12 May 2016

Weaver Pilots Subnational Food Security Data Mapping

Strauss Center Distinguished Scholar Catherine Weaver, co-director for Innovations for Peace and Development (IPD) at the University of Texas at Austin, recently co-authored a report for the Ending Rural Hunger Project at the Brookings Institute. The paper, “Mapping Food Assistance in Malawi”, discusses a new methodology used by IPD and the Climate Change and African Political Stability program (CCAPS) to improve the analytic power of data on food security.

By gathering and geomapping project-level data, CCAPS and IPD were able to answer important questions about how much official development assistance (ODA) in Malawi focuses on food security, what types of food security assistance are most prevalent, and where food security assistance is located. The CCAPS/IPD Food Security Coding Methodology could help organizations better collaborate and organize around the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

The CCAPS/IPD methodology found sometimes substantial variation in the type and characteristics of food security projects funded with ODA in Malawi. Malawi is the first country in the world to map nearly all official development aid at a subnational level, and adding food security coding to this data allowed for detailed analysis on agricultural vulnerability and food insecurity. CCAPS and IPD developed a dynamic dashboard with the dataset, which users could use to interact with the data. Users could see what kinds of activities each development organization supports at each location, for example, or overlay maps of food security programs with other datasets such as rainfall patterns or population density. This data, and the interaction the dashboard allows for, can help governments and organizations better coordinate and organize.

The proof of concept is a powerful argument for the collection of more subnational data in other areas. Food security coding and mapping are a promising part of the “data revolution” that the UN hopes to encourage with the Sustainable Development Goals.

The paper was co-authored by Krista Rasmussen, a research assistant at the Brookings Institution; Justin Baker, a water resources engineer at AECOME; and Josh Powell, director of innovation at Development Gateway.

The full paper is available here.

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