New vulnerability monitoring platform to assist drought-affected populations in Indonesia

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UN Global Pulse and the World Food Programme (WFP) recently developed a tool that can help gain insights on the extent of drought-affected areas, the impacts on food prices and the resilience of affected populations throughout Indonesia.

This is a post by Anthea Webb, Representative and Country Director at the World Food Programme in Indonesia, and Derval Usher, Manager of Pulse Lab Jakarta.

The El Niño Southern Oscillation

Despite rapid economic growth in recent years and an overall improvement in food security, a large number of rural districts in Indonesia were still vulnerable to food insecurity in 2015. Levels of vulnerability to food insecurity vary substantially by geographic region.

As agriculture provides income for the majority of Indonesian households, climate is a decisive factor in the health and welfare of millions of families. Natural climatic events, such as El Niño, create irregular weather patterns that cause suffering to many farmers and their families.

In response to the 2015 start of El Niño, the Office of the President of Republic of Indonesia, the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and UN Global Pulse teamed up to develop the Vulnerability Analysis Monitoring Platform for the Impact of Regional Events (VAMPIRE).

The tool can be used to understand the evolving nature of slow onset phenomena like El Nino in near real-time to better target assistance from government and international organizations to vulnerable populations. It has been embedded into the situation room of the Office of the President (Kantor Staf Presiden) of the Republic of Indonesia, its sustainable home.

How does the tool work?

The platform provides integrated map-based visualisations that show the extent of drought affected areas, the impacts on markets, and the coping strategies and resilience of affected populations.

The tool is a multi-tier system that fuses several databases. First, it visualizes the national socio-economic survey and WFP’s household food security surveys. This data provides information on the percentage and distribution of poor, agriculture-dependant populations, as well as food insecure communities.

Second, it analyzes data on rainfall anomalies and the Indonesian Vegetation Health Index. Rainfall anomaly is a measure of the amount of rainfall in a period compared to the long-term average for that time of year while the vegetation index is a proxy for drought.

Based on the measure of economic vulnerability and exposure to drought, the tool can identify priority areas where people may require assistance.

Collecting data on rainfall anomalies and food security is not a new or unique activity for governments. However, the platform adds value by dramatically reducing the time required to bring this information together and visualize it in high-resolution and in near real-time.

The system can be further improved by integrating additional data sources and features. For example, mobile phone data could be used to provide information on the movement of people affected by climate events. Text message alerts could be incorporated to notify affected populations, such as farmers, of climate related threats.