The Jameel Observatory for Food Security Early Action brings together leading research and humanitarian agencies to help tackle the growing threat to people in the world’s drylands posed by the increasing severity and frequency of climate-related disasters.

As a first step towards forming a community of practice to take the Jameel Observatory’s goals forward, we convened an informal virtual meeting in September with actors, partners, collaborators and stakeholders working on food security early action and climate change. The meeting aimed to introduce the Observatory’s work and solicit ideas and guidance on priority actions to take forward.

After welcome remarks from George Richards, director of Community Jameel, the session comprised two short presentations, the first on the Observatory by Alan Duncan of the University of Edinburgh, and the second on forecast-based action by Mohamed Beegsi from Save the Children. Thereafter, participants formed groups to discuss a set of questions and shared their ideas through the chat function.

Alan Duncan introduces the Observatory

As a warm-up exercise, the forty-five participants shared some early actions they think best serve pastoralist communities facing climate change. Responses talked about appropriate government policies, cash transfers, resilience building and adaptation, better medium-term weather predictions, access to pastoralist-friendly finance as well as timely service provision and access to insurance, credit and feed options for livestock.

Asked to comment on the strengths of the Observatory’s approach, participants recognized the ambition to complement and collaborate other organisations and initiatives while engaging and capacitating local actors and stakeholders in local action. The focus on early action was seen as very well-timed, especially where it combines shorter term early warning with the potential to impact longer term issues. It is important also to research and document the impact of early action, building the evidence base for future investment choices.

Participants also pointed out lessons and potential pitfalls for the Observatory, including: gaining appropriate understanding of the landscape in terms of partners, products, data; clarifying the value and roles of a research orientated programme in a crowded space and making sure to benefit the wider community; grounding the research in the region and its challenges and including local expertise and knowledge in the solutions to be tested; thinking beyond evidence to unpack mechanisms and theories of change to better design interventions; bring local, often less-structured knowledge into the Observatory; devising timely responses that respond to short-term crises and contribute to long-term adaptation; and ensuring ownership and buy-in from governments in the regions.

For priorities to tackle first, participants suggested the Observatory focus on: The relations between conflicts, early action and food insecurity; better linking early warning information to early action; bring together convincing data and evidence that reaches the right people and can catalyse action; improve data and models around livestock; secure local ownership; build complementarity in a crowded area of research and action; generate and bring together evidence that demonstrates impact; and, finally, build and ensure trust and credibility in the data and information the Observatory and others work with.

In closing, advice from participants emphasised the importance of strong coordination and connections with other initiatives – many were suggested for follow up; the need to support local leadership and engagement; understand the landscape before committing funds; and keep a strong focus on the pastoralists themselves and their abilities, for instance, to access digital services.

The next meeting of the community of practice is planned for late January 2022, in Nairobi. This will provide opportunities to sharpen the Observatory’s focus and plans, ensure complementarity and consolidate partnerships.

Watch recordings of the presentations by Alan Duncan and Mohamed Beegsi on YouTube

Download notes from the meeting

Download the slides

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