The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) is a US-funded project that compiles data on food security issues. It collaborates with national and international partners in sharing useful information with experts and policy makers.
“We collect market data on food prices…from household economies, food production data, livestock information,” says FEWS NET project manager John Scicchitano. He says multiple partners work together to collect and analyze the data “to provide early warning and vulnerability information.”
The FEWS NET project looks at emerging food security issues like areas getting little or no rainfall, increasing food prices etc. Some of that information is collected by experts on the ground or by using satellite imagery on areas that are inaccessible.
Scicchitano says the information is used by “the many actors that need to make food security decisions and determine food assistance needs are around the world.” In Somalia, where food needs were forecast months in advance, aid to the region was held back due to lack of security and the reluctance of the Alshabab to allow food delivery to those in need.
The FEWS NET official says food policy issues are complex, and that they often require experts working together on related issues like land distribution, climate, security and food prices. He says experts from the different specialties distribute information they have collected and then posted it on the FEWS NET website.
“We’ve got to package this in a way that is understandable to the food security community,” He says.
The data is then made available to other organizations, including NGOs, UN agencies and some host governments. For example, says Scicchitano, “It does allow USAID to make early decisions so that food reaches people on time.”
FEWS NET has people working in regions around the world where any signs of food shortages are closely monitored. Scicchitano says FEWS NET will continue to strengthen early warning and food security networks by developing capacity and building consensus around food security problems and solutions.