The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) is a USAID-funded information system designed to identify problems in the food supply system that potentially lead to famine or other food-insecure conditions in sub-Saharan Africa, Afghanistan, Central America, and Haiti. The primary objective of agricultural monitoring for FEWS NET is early identification of food production anomalies in regions of subsistence agriculture and pastoralism. These shocks are interpreted with knowledge of livelihood systems and markets to assess their impacts on vulnerable populations, estimate the number of food insecure people, and project the period of need.
FEWS NET is an activity of the USAID Office of Food for Peace (FFP). In 2008, FFP provided 2.6 million metric tons of emergency food aid worth over $2.6 billion to 56 million people in 49 countries on four continents. FEWS NET provides vital early identification of populations facing food insecurity, in support of FFP decision making. Subsistence crops and pastoralism characterize the livelihoods of the top twenty countries monitored, and they are typically water-limited agricultural systems. Consequently, FEWS NET agricultural monitoring is focused on early detection of food production anomalies due to drought.
FEWS NET is a multi-disciplinary project that collects, analyzes, and distributes regional, national, and sub-national information to decision makers about potential or current famine or other climate hazard-, or socio-economic-related situations, allowing them to authorize timely measures to prevent food-insecure conditions in these nations. It uses a suite of communications and decision support products to help decision makers act to mitigate food insecurity. These products include monthly food security updates for 25 countries, regular food security outlooks, and alerts, as well as briefings and support to contingency and response planning efforts. More in-depth studies in areas such as livelihoods and markets provide additional information to support analysis as well as program and policy development.
FEWS NET also focuses its efforts on strengthening early warning and food security networks. Activities in this area include developing capacity, building and strengthening networks, developing policy-useful information, and building consensus around food security problems and solutions.
FEWS NET partners, including USGS, NOAA, and NASA, have developed a custom monitoring capability that makes extensive use of remote sensing due to sparse station networks in the countries of concern. Regions and countries with FEWS NET representatives include sub-Saharan Africa (Angola, Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somalia, (southern) Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe), Central America (Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua), Afghanistan, and Haiti.