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Regional themes > Food security Last update: 2020-11-27  

Humanitarian Practice Network, Network Paper Number 47

Missing the point: an analysis of food security interventions in the Great lakes

Commissioned and published by the Humanitarian Practice Network at ODI

Simon Levine and Claire Chastre with Salomй Ntububa, Jane MacAskill, Sonya LeJeune, Yuvй Guluma, James Acidri and Andrew Kirkwood

July 2004

Posted with permission of Greg Ramm, Save the Children (UK), Pretoria office.
SARPN also acknowledges the Humanitarian Practice Network at the ODI:
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The Great Lakes region of East and Central Africa is naturally blessed: two rainy seasons a year give it great agricultural potential, lakes and rivers provide abundant fish and timber and minerals abound. Yet in the last decade it has been the scene of probably more human suffering than any other part of the world. The aid community has reacted to the many crises in the region with a multitude of interventions. This paper is about those interventions, which were aimed explicitly to improve the food security of people affected by crises: the study did not examine other interventions that may have had food security impacts, for instance health care.

The study

The study attempts to answer the following questions about food security interventions in the Great Lakes:

  • What responses have agencies and institutions in the Great Lakes used to promote food security?
  • How do these interventions compare with the constraints to food security that can be or have been identified?
  • Are there any constraints which agencies have not addressed, and if so, why?
  • Are there any institutional or structural factors which affect how organisations have responded to food insecurity, and what impact have these had on the quality of response?
The paper is based on the findings of seven case studies conducted in three countries (Uganda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)) under the direction and support of Save the Children UK. (Some of the results are also relevant to other places, for instance southern Africa or the Horn.) In each case, the study sought to analyse in detail the actual livelihood situation of people affected by specific crises, and the constraints they faced in their food security. An analysis was then done of the food security interventions that were implemented, to see how and why they were carried out, how well they were targeted, and what impact the interventions had on food security. Factors that affected responses were inferred from a variety of sources: interviews with key informants from agencies and donors; the documentation of agencies active on the ground; and the experiences of the researchers themselves in a range of organisations in the region over several years.

The seven case studies were:

  • in Burundi, the responses in 2000 to 2001 to the lengthy drought in Kirundo Province, and to the forced displacement of the civilian population of Bujumbura Rural Province from 1999 to 2001;
  • in DRC, two urban crises – the volcanic eruption in Goma in January 2002 and the ethnic war in Bunia town in 2003 – and interventions as displaced people returned home to the Masisi plateau in 1999–2003; and
  • in Uganda, the displacement in Kasese District from 1996 to 2000 caused by armed conflict, and the situation in Gulu District in 2001 to 2003, where war with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has led to the displacement of almost the entire rural population.
The case studies were chosen with three criteria in mind:

  • they should represent as well as possible the full range of crisis situations in the Great Lakes (from natural disasters to conflict, from displacement to recovery, and in urban and rural settings);
  • good information should already be available on people’s livelihoods and food security constraints, in order to minimise the amount of field work needed for the study; and
  • they should be reasonably representative of the range of interventions used in the Great Lakes region.
Work began by reviewing the literature on livelihoods and food security. Researchers visited the crisis sites and interviewed – where available – staff of institutions working in food security at the time of the crisis, including UN agencies, NGOs and donors, as well as central and local government or the de facto authority. Project documents, including assessments, proposals and impact studies, were also often shared with the researchers. The study was not designed to evaluate any particular intervention, and so there was no field research of projects. All the information about the interventions was obtained from the implementing institution itself, or occasionally from existing literature. For the Uganda case studies, existing food security information was not detailed enough, so a food security assessment was carried out using the ‘household economy’ approach.1 Otherwise, the methodology was the same.

Structure of the report

This report is structured as follows:

  • Chapter 2 presents the seven case studies. Each case identifies the constraints to food security, and discusses the main responses.
  • Chapter 3 looks at the link between the responses and the constraints, analysing the ‘criteria of appropriateness’ for each intervention to see to what extent these criteria were met. It also explores the constraints to food security that were not addressed by agencies, and discusses evidence of the impact of the interventions.
  • Chapter 4 examines how the aid effort was managed, and explores some of the causes of weaknesses in the humanitarian response.
  • Chapter 5 summarises the main conclusions and presents recommendations.

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