Ecuador is hosts the largest number of refugees in the Americas, and Colombian asylum seekers continue to flee violence in their country by crossing the Ecuadorian border, over 60% in extreme poverty and 72% with high levels of food insecurity. As a result, WFP sought to establish a highly effective method of electronic transfer system to ease issues of food access.
United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) - ItalyLead applicant
The World Food Programme is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. In emergencies, WFP gets food to where it is needed, saving the lives of victims of war, civil conflict and natural disasters. After the cause of an emergency has passed, WFP uses food to help communities rebuild their shattered lives. WFP is part of the United Nations system and is voluntarily funded.
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society - United StatesInitiative partner
In Ecuador since 2003, HIAS offers psychological support to refugees and asylum seekers, manages an information center for them, assists WFP in providing food assistance, offers trainings in several subjects and participates in humanitarian assistance programmes. Country: USA; works in several countries including Ecuador
Carchi Autonomous Decentralized Provincial Government - EcuadorInitiative partner
The Prefecto (elected in local voting), is in charge of the development of the Carchi province in the social, economic and productive aspects, including highways and water systems; the promotion of education, employment, housing, security and citizen participation. Provincial strategic planning aims to guarantee progress, quality of life and sustainable resources for the population of Carchi, the province bordering with Colombia in the Ecuadorian Andes region. Its vision is to lead provincial development with its own resources and to assume decentralization of strategic areas. The Carchi provincial government works with WFP in school feeding efforts, in initiatives for the food and nutrition security of Colombian refugee population and Ecuadorian population from the host communities, and in environment protection activities.
The new electronic transfer and tracking system is a cost-efficient method to promote food and nutrition security and nutrition education in Ecuador.
After conducting a study with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), WFP found that electronic vouchers are the most effective method of food assistance for urban and peri-urban contexts in Ecuador. The modality system includes electronic cards that WFP programme participants use to purchase nutritious, quality products at partner sales points. Small-scale farmers, most of them women, provide locally grown products to sales points. The newly developed Electronic Transfer and Tracking System facilitates participants’ access to nutritious foods via an assigned quota, either pre-balanced food baskets or individually chosen foods from a list of nutritious products, depending on the project. Both types of purchase are conditioned to attendance to nutrition trainings. The System facilitates the management of electronic cards and records purchases made by WFP programme participants. The architecture of this application includes a user-friendly interface and utilizing barcode technology.
Ecuador hosts the largest number of refugees in the Americas, and Colombian asylum seekers continue to flee violence in their country by crossing the Ecuadorian border, over 60% in extreme poverty and 72% with high levels of food insecurity. Additionally, 25.7% of children under 5 suffer from anaemia and 25.3 are chronically undernourished.
In order to combat these rates of insecurity and undernourishment, a WFP-IFPRI 2011-2012 study found that vouchers conditioned to the purchase of nutritious foods are more effective for dietary diversity and micronutrient consumption than other forms of food assistance.
To promote local purchases and dynamize local economies, WFP encourages small farmers to sell their products (fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy) to local shops or government stores. The process to choose these sales points includes a market study and they can even be mobile (trucks), depending on the location of vulnerable people.
To promote further localization of the project, WFP encourages small farmers to sell their products (fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy) to local shops or government stores. The process to choose these sales points includes a market study and they can even be mobile (trucks), depending on the location of vulnerable people.
The development of the electronic system was a technological success that allowed WFP to evolve in voucher distribution towards remotely rechargeable electronic cards, eliminating the need for monthly distributions. Furthermore, the cards serve as effective methods of promoting nutrition education for beneficiaries as one of the requirements for recharging the cards includes buying only nutritious products and attending training sessions on nutrition and gender empowerment. Moreover, the technology allowed for rapid dissemination, as well as greater accountability as data collected by users is digitally stored. The system also allows for continuous monitoring the types and amounts of food purchased, as well as the transition in dietary habits.
WFP programme participants benefiting from the use of electronic cards are Colombian families arriving in Ecuador in difficult socio-economic conditions; vulnerable Ecuadorian families from the host communities, as well as vulnerable families with children from 6 to 36 months in risk of anaemia and malnutrition. Targeting criteria includes women-headed households. Since in Ecuador obesity and undernutrition are usually present in the same family, providing access to nutritious foods is not enough. To increase knowledge and improve diets, nutrition education provided by WFP and partners as a condition for recharging, and information panels in sales points guide purchase choices by programme participants. By targeting families with young children for assistance in the CLOSAN project, WFP seeks to tackle the issue of child malnutrition.
WFP teams in the areas of: Information Technologies and Telecommunication; Monitoring and Evaluation; Finance; Programme; Operations organized the main logistics of the project. A majority of the efforts were facilitated by collaborations between WFP sub-offices in the provinces of Carchi, Esmeraldas and Sucumbios with aid from the Carchi Provincial Government technical team and the HIAS technical team.
The System works at 100 percent of its capacity in online mode; when offline, staff needs to complete certain conditions for information management in order to avoid information overlap.
To stay updated, the system needs to be periodically connected to Internet. at times access to a stable internet connection was challenging to acquire.
The assistance modality facilitated by the Electronic Transfer and Tracking Systems seeks, in conjunction with local governments, to source the majority of the produce (fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy) from local farmers. This reduces the environmental impact of field trucks which would normally have to make frequent trips to supply outsourced food for the regions. Instead, beneficiaries can purchase local food directly with farm vendors by using their electronic cards. Remote recharging process also promotes sustainability as cards do not need to be replaced for each participant.
The system is being used by WFP and partners in seven Ecuadorian provinces where WFP provides food assistance. As the System has already been developed, the transferability of this project is simple and can be tailored to food distribution systems worldwide. The barcode and voucher system is also extremely effective in terms of ensuring persons purchase nutritious foods, while also promoting food nutrition education in beneficiaries. Moreover, this project structure is amenable to local diets and cultural preferences, as beneficiaries deal directly with local farmers rather than foreign foods distributors
Internal meetings during system development; installation process in points of sales and WFP offices in six provinces, accompanied by training sessions directed to WFP, local government and partner NGO technical teams; WFP good practice compilation (Spanish and English) exchange of experiences among WFP areas and between WFP and partners.