Rachel Bahn and Hagar El-Didi - American University of Beirut | IFPRI Egypt
A group of 9 Yemeni experts affiliated with the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation (MoPIC) traveled from Sana’a to Beirut, Lebanon to participate in targeted training on food security and nutrition from March 5-9, 2018. The training was delivered by a joint team from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the American University of Beirut (AUB). This training is part of a three year projected “Strengthening monitoring & impact evaluation on food & nutrition security in Yemen” funded by the Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and implemented by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
The officials selected to participate are from within MoPIC’s Food Security Technical Secretariat (FSTS) and Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) teams. Living and working in Sana’a, the officials demonstrated a personal commitment to reach Beirut: As the airport in Sana’a is closed due to the ongoing conflict in Yemen, they traveled 22 hours to reach the nearest airport in Seiyun, before traveling abroad. After their return safely to Sana’a, the 9 participants have scheduled training sessions to pass on the training knowledge to the wider team back home.
The training was divided into two parts, covering both concepts, theories, and tools related to food security and nutrition; as well as hands-on training to build and upload data to the MAP Yemen online monitoring tool. Training modules covered topics including food security and nutrition indicators and monitoring systems; field survey methodologies for food security; methodologies to predict and model food security and poverty; food systems and value chain analysis; and damage and needs assessments. These concepts were practically applied through discussions and decisions about indicators to include within the MAP Yemen tool.
MAP Yemen is one of a suite of online, open-access data atlas tools developed by IFPRI with a goal to expand access to information and data on topics relevant to development and food security across the Arab world. In particular, it aims to improve development project planning, coordination and effectiveness through monitoring the status and progress of projects categorized by sector, location, donor(s), as well as tracking key performance indicators related to each project. The tools also maps a wide-range of indicators on food and nutrition security, poverty and development across Yemen, with a focus on monitoring progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on the sub-national level. The tool has been developed with MoPIC as part of the of the German cooperation agency (GIZ)-funded project “Strengthening Monitoring & Evaluation of Food and Nutrition Security (SME-FNS) in Yemen” implemented by IFPRI, and is expected to be launched around mid-2018 in Sana’a.
The training is part of the project’s capacity building package for MoPIC. It follows a series of online (via Skype) trainings conducted by IFPRI on both food and nutrition security topics, as well as MAP Yemen use and management. To defy unstable internet connections and other challenges related to the security situation in Yemen, the IFPRI team also recorded full video MAP Yemen tutorials as guiding material for the team in Sanaa, prior to the training in Beirut.
Speaking about the training, participants commented that the content of the training was both intense and sufficient to acquire the intended understanding of food security concepts: In the words of one participant, “The training material is good and detailed!” Another participant reported that he enjoyed learning about a combination of different topics within the same training – including new and applied methods to assess, measure, and monitor food security and nutrition – which were covered by live interaction with a range of instructors. One participant noted the particular relevance of assessment metrics: “Needs assessment was something new and very important and beneficial, especially in planning for the future or evaluating past plans.” Through in-class discussions, participants were able to compare the case of Yemen, in the midst of conflict, and the Lebanese situation in light of its earlier conflicts and current refugee crisis.
Professor Rami Zurayk, one of the contributing instructors, reflected, “As someone who spent time living and working in rural Yemen nearly three decades ago, it was a pleasure to exchange knowledge and stories with these talented and dedicated Yemeni professionals who will be responsible for guiding food security and nutrition programming now and into the future. The current conflict is a tragedy, but it has been an honor for me and the rest of the teaching team to even indirectly contribute to the future reconstruction and development projects.”
AUB instructor Rachel Bahn added, “The training was useful in that it targeted presentation of concepts for direct application, and allowed interaction with individuals who are all focused on food security but address the issue through different government programs. I enjoyed the challenge of relating food systems and value chains to the work of fisheries and livestock experts alongside nutritionists.”
The training was held at the American University of Beirut, under the auspices of the Food Security Program at the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences; and with the financial support of the aforementioned GIZ project, which is part of the German One World Without Hunger Initiative. The next step for the project will be for the Yemeni experts and IFPRI to jointly finalize the MAP Yemen tool; followed by the launch of MAP Yemen likely in June 2018 for the benefit of more effective and efficient targeting of urgently needed funds for improving food security and nutrition in Yemen.