Early Warning of Food Insecurity
Step One: Understanding the Context
The analytical process is grounded in an in-depth understanding of factors that influence food security, such as markets and trade, agroclimatology, livelihoods, and nutrition. Insight into how poor households earn income, yearly averages for crop production and rainfall, and maps of regional trade flows are specific examples of the information available in this “knowledge base.” Cultivated by technical experts on the FEWS NET team, the knowledge base provides the foundation for FEWS NET's integrated analysis.
Step Two: Ongoing Monitoring
FEWS NET analysts, working in more than 28 countries, continuously gather evidence of the current food security situation in areas of concern. They collect data from a variety of sources, including US science agencies, national ministries of trade and agriculture, international organizations, and NGOs. In some countries, FEWS NET also employs networks of monitors to report localized data such as staple food prices and rainfall. Periodically, our staff members collaborate with partners on household surveys as well as joint assessments on issues ranging from crop production to livelihood zoning to market functioning.
Presence and non-presence countries
FEWS NET has 19 “presence” countries, where locally-based analysts work fulltime from a national office.
In addition, we monitor 9 countries remotely, typically from a nearby country office. In these “non-presence” countries, the analysis centers on identifying anomalies and spotlighting deteriorating conditions. Based on a lighter, scalable version of FEWS NET's traditional methodology, remote monitoring reports may offer less depth and detail than those from a presence country, where at least one full-time analyst is devoted to data collection and analysis. Even so, the approach has been useful in highlighting food security trends in countries as diverse as Honduras, Tajikistan, and the Central African Republic.
Step Three: Analyzing and Forecasting Outcomes
Drawing on the knowledge base and evidence from ongoing monitoring, field analysts use scenario development methodology to outline conditions and outcomes, make assumptions about the future, and forecast likely outcomes. These scenarios form the basis of FEWS NET's Food Security Outlook reports, issued three times a year in February, June, and September. In other months, developments and changes to the scenario are reported in Food Security Outlook Updates.
Step Four: Classifying Food Insecurity
To describe the anticipated severity of acute food insecurity, FEWS NET analysts use the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC 3.0). Widely accepted by the humanitarian relief community around the world, this five-level scale uses common language and standards. It is intended to help governments and other humanitarian actors quickly understand a crisis (or potential crisis) and take action.
Step Five: Supporting Decision Makers
As an early warning system, FEWS NET is dedicated to providing decision-makers with forward-looking information to guide their humanitarian response plans. Along with its regular monthly reports and maps, FEWS NET also produces alerts, special reports, and in-depth thematic products. Our analysts in Washington and the field provide regular briefings for our funder, USAID, as well for the public.
Stay up-to-date on the latest developments across the globe – subscribe to FEWS NET reports here.
In the spirit of transparency, all reports are distributed globally and made available on fews.net.
About FEWS NET
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on approximately 30 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, USGS, and CHC-UCSB, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica.
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