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Mixed feelings over Mvac’s livelihoods approach

The Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Mvac) has introduced a classification mechanism that will help it determine the severity of food insecurity in the country.

This is in apparent response to questions over the credibility of Mvac reports, most notably its April 2016 to March 2017 food security forecasts.

Mvac figures late last year begged more questions than answers, prompting the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture to describe Mvac’s findings as “grossly inaccurate”.

Ministry of Economic Planning and Development spokesperson, Alfred Kutengule, said in a written response that the country would start using the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, which will help the institution identify vulnerable households.

“The Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee will be classifying severity of the food insecurity situation using the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, to determine who among the affected households would need food assistance or should be assisted using other interventions such as Public Works Programme, winter production,” Kutengule said.

Mvac is expected to release its April 2017 to March 2018 food security forecast report early July.

But Kutengule said the institution would continue using the Household Economy Approach (HEA) to conduct vulnerability assessments and analyses.

Parliamentary Agriculture Committee Chairperson, Joseph Chidanti Malunga, faulted Mvac’s data collection methodology in an interview, observing that HEA produces wrong figures because it is fed inaccurate data.

“Although it is an old system, it [HEA] does not have problems. The problem has been the way they collect data. Having a system is one thing and feeding it with correct data is another.

“The system is not fed the correct data and to come up with credible data one needs to be careful on things like sampling methods. We know that Mvac does not do their job right and that is why we end up having wrong figures,” Malunga said.

But, according to Kutengule, Mvac’s data collection method cannot be changed because it is credible and has served its purpose since its adoption in Malawi in2002.

Civil Society Agriculture Network National Director, Pamela Kuwali, said Mvac must this year take into account all factors, including fall army worms and the possibility of maize being smuggled out of the country.

“Last year the disparity between Mvac figures and actual maize available was due to the ability of private traders to import and harvest under irrigation.

“It is encouraging to note that this year [Mvac] will also incorporate a livelihoods approach that will not only focus on yields but other factors that affect food security, including domestic water, livestock production, irrigation, health, nutrition, markets, education and climate data and hazards,” Kuwali said.

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