What is mVAM?
mVAM is WFP’s mobile Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping project that uses mobile technology to remotely monitor household food security and nutrition, and food market-related trends in real-time, providing high-frequency, gender-disaggregated and operationally relevant data that supports humanitarian decision-making. The project also includes an automated two-way communication system to give people access to real-time information for free.
mVAM was first launched in 2013 with small-scale pilots in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) through funding provided by the Humanitarian Innovation Fund. The project results were evaluated independently and were found to have achieved proof of concept (Review of mVAM programme, August 2015), and the approach has since been scaled up considerably.
Why remote data collection?
Collecting primary data on households’ food security can be challenging, time consuming and costly ‒ particularly in areas with limited humanitarian access. Remote data collection is a more flexible and efficient way to collect food security information. Also, it allows for frequent food security monitoring in unstable areas without putting the enumerators at risk.
Where is mVAM used?
By the beginning of 2017, mVAM was operational in a total of 28 countries across all six WFP regions, and planning to expand to six additional countries.
How is mVAM data actually collected?
Data collection methods are tailored to the needs of each country that mVAM operates in. In general, mVAM uses live voice calls, SMS (text messages) and interactive voice response (IVR) technology – also known as robo-calls, to collect data. We’re also in the process of expanding our data collection toolbox to include Chatbot and Facebook Free Basics. For specific data collection tools employed in each country see the country specific page on the mVAM wesite.
How is mVAM data shared?
mVAM aggregated data and reports (‘bulletins’) are shared online and publically available on the dedicated mVAM wesite. Reports are also posted on Reliefweb, the leading humanitarian website. mVAM data is also shared through UN OCHA’s Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX). WFP also has a data sharing arrangement with FEWSNET on a global level, and both sides were able to utilize food security data during the Ebola crisis. mVAM aims to expand collaboration and replicate this data sharing arrangement other partners.
We also regularly share stories on our experiences and lessons learned through the mVAM Blog, and keep an updated collection of mVAM background materials including guidelines, templates of survey questionnaires and data entry tools, and publications on the mVAM resource centre – all of which are accessible to anyone.
Finally, mVAM is using some of its data collection tools (SMS, IVR, Facebook Free Basics, Chatbot) to establish two-way communication mechanisms – to both listen in and deliver critical information about food security to people everywhere. What this new approach means is that people in remote and vulnerable communities obtain information that matters to them for free and on demand.
How is mVAM data used?
mVAM aims to provide relevant, timely and frequent information necessary to design and implement food security programs that support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 ‘End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. After each data collection round, analytical bulletins are published in a matter of days, providing near real-time information for advocacy, appeals processes, strategic decision-making, programme planning, and fine-tuning interventions, both by WFP as well as other national and international stakeholders.
mVAM data is routinely used by other humanitarian actors, who use it as a source of secondary data for their own analysis and internal decision-making processes. For instance, mVAM data is now being used for the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC); this has been recently done in DRC, Ebola-affected countries and Yemen. IPC food insecurity classification maps are then used by governments, NGOs and donors for resource allocation and advocacy. The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre wrote an extensive analysis of food security and Ebola based on the mVAM data. WFP also has a data sharing agreement with FEWS NET and the International Growth Center (London School of Economics), which quotes mVAM findings in their reports.
How is it linked to other data collection taking place in countries?
mVAM does not replace other traditional forms of data collection (e.g. face-to-face surveys) but complements them. Since traditional forms of data collection are generally more infrequent, mVAM provides the opportunity to monitor food security between traditional surveys and collection efforts. Moreover, mVAM can often complement data collection by providing data from physically difficult to access areas. To the extent possible, mVAM data is compared or triangulate with National census, WFP’s own baselines (CFSVAs) as well as with other recent food security assessments.
How is the government ownership and utilization of data ensured?
Prior to the rollout of mVAM in a country, WFP seeks to engage and sensitize relevant national government counterparts on the project by conducting a briefing session. These briefings are intended to ensure government partners are aware of mVAM and to solicit their collaboration and feedback. During these sessions, WFP has been able to answer partners’ questions about mVAM, ensure that the activity fits into the broader local information scene, and identify potential partners for mVAM implementation.