In September 2021, the University of Edinburgh and partners launched the Jameel Observatory for Food Security Early Action – the Observatory. Involving the University of Edinburgh through its Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems, Save the Children UK, the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), the International Livestock Research Institute and Community Jameel, the past year saw significant work to establish the partnership and governance, secure leadership, invest in communications and develop our core research workstreams.

This post gives a brief update on the various activities carried out to July 2022.

Anticipatory action to mitigate drought-induced crises: Learning from Kenya and Somalia. Tracking early action in response to current crisis in the Horn of Africa, this report collated information on the various forecasts and warnings that were published by a range of agencies in the past 2 years and tracked any actions taken by humanitarian actors to the present day. Overall, the review found few examples of anticipatory action within the formal government and NGO aid system. However, it did find anticipatory action at local, sub-national and community levels, and in the informal system. The report concluded that there are significant opportunities to better link these systems and integrate anticipatory action into existing aid architecture.

Seasonal effects on nutrition surveys in East Africa. Jameel Observatory has formed a partnership with the University of Edinburgh/UNICEF Data for Children Collaborative on a co-funded project looking at improving data integrity for child nutrition surveys that can be compromised by seasonal effects.

Dangerous Delay 2 – the Cost of Inaction. Published by Save the Children and Oxfam with support from Jameel Observatory, the Dangerous Delay 2 report assessed changes in forecasting and action in the past ten years. Despite an improved response to the 2017 East Africa drought when widespread famine was averted, it found that national and global responses are largely too slow and too limited, they mainly respond to drought impacts rather than manage future risks, and they struggle to take action at sufficient scale.

PhD students and post-doctoral researchers. A cluster of PhD students is beginning to form around the Observatory. John Mutua is employing earth observation approaches to build a better understanding of livestock feed availability, a crucial metric in pastoral areas. George Mayenga starts in September 2022 to look at local responses to crisis events in East Africa and how these can be better linked to international efforts. Later in 2022, two more PhD projects will begin, the first looking at the economics of forecast-based action and the second investigating opportunities to estimate livestock population numbers. Two post-doctoral projects are being developed in collaboration with the Supporting Pastoralism and Agriculture in Recurrent and Protracted Crises (SPARC) project and will be advertised later in 2022.

Community of Practice.  The initial model for the Jameel Observatory centred around establishment of a Community of Practice as the source of ideas for research and action and a sounding board against which to adapt research activities as they progressed through dialogue with key actors in the early warning/anticipatory action sector. An initial virtual meeting of stakeholders was convened in September 2021 to introduce the Jameel Observatory, and this was followed by an in-person meeting in Nairobi in April 2022 where participants identified five priority challenge areas: Coordinating for effective early action; financing for effective early action; data for effective early action; trust in data and evidence for effective early action; and effective early action at local/community level.

Further conversations with key stakeholders, including through a series of mini-dialogues with partners and experts, are ongoing to refine these ideas into a series of researchable topics that will form the research/action agenda for the Jameel Observatory in coming years. In May 2022, we set up an online platform to facilitate work on the challenge questions identified in April and, more generally, to help community of practice members connect and share information.  

Communications. The Observatory’s website publishes news and updates on Observatory people, activities and projects. Alongside the website, we are active on Twitter and  our reports and documents of the Observatory are published in the University of Edinburgh’s open access repository.

Looking forward, our major focus for Year 2 is to finalise our Challenge Question narratives and use these to seed a series of research/action projects using a range of delivery models (external grants, short term consortium projects, post-doctoral projects).

We will continue to build momentum of the Jameel Observatory Community of Practice and will convene a second meeting early in 2023 and possibly a further virtual meeting in late 2022.

Some milestones from the first year

  • March 25, 2021 – Kick-off meeting with consortium partners
  • May-June 2021 – Internal virtual meetings to develop initial theory of change
  • September 2021 – Recruitment of Senior Partnerships and Communications Lead for UoE
  • September 2021 – Virtual engagement meeting with East Africa stakeholders. Details.
  • November 2021 – “Soft Launch” of Jameel Observatory at COP26 including website and social media channels going live. Details.
  • March 29 2022: Mini-dialogue on Definition and Timing of anticipatory action to food crises in East Africa: do they matter?
  • April 6 2022: Mini-dialogue on Enablers and blockers for effective anticipatory and forecast-based action in East African drylands
  • April 12 2022: Mini-dialogue on Data-driven early warning, prediction and analysis for well-coordinated and directed food security action in East African drylands
  • April 19 2022 – Head of Jameel Observatory started. Details.
  • April 21 2022 – Kenya Launch and First Community of Practice meeting. Details.
  • May 1 2022 – Launch of Jameel Observatory online sharing space. Details.
  • May 18 2022 – Report: Dangerous delay 2: The cost of inaction. Details.
  • June 17 2022 – Report: Anticipatory action to mitigate drought-induced crises: Tracking drought impacts and aid responses in Kenya and Somalia, 2020-2022. Details.
  • June 29 2022 – Parallel session with FAO at the 5th Africa Dialogue Platform on Anticipatory Humanitarian Action
  • July 6 2022 – Mini-dialogue on Integrating local and community-based knowledge to advance early warning and anticipatory action on food security in drylands of the Horn of Africa.

Download year 1 report

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