Request for proposal for: Research services to understand what anticipatory action looks like in a protracted food crisis? – Kenya


Terms of Reference: What does Anticipatory Action look like in a protracted food crisis?

Conflict, climate change and COVID-19 are driving an unprecedented increase in the number of people who require humanitarian assistance. In 2023, it’s estimated that one in 23 people will be in need of humanitarian assistance throughout the world.1 Delayed action in response to early warning and predictive analysis leads to increased vulnerability and protection risks to children and increases the overall population in need of humanitarian assistance.

In 2011, there was an urgent call for radical change in the humanitarian system following the failure of the international community to respond in line with early warning information to prevent famine. Since 2011, there have been a number of promising developments in policy and practice in response to multi-country / multi-hazard risks including the Global El Nino crisis (2015-2016) and the Four Famines crisis (2017) including investment in forecasting linked to national early warning systems to new financing modalities to facilitate anticipatory action including pooled funds, crisis modifiers and unrestricted financing.

Anticipatory action is essential to both prepare for the increased risks and extreme weather events predicted under climate change and conflict-related crises and ensure that – in the context of a global financial crisis – that funding is reaching those most in need at the right time. However, while there have been clear advancements in knowledge around AA for rapid onset crises and single season droughts, implementing AA in protracted food security crises presents specific operational and ethical challenges.

Context in Somalia and Kenya The Horn of Africa is currently experiencing the most severe and extended drought in recent history, following four consecutive failed rainy seasons in parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, a climatic event not seen in at least 40 years. A fifth consecutive season is currently unrolling, with climatic forecasts suggesting the possibility of a sixth failed season in 2023. As a result, over 47 million people are currently facing IPC Phase 3 conditions or worse; this includes 7.2 million people who are facing IPC Phase 4 conditions and 361,000 facing IPC Phase 5 catastrophic conditions. This number is likely to rise above 50 million during the January-March 2023 dry season. And even when environmental conditions improve, longer-term resilience has been eroded, lowering thresholds for coping with future shocks and ongoing stresses.

In July 2021, Save the Children began implementing a Community Jameel funded project in Kenya and Somalia that seeks to generate robust evidence of the impact of Anticipatory Action for food crises through a randomized controlled trial (RCT), in order to influence the humanitarian and development sectors to adopt AA as a systematic approach to predictable food crises. Since the project launched the ongoing and worsening food security crisis in the region has raised critical questions on how to implement anticipatory action in the midst of an on-going crises rather than before the crisis begins.

The project sits under the Jameel Observatory for Food Security Early Action (, of which Save the Children is a partner along with the International Livestock Research Initiative (ILRI), the Abdul Latif Poverty Action Lab (J-Pal), the Community Jameel Foundation, and led by University of Edinburgh. The aim of the Jameel Observatory is to support efforts to mitigate worsening food and nutrition security caused by climatic shocks in the East Africa Region. One in 23 people will require humanitarian relief in 2023, UN warns | Humanitarian response | The Guardian

  • Purpose of the research services

Save the Children has made significant advancements in critical components of the project including expanding the availability of Household Economy Analysis (HEA) and Cost-of-the-Diet data to be used for early warning, triggering and informing AA; and supporting government early warning and response systems to make them more anticipatory. Both components have involved strong engagement of and collaboration with government actors.

However, several challenges around implementing AA and a RCT in an ongoing crisis have prevented the execution of both. These challenges have been linked to a question around how to define AA in an ongoing crisis including its objective, type of activities, target group, etc. Moreover, it has been difficult to know where AA meets adaptation; what are the limitations of supporting existing livelihoods through AA versus transitioning to longer-term adaptation approaches? Also, what are the most relevant measures of resilience to monitor in this setting to gauge the impact of AA?

The purpose of this research is to enhance our understanding of what AA looks like in a protracted food crisis.

The research should generate a detailed understanding of the objective of AA in such a context; what actions can be taken and if/how livelihoods can be protected; who should be targeted; if/how AA differs from humanitarian response in such a context; and what metrics or indicators should be monitored to determine if objectives are being met. Specific sub-questions should be developed by the consultant in collaboration with Save the Children colleagues, but may include: how have communities and families adapted at this point in the crisis? What resources do they still have available? What type and timing of support would allow them to protect these resources in a continuing crisis? How could they have acted differently if they had had support to protect livelihoods before the last poor season? Etc.

The research will use qualitative methods that will rely heavily on consultations with communities and families who are directly impacted by the ongoing crisis in either or both Kenya and Somalia in one to two locations in both or one country. Details will be decided together with Save the Children teams before any contract is signed. It should consider what families want and need in such a context, and when they need it.

The research will provide contributions to two critical areas:

  1. To the ongoing Community Jameel funded project and the wider Jameel Observatory. The research will inform the design of anticipatory actions, to be implemented as a pilot in subsequent seasons following this qualitative research (as appropriate, i.e. when/if triggered). It should take into account the possibility of a continued drought, as well as possible flooding as current long-term forecasts are currently projecting for the Oct-Nov-Dec 2023 season. The research should also inform the indicators to measure the effectiveness of the actions taken to mitigate the impact of an ongoing food crisis. The actions and indicators will inform the design of a future RCT; and
  2. To ongoing discussions and debates within the wider humanitarian and development communities around AA in protracted food crises. It presents an opportunity to fill a critical information gap, based on communities and families’ knowledge and opinions, that could ultimately improve the way the sector approaches and responds to protracted food crises. Climate change will likely result in an increased frequency of prolonged food crises, meaning that this research will remain relevant for years to come.

The deliverables of the services will be:

Phase 1: Detailed research protocol including:

  • Type and number of consultations to be undertaken (interviews, FGDs, etc)
  • Clarification/ refinement of research questions and outline of key questions for interviews and/or FGDs (this can be done in collaboration of Save the Children staff who have expertise in working with children)
  • Informed consent and participant information forms

Phase 2: Data collection: through key informant or group discussions, in the agreed upon areas in both or either Kenya and/ or Somalia (number of locations and countries to be defined before the contract is signed).

Phase 3: Validation of findings: discuss and review key findings with Save the Children project stakeholders.

Phase 4: Detailed report that covers:

  • Background and objectives of the research
  • Methodology and limitations
  • Findings
  • Recommendations – these should include concrete actions that can inform the project going ahead as well as reflections for the wider aid sector. If the study covers both Kenya and Somalia, recommendations should be provided for each country, if appropriate. Recommendations should include actions that can be taken as well as indicators that can be used to measure the impact of the actions as part of a future RCT.
  • Location

Research will be undertaken in one or two locations in Kenya and/or Somalia. Locations will be in pastoral or agro-pastoral livelihood zones and align with Save the Children project areas

The research should begin as soon as is possible and will continue until around April or May (or as feasible, depending on IRB approvals). A final report should be submitted in May with the exact date to be agreed with Save the Children colleagues.

  • Required Consultant Experience

The services require the consultant to have:

  • • In-depth knowledge of pastoralist livelihood systems in Kenya and/or Somalia
  • • Very strong qualitative research skills and experience
  • • Proven research experience and prior publications
  • • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • • A strong understanding of debates around anticipatory action, particularly those for protracted food security crises (desired)
  • • In-depth knowledge of the humanitarian and development systems in Kenya and/or Somalia (desired)

How to apply

y please email with the RFP title as subject heading to request a full RFP including bidder’s pack.

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