3.3.5 Seeds and tools

Providing seeds and tools is a standard response that is assumed to help communities recover from acute food insecurity. However, seeds needs are seldom assessed. The need for seed is often assumed if needs assessments have shown a need for food. If designing a seeds and tools intervention, consider the following key points:

  • There is increasing evidence that seeds systems are distinct from food systems. This means that food insecurity does not automatically translate into seed insecurity.
  • Seed assessments can be incorporated into EPPs as a preparedness measure.
  • The Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) regularly provides funding for seeds assessments.
  • CARE should also include the possibility of cash or vouchers as an alternative to direct seed distribution in any response analysis.

See also Annex 23.13 CRS seed vouchers & fairs 2004: Using markets in disaster response.

Free food distribution versus cash and vouchers

Food is a key response option to address food insecurity, so its relevance should not be underestimated. However, food distribution can be a standard response that is implemented with little regard for needs. Consider the following:

  • Food is most appropriate where needs assessments show that the key driver of food insecurity is food availability.
  • Where food access is the dominant issue, cash or vouchers are often more appropriate. Most emergency donors now require that the INGO justifies why it does not use the cash option.
  • There are also potential risks associated with the use of cash.
  • Markets unable to cope with increased demand and rising food prices make food increasingly inaccessible, which draws more people into the crisis. A market assessment and continuous monitoring of markets is therefore vital in any cash-based response.
  • Cash and food should not be seen as mutually exclusive responses. The possibility of combining cash and food should be given serious consideration in any response.
  • A small cash grant to accompany food distribution could serve to ‘protect’ the food and avoid the sale of relief food to fund other essential household needs. A larger cash grant could serve to supplement a basic ration and help to ensure that micronutrient and protein needs are met.
  • Tools that can assist with the analysis of when and where cash is an appropriate response include Annex 23.15 CARE USA’s Food Resource and Commodity Team decision-tree toolAnnex 23.16 Oxfam’s emergency market assessment toolAnnex 23.17 CARE International Cash Based Interventions decision tree, and Annex 23.18 Markets Information for food insecurity Response Analysis (MIFIRA) decision tree. These can be used in EPP processes and for longer-term food security programming.

Supplementary feeding

One area of mounting concern is around traditional responses to moderate malnutrition in emergencies. For the past 50 years, supplementary feeding programs (ESFPs) have been a standard component of emergency nutrition response in large emergencies. ESFP protocols aim to prevent mild and moderate individuals from becoming severely malnourished and treating those with moderate malnutrition hasn’t changed much over the years (Nutrition Cluster Toolkit, 2008). Evidence of the efficacy of ESFPs is limited and a study has brought its shortcomings to the forefront (Navarro-Colando, 2007). Consider the following:

  • SFP interventions need to be grounded in sound situation assessments that determine that SFPs are appropriate given the situation. Assessments should consider the likelihood and magnitude of default, non-response, and coverage. If implementation takes priority over assessment, SFPs should be re-evaluated at the first chance.
  • Intervention needs to be supported by staff with expertise in nutrition in emergencies.
  • Overall design: clarify roles and objectives of the emergency SFP ( two to consider: firstly, the treatment of individuals with moderate malnutrition and preventing the development of severe acute malnutrition in such individuals; and secondly, reducing the high levels of GAM at population level).
  • Project reporting should include: clear and common definitions of outcome categories, clear and common statistical treatment of age groups and special groups, standard presentation of outcome statistics, and reporting on outcomes of patients that have not recovered.
  • Defaulters: Reasons for defaulting should be examined and the program adjusted as necessary. The final outcomes of defaulters should (through surveys or defaulter tracing) be determined to actual mortality and recovery rates of programs.
  • Outcomes of patients classified as non-respondents should be evaluated and program design adapted to reduce non-response.
  • Coverage surveys need to be undertaken to assess the quality of screening and evaluate the potential impact of the program at the population level.

See this glossary on the terminology related to nutrition:  http://blog.actioncontrelafaim.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/2011-ACF-Nut-glossary-ENG.pdf

See Annex 23.17 UNICEF framework for causes of malnutrition, and Annex 23.18 Navarro-Colorado C.  A Retrospective Study of Emergency Supplementary Feeding Programmes. ENN/SC UK. June 2007.