mVAM falls in love in Nepal

WFP/Gaurav Singhal

The mVAM-NeKSAP team (WFP/Gaurav Singhal)

The mVAM Team is on the move again. This time our travels took us to Kathmandu, Nepal, where we’re not only excited at the prospect of using mVAM for the first time, but mVAM has also fallen in love and is soon be a proud parent!

The Government of Nepal currently runs a key-informant based food security monitoring system it calls NeKSAP. Each trimester, community leaders in 74 of 75 of Nepal’s Districts gather and use convergence evidence to assess the criticality of the food-security situation in their respective area. This exercise has proven invaluable in directing programming and resources not just for WFP but also for the government and other development/humanitarian organizations across the country. But the process is cumbersome and a bit imprecise when it comes to understanding and responding to a vastly complicated humanitarian landscape (think about the 2015 earthquake in Kathmandu and climate change!).

In 2016, an extreme drought in the high-altitude plateaus of the Mid-Western and Far-Western Development Regions of the country prompted the WFP Nepal Country Office to conduct a face-to-face food security baseline assessment. Given the persistent acute food insecurity in the region the team, collaborating with the Government of Nepal, requested assistance to create a seasonal food security monitoring system, leveraging the agility, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of mVAM.

This region is so remote that in the past WFP preferred to use airlifts than trucks to deliver assistance. This could not have been a bigger challenge for mVAM given issues with selection bias and phone-ownership. This was compounded by the fact that government insisted on nothing less than high-quality, representative, publishable statistics that could be used in official government figures. If only there was some way we had to reach the most remote and inaccessible regions as well that can only be reached by travelling for several days on foot! As it turns out, the NeKSAP system has provisions for a small network of skilled enumerators to live and work in these regions.

WFP/Bikkil Sthapit

WFP/Bikkil Sthapit

That is when we had brainwave borrowed from South Asian tradition: an arranged marriage for mVAM (don’t worry, there was a courtship first)…and mNeKSAP was conceived combining the best of traditional face-to-face assessment with mVAM! Why only rely on one survey mode? For individuals without phones we decided to use the NeKSAP enumerators to do traditional face-to-face assessments.

Furthermore, all the individuals were first interviewed in a face-to-face pre-winter baseline. This means that not only is the data representative, ensuring coverage of non-phone owners, mNeKSAP also provides a rare panel data set, re-interviewing the same individuals every trimester over a year. Panel data is the gold-standard for doing causal inference.

There is much more work to be done of course… However despite the fact that since 2014 mVAM has been a vital instrument to inform WFP’s humanitarian response we have yet to deploy mVAM as part of an official, government-sanctioned, monitoring and reporting tool for food-security.


Originally published at MVAM: THE BLOG.

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