The University of Edinburgh’s Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems Newsletter recentyly publisjed a ahort interview with Professor Alan Duncan on the work of the Jameel Observatory for Food Security Early Action.

A combination of different skills and outlooks is the strength of the Jameel Observatory. Getting the right people in the room, talking and engaged, is definitely the first milestone for us and I think that’s been successful. The next stage is for some of these projects to come on stream and to begin to deliver.

Alan Duncan, Professor of Livestock and Development

In more than 18 months since the Jameel Observatory for Food Security Early Action was established, partners have forged a path to providing research outcomes to support food security in drought-affected regions of East Africa.

The partnership seeks to address food security in areas affected by droughts and other systemic shocks. It brings together expertise from the Global Academy with Save the Children, International Livestock Research Institute, Jameel Poverty Action Lab and investment partner Community Jameel.

Since the Observatory’s foundation, it has established a community of experts focused on identifying how best to respond to the needs of stakeholders in East Africa, where pastoralist food systems that were already under pressure from changing land use, population growth, and drying climates have been ravaged by a series of droughts.

It seeks to improve forecasting and anticipatory action to limit the extent of crises.

“Acting in advance of a crisis reduces human suffering and costs less money. It’s much better to be prepared, rather than to respond in emergency mode. That’s the nub of what the Jameel Observatory is about,” says Professor Alan Duncan, Professor of Livestock & Development.

Such actions might involve, for example, providing emergency cash resources, or enabling livestock trading in advance of a drought.

“Since we got going, we’ve had a strong emphasis on making sure that we are being demand-led. We’ve had a long consultation process with stakeholders in this area and a series of mini dialogues with experts on a range of topics. We’ve spent a lot of energy in making sure that the questions are coming from those at the frontline and then responding to those.”

Alan Duncan

“All of that has helped us define the scope of the Observatory: key topic areas where there is work to be done.”

Key challenges for research identified by the team include better use of data to predict oncoming crises, having the relevant funds in place to put in place humanitarian measures, and how best to coordinate efforts. In addition, it is studying how to better build reliable data that people can trust, and how to connect community and local initiatives with formal, international efforts to deal with food crises. Research is ongoing in all these areas.

The Observatory’s partners aim to translate research into action over the next couple of years. “We’ve developed a theory of change that sets out what various stakeholders would need to do differently for us to respond more effectively to food crises. I hope that we will be moving some of those outcomes forward. For example, having a better coordinated system of predicting food shocks, rather than multiple different systems,” adds Professor Duncan.

“Also, building on local pastoralist expertise in predicting crises and connecting that with international efforts would be a good outcome.”

Download the full newsletter

Contact us for more information or to partner with us: