WFP reaches displaced populations of Diffa

In 2013, the country office in Niger made a significant step forward by deciding to develop its food security analysis in Diffa, and due to the continuing insecurity in that region, it made sense to try remote monitoring. Aky Koura Malam Mari was one of the first beneficiaries to participate in remote monitoring using the mVAM modality.  mVAM contacts beneficiaries on their mobile phones to conduct food security surveys in insecure and hard to reach places. By sharing his voice through mVAM, Aky Koura Malam Mari not only reinforces the responsibility and transparency of WFP and its partners but also strengthens the ties between WFP and its beneficiaries. 

 

Photo: WFP/Marisa Muraskiewicz

In an office in Niamey, Moustapha Daniel is busy placing calls to help WFP identify the areas most in need of food assistance and the food needs of the most vulnerable groups. By calling affected populations on their mobile phones from Niger’s first and only start-up incubator, operators at Itech Center,  are collecting critical food security information from remote and insecure areas where traditional face to face interviews are not possible. Founded in 2011, the Itech Center specializes in digital engagement in vulnerable communities and innovative technology development, and has been collaborating with WFP since the launch of mVAM surveys in Niger. Information collected through the mVAM data collection system is analyzed by WFP and used to inform strategic decision making and program response.

Photo: WFP/Marisa Muraskiewicz

 “The respondents are very cooperative and eager to share information, although the unstable connection can pose a challenge,” Moustapha explained.  In fact, all beneficiaries contacted through mVAM surveys provided their mobile numbers in a previous survey and agreed to participate. Moustapaha is experienced at asking survey questions and explaining technical terminology in multiple local dialects. After contacting the same beneficiaries several times he is known by name and trusted to disclose information. 

Mobile phones were first used to collect food security data in two refugee camps in Niger.  After the surveys were shown to produce results similar to standard face-to-face interviews, they were judged as a valid data collection methodology. In July 2015, the Niger Country Office expanded mVAM in the highly volatile region of Diffa that has experienced an influx of refugees and displaced populations (returnees and IDPs) fleeing Chad and Nigeria due to insurgency and systemic violence caused by Boko Haram.

Photo: WFP/Marisa Muraskiewicz

Aky Koura Malam Mari, a farmer who lives in Gremadi village in the region of Diffa, has responded to two mVAM surveys and participated in a focal group discussion on mVAM facilitated by members of the Niamey Country Office and Diffa Sub Office VAM team.  During the focal group discussion he acknowledged that, “mVAM is an essential tool for monitoring and evaluation.  It helps me keep track of the quantities and quality of assistance I receive since I know mVAM will ask for this information.” He recognized the value of providing honest information through mVAM that could be used to qualify and target WFP’s assistance. “I can use mVAM to share information with WFP that I wouldn’t normally disclose during a face to face interview,” Aky Koura shared, confirming mVAM’s capacity to capture insightful perceptions from beneficiaries on their food security needs and situation.

Photo: WFP/Marisa Muraskiewicz

Circumstances in Diffa worsened in June 2016 following a series of attacks causing the displacement of over 40,000 people. As a result of the emergency and ongoing displacements, business and market activities in Diffa have been altered.  Market monitoring is therefore a crucial activity to understand the determinants of household food access. 

Encouraged by high response rates to mVAM surveys in Diffa, the Niger Country Office added a market questionnaire that is directed to traders and addresses the functioning of agriculture markets in the region.  By asking questions on the price and availability of different food stocks, the mVAM market questionnaire helps WFP understand the impact of its distributions and what types of assistance should be implemented for future interventions.

Photo: WFP/Marisa Muraskiewicz

Sustaining mVAM technology for data collection relies on support and interest from national counterparts, which is fortunately the case in Niger. WFP is working with the Niger Government Early Warning System to expand mVAM country wide, starting with the collection of household mobile numbers in an upcoming vulnerability study questionnaire.  By introducing fundamental processes for utilizing mVAM, WFP is building national capacity while promoting food security.    

Continued partnership with Itech Center and the Niger government will ensure that WFP maintains close ties with the people it serves while gaining important insights on how to target its assistance and fight towards the goal of Zero Hunger.   

Photo: WFP/Marisa Muraskiewicz

 

Written by Marisa Muraskiewicz