Food Security and Cash and Voucher Assistance
Introduction to the Food Security Cluster
The Food Security Cluster (FSC) was formally endorsed by the Inter Agency Standing Committee (IASC) on the 15 December 2010. It has been established in 2011 to coordinate the food security response during a humanitarian crisis, addressing issues of food availability, access and utilisation. It is co-led by WFP and FAO. The Food Security Cluster (FSC) is about enhancing cooperation and partnerships. The FSC works directly with its partners and stakeholders that include NGOs, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, UN organizations, Governments and Donors.
It is committed to saving lives through the coordination of appropriate, efficient and well-resourced food security responses in major emergencies. It seeks to ensure that crisis-affected populations access sufficient, healthy and appropriate amount of food, directly or by their own means in a safe, dignified and sustainable manner while affected by crisis. This requires a strong, coordinated humanitarian response built around the needs of the most vulnerable. It aims to:
- Guarantee a coherent, timely safe and dignifying food assistance is delivered by all partners;
- To ensure food assistance to the most vulnerable is leveraged to promote early action and response and resilience, therefore properly integrated with livelihoods activities;
- Ensure food security interventions are adequately integrated and complementary with other relevant sectors such as Nutrition, WASH and Health.
To achieve these objectives the FSC collates and analyses food security information, designs collective action plans that represent the views of communities and incorporates partners, local actors, systems and structures for promoting an adequate field level programme cycle integration and collective accountability.
The FSC strategy 2020-2022 is based on reaching the four following results: 1) Improve food security information for decision making; 2) Pro-actively steer the coordination of the food security response; 3) Improve monitoring and evaluation systems to enhance program quality; and 4) Scale-up advocacy, communication and resource mobilization to support the FSC strategy.
How is CVA used in the Food Security sector?
CVA has been used in this sector since the 1990s, it is the sector where it has been most largely used.
Where markets and financial sector are functioning, evidence has proved that cash transfers can be an effective path to achieve food security outcomes. Depending on the context, FSC partners choose the transfer modality, or combination of modalities, to achieve the best outcomes.
Cash and vouchers are provided to empower people with choice to address their essential needs in local markets, while also helping to boost these markets. Findings show that vulnerable households which are empowered to decide about their lives make choices that improve their food security and wellbeing. For instance, in Lebanon, 91 percent of families receiving multipurpose cash in 2018 prioritized food in their household expenditure, followed by rent and medical fees.
Cash transfers have multiplier effects on the local economy. By enabling people to purchase food and other items locally, cash can help strengthen local markets, encourage smallholders to be more productive and build national capacities.In Bangladesh, almost all the people who receive multi-purpose cash grant spend a part of the grant on livelihood activities (poultry, seeds and tools, rental of a rickshaw, etc.)
The FSC cash and market working group has been up and running since 2013. It systematically analyzes, compiles and maps the existing cash transfer tools, mechanisms and good practices in the food security sector within varying contexts and facilitates capacity building at global and country level. It shares knowledge and experience with cash and market groups of other clusters. In 2017, a briefing package was developed for FSC coordinators on cash and voucher assistance.
The FSC has published the Cash For Work guideline in 2019 (https://fscluster.org/cash-and-markets-working-group/document/cash-work-cfw-guidance-note). The Working Group is currently working on “Evidences and Good Practices on the use of Multi-Purpose Cash in Food Security Sector”. The Cash and Market Working Group organises regular webinars: CVA and Risks, CVA and protection mainstreaming, etc.
What are the main challenges for the scale-up of quality CVA in the Food Security sector?
The FSC is the sector which has been the most involved in cash and voucher activities, often taking the lead in coordination and designing standards. The scale-up has been quite impressive over the past years.
However, the FSC could benefit from additional support and resources to link with the cash community such as the CALP Network and to develop tools, best practices or lesson learned which could benefit the FSC team and members. For example, the FSC could develop Guidance on MPC, best practices regarding cash transfer modalities and others.