SCF(UK) established a local food security monitoring project called SADS in the Mopti region of Mali, which has been operational since 1987. It aimed to identify who was vulnerable, where, when and why, and to provide appropriate information to decision makers. This working paper describes some of the lessons learnt from the experience of monitoring food security and coping strategies. Information was collected by field staff from rural people, and this paper examines the use of such qualitative and semi-quantitative data, and the problems associated with using local knowledge systems. The approach to data collection belongs loosely to that associated with RRA. Information was collected by project staff using checklists and semi-structured interviews with key informants, listening to oral histories and discussions at village meetings. SADS also uses sentinel sites called 'listening posts' which are located in positions to gain insight into larger areas. Information was collected on agricultural and fish production, on-farm stocks, off-farm employment, consumption and migration. This was supplemented by secondary data, particularly on rainfall. Seasonal calendars were drawn up to show food access, activities and coping strategies for different producer groups, and this has led to the use of seasonally specific monitoring indicators. SADS shows that a relatively low cost methodology for monitoring food security can be established, based mainly on socio-economic data, that can provide timely and reliable warnings of localised food insecurity.
Planners and policy makers concerned with monitoring food security at all levels will be interested
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