I wanted to share another report that may be of interest to those following issues about urban food security and emergencies/ humanitarian aid, and detail some of the most interesting points.
"Learning from the City” is a recently released study by the British Red Cross, that aims to be a building block for the better understanding of the challenges posed by humanitarian action in urban areas. It has focused principally on evidence from five British Red Cross operational contexts in Haiti (Port-au-Prince), Uganda (Kampala and other cities), Djibouti (Djibouti-ville), Mongolia (Ulaanbataar) and Nepal (Kathmandu).
The study “looks at the evolving nature of risk and vulnerability in urban settings and assesses the operational implications of these trends and challenges” and highlight five ways forward (for the British Red Cross): (i) Sharpening context analysis and assessments; (ii) Understanding cash and markets better; (iii) Engaging and communicating with complex communities; (iv) Adapting to the challenges of land and the built environment; and (v) Engaging with urban systems and partnering with local groups and institutions.
With regard to food security issues, there are some interesting obsevations:
- "Many evaluations of urban responses have highlighted the importance of recognising the role of cash in urban areas, as people depend more on goods and services, than on producing their own food or fetching water, for example." However as they explain, there are challenges with the identification and targeting of the most vulnerable in peri-urban slums in Djibouti (p.8)
- The limitations of the Households Economic Security (HES) approach, as it involved identifying (geographical) livelihoods zones for analysis, which is unrealistic for urban contexts with multiple livelihoods.
- A number of characteristics of urban areas that often give rise to humanitarian needs are detailed, among which "dependency on food produced outside cities - an on cash for food, rent, water and other services - can trigger crises for the most vulnerable groups when food and fuel prices are volatile, or if a conflict or disaster cuts off physical access between a city and rural areas."
- “Research by ACF in Guinea, Zimbabwe and Guatemala, for example, found that the links and interdependencies between rural and urban communities were an important part of people’s ability to weather food insecurity in times of shock or stress (Vaitla, 2012).”
- On urban violence and food, the report mentions food price riots as an ocurrence that poses significant challenges to the humanitarian community.
Personally what I found most interesting was the calls for a change in coordination (very different to the current system) and the integrated neighbourhood apporach they adopted in Haiti (as well as its limitations). As the report states: "Some authors have called for a new, area-based method of coordination in urban settings. Such an approach is appealing given the general absence of many potential partners, such as the private sector, from the cluster system convened by the UN Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).”
Lastly Appendix 2 “Tools for humanitarian action in urban areas” contains some useful links among which mention is made to FAO’s Participatory Urban Food Security and Nutrition Security Assessment Process.