IFIAD hosted a seminar with Dr Jannie Armstrong on 21st April 2023 on Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC). The seminar introduced the IPC’s approach to assessing and analysing food crises, giving examples from the most pressing humanitarian emergencies on the planet.
At the centre of the IPC’s approach is consensus, through which multi-sectoral expertise comes together to converge evidence, and comes to a collective conclusion about the food security situation at the national and sub-national level. Participants learned how consensus is used to reach technically sound conclusions, and tried their hand at consensus-led processes.
Key takeaways from the workshop included:
The IPC Process:
- The IPC assessment method is based on a mix of both qualitative and quantitative data. The key factor is having a continuous feedback loop between food security contributing factors, the impact and the outcomes, and not having a hierarchical or pyramid structure.
- It is important to document all assumptions which form the basis for an IPC decision – you don’t just pull a rabbit out of a hat.
- IPC Cycles tend to match the harvest, so usually two assessments per year. The format of an IPC assessment can vary from 5 to 90 persons and from 3 days to 3 weeks
- There is no such thing as an ‘expert’ in food security but there are experts in the different components of food security e.g. health, nutrition etc.
- In analysing a food security context, “why” is the hardest question to answer.
- Nutrition doesn’t tend to be a key determining factor in assessing food security as it is linked to health and is often not attributable to food security. Nutrition data can be used to confirm the trajectory of a food security situation not to classify a phase. Deterioration in nutrition status can stake time and for this reason it is not a good indicator for IPC purposes.
- Data is limited everywhere: Certain data sets are almost never available in country. For example, ‘Dietary Energy Intake’ is the gold standard but difficult to gather as it would require individual food diaries etc. Other data sets such as the Household Hunger Score and the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) are experiential i.e. “did you feel hungry?”. Census data on population and demographics are lacking in most countries.
- Context matters! For example, the question of whether begging can be coping strategy depends on the cultural context and attitudes to begging.
How can IPC be applied?
- The IPC can help NGOs / governments in country programming, for example, if developing a seed project, IPC can identify which people are stressed but still capable of engaging in agriculture and planting of crops.
- Phase 3 is when action needs to be taken on food security, by Phase 5 there is already societal collapse.
- Is IPC more suitable to slow onset food security crises and not famine? This depends on what you mean by slow onset. IPC is not a humanitarian response plan and may not be the correct tool in the toolbox to use in certain contexts.
For more information on IPC use this link.