Mapping Food Security Assistance in Malawi


With the expiration of the UN Millennium Development Goals in 2015, the international community now has the opportunity to take stock of progress and reevaluate current methods of measuring reductions in global hunger and food insecurity. Many of the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have called for a data revolution to address these and other measurement challenges. This brief outlines in practical terms advances we have piloted at the University of Texas that could potentially be adopted as part of the SDG efforts.

In the field of food security, progress over the past five years in aid transparency and geographic information system (GIS) mapping has provided enhanced tools for tracking the allocation and effectiveness of foreign aid for food security. In 2013, the Climate Change and African Political Stability Program (CCAPS) and Innovations for Peace and Development (IPD) at the University of Texas, in collaboration with Development Gateway, expanded our previous efforts around multi-donor aid mapping1 to track food security assistance in sub-Saharan Africa.2 Here, we briefly present the method and results of this effort, which uses newly available project-level data from aid donors and aid geomapping to capture information on food security activities in Malawi. As one of the poorest and most food insecure nations in the world, Malawi represents an important case study.

This aid tracking pilot provides key insights into whether and how donors are shifting away from emergency food relief toward allocating longer-term development resources to address the underlying conditions contributing to food insecurity. More specifically, our efforts were driven by a simple observation: although mechanisms exist to track international financing for food security at the sector level, there is little knowledge about how development partners are addressing the three key aspects that determine food security: access, availability, and utilization.3 Moreover, we know little about whether aid projects target short- or long-term relief to alleviate acute (temporary) or chronic food insecurity. Finally, most of the information on the location of donor aid is reported at the national level, making it difficult to track how resources target sub-national variation in food insecurity that results from local differences in topography, rainfall patterns, and market infrastructure. Our methodology, based on the ability to access and mine project documents for precise geographical and activity information, permits a careful assessment of the alignment of foreign food security assistance with a country’s food security needs.

In our pilot, we examine seven key development partners in Malawi and pose numerous questions regarding their food assistance, including:

  1. How much official development assistance (ODA) in Malawi focuses on food security?

  2. What type of food security assistance is most prevalent in development partners’ activities? Specifically, how much assistance is focused on enhancing the three critical elements of availability, access, and utilization, and how much is targeting long-term versus short-term relief?

  3. Where is food security assistance located, and is it aligned with vulnerabilities within the country?