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the EMMA Toolkit : Analysing market systems in emergencies

In nearly every country facing a crisis, rumours abound of relief programmes that distort local markets, especially food markets, discouraging local farmers, displacing traders and prolonging dependence on outside assistance. Many agencies have started using cash-based initiatives, but still worry about the harm these programmes might cause. All of these problems reflect the difficulty of adequately understanding the market-systems that people affected by emergencies depend upon for their income, livelihoods and food, or to meet basic needs. Until recently, market analysis was seen as a specialist and time-consuming activity which could not be a high priority in emergency situations. The Emergency Market Mapping and Analysis Toolkit – EMMA – changes that.

Development of the Toolkit

The greatest obstacle to adequate economic analysis is time: in an emergency, urgent needs have to be addressed and there is no time for complex or lengthy exercises. In 2007, Oxfam and the International Rescue Committee joined forces to address the problem, with the support of Practical Action. The result of this collaboration was EMMA.

The EMMA began after a desk review in 2007 to determine if tools were already available. This confirmed that, in order to get the right balance between economic rigour and speed and ease of use, it would be necessary to create something that was largely original. After a development phase, the Toolkit was piloted in four countries: Kenya in April 2008 (after election violence), Myanmar in July 2008 (following Cyclone Nargis), Haiti in October 2008 (after hurricanes Gustav, Hanna and Ike) and Pakistan in February 2009 (following large-scale IDP movements). After each pilot the Toolkit was substantially revised. It was completed in August, and will be published in January 2010. The EMMA development team has also designed an induction course and training materials. Initial induction courses have involved 15 organisations. Future training events will be offered in January and February 2010, in Jordan and Indonesia respectively, with more planned throughout 2010.

Added value: a view from IRC in Pakistan

During the Pakistan pilot, the EMMA Toolkit was used to assess the effect of the IDP crisis on local markets in Peshawar, to inform programming with market-oriented data. Based on the EMMA findings, the IRC developed a livelihood project that sought to reduce household expenditure on firewood, which was later funded by OFDA.

According to the IRC team, EMMA added value to the analysis and design of the livelihood project in several ways:

  • EMMA includes simple tools that non-technical staff can easily use to collect relevant market information. Before being introduced to EMMA, teams had very little experience with collecting this type of economic/livelihood information from the field. This data presented a baseline for programming, making the project more data-driven.
  • EMMA broadens approaches to recovery work. Through the use of the market maps it helped the team to better visualise multiple points of entry, when the natural tendency is to go to the end-user/beneficiary.
  • Going through the EMMA steps requires staff to put beneficiaries within the context of a market. By not exclusively looking at the need, the team understood much more about a product or critical market, and its constraints.
  • EMMA can define market-related indicators, which can then be included in the logframe (programme strategy) and monitored using the EMMA tools.
  • When used with the household economic profile, which shows how much people spent on household items before and after the emergency, EMMA can define indicators that characterise the relationship between markets and households.
  • Humanitarian responses to crises have become more inventive and nuanced, allowing NGOs to break away from the simple dichotomy of in-kind or cash distributions. EMMA provides tools to support the development of innovative responses based on market realities.
  • The ‘income’ market exercise presented more challenges to the team as compared to ‘supply’, demanding a shift from focusing on the material needs of IDPs to how best to support them to generate income. The development team finally selected interventions that would both address a need and also lead to savings and therefore income generation. The inter-relationship between markets, supply and income guided the intervention selection process.

What it is

EMMA was designed with the idea that, even in the immediate aftermath of an emergency, there is sufficient time to develop a ‘good enough’ understanding of market-systems. EMMA tools are adaptable, rough-and-ready, speed-oriented processes designed to reflect the information constraints and urgency of decision-making required in the first few weeks of a sudden-onset emergency. EMMA enables emergency practitioners with no economic background to do a quick analysis of the markets most critical to the emergency-affected population. Most importantly, EMMA provides outputs that have a strong visual impact, making it easy for decision-makers to quickly understand the recommendations of the analysis.

What do we mean when we talk about a ‘market-system’? In essence, a market-system is any network of producers, suppliers, processors, traders and buyers involved in producing, exchanging and consuming a particular item or service. Such networks depend to some degree on supporting infrastructure, on input providers and auxiliary services. They also operate within a particular environment determined by the laws, rules and behavioural norms of the specific situation. The market-system includes all three components.

While humanitarian practitioners often focus attention exclusively on their intended beneficiaries, those beneficiaries are invariably engaged with, and depend on, market-systems, either to supply goods or to provide income. Most importantly, the health or performance of critical market-systems can be essential to emergency response and recovery efforts.

Why do market-systems matter in emergencies?

Ensuring survival

May provide target groups with food, essential household items, fuel and other forms of relief to meet basic needs

Protecting livelihoods

May provide target groups with jobs and opportunities for wage labour, or link them to buyers for their produce

by Karri Goeldner Byrne, International Rescue Committee, and Mike Albu, Practical Action

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