing areas such as the use of digital technologies in cash transfers and vouchers in emergencies, innovative approaches such as seed fairs, and pastoral livelihoods work, and embracing resilience from the start of emergencies response. Other areas for future strengthening include nutritional programming and analysis, market analysis and response analysis.

World Food Programme (WFP) Hunger Map

The WFP's HungerMap tracks core indicators of acute hunger like household food consumption, livelihoods, child nutritional status, mortality, and access to clean water in order to rank countries.

Livelihoods Centre

The Livelihoods Resource Center is a Global Reference Center of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent hosted by the Spanish Red Cross. Its mission is to promote livelihood programming through the collection and dissemination of resources and good practices, technical support and training to strengthen the capacities of IFRC National Societies and other interested organizations.

Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS Net)

FEWS NET, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on acute food insecurity around the world. It provides unbiased, evidence-based analysis to governments and relief agencies who plan for and respond to humanitarian crises.

Integrated Food Security Phase classification

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) is an innovative multi-partner initiative for improving food security and nutrition analysis and decision-making. By using the IPC classification and analytical approach, relevant actors work together to determine the severity and magnitude of acute and chronic food insecurity, and acute malnutrition situations in a country.

Data visualized - VAM

Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) is the eyes and ears of the World Food Programme (WFP). We aim to provide credible, relevant, and timely food security analyses and evidence that forms the basis for the design of the WFP’s operations.

Food Security Analysis - VAM

The Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) of the World Food Programme (WFP) provides publicly available food security data. Data include market prices for commodities, select calculated food security indicators, dynamic maps, and food security reports at the national, administrative, and market levels.

Minimum Technical Standards for Seed System Assessment (SSA) in Emergencies

This brief focuses on the minimum standards needed in a Seed System Assessment (SSA) for the work to be considered technically sound.