Food Security and Rural Situation Assessing

Our director has led or participated in over 60 Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions internationally for the United Nations FAO/WFP (Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Food Programme). Since 2006, AA International Ltd has been contracted directly to deliver these services.

As well carrying out Crop and Food Supply Assessments, we can deliver the following services to International Agencies, NGOs and Governments:

  • Conduct regional / national and local market situation reviews;
  • Provide training in how to plan, organise and conduct Crop and Food Supply Assessments;
  • Produce manuals (Pictorial Evaluation Tools) for rapid practical assessment of livestock condition and crop yield.

    More information about our
    Food Security work is provided below:

Pictorial Evaluation Tool Apps

Pictorial Evaluation Tool PET Crops TM & PET Livestock TM

PET Crops TM and PET Livestock TM   are being modernised into a digital format to be used on android smart-phones and tablets.  The apps incorporate crop yield and livestock body condition data collection using the tried and tested PET photo- indicators; data compilation and analysis leading to real-time reporting by field officers.  

Crop and livestock assessors may now:-

·         Record crop yields and livestock body condition scores, noted during driving and walking transects, on their android smart phones and tablets.

·         Send the data via Wi-Fi to a virtual server.

·         Obtain weighted averages of crop yields and livestock body condition scores on their laptops in real time.

Actions to date:

A compilation of East African PET manuals with photo-indicators for a wide range of crop yields for fourteen, regionally-grown, field crops; and, five established body condition scores (1-5) for all the pastoralist livestock species has been adapted for use with “GRASP” - the open-source WFP Survey app and database.

GRASP has been suitably enhanced to a) incorporate PET photo-indicators and PET transect formats; and, b) to store, sort and analyse data collected using  PET Crops TM and PET Livestock TM  apps options on  independent local servers or via a virtual central server according to end-user choice.

 The PET-apps have been field-tested in two districts in Karamoja, where PET training was completed with UKAID funding in 2015.


1.       The apps have been shown to work in the field under rigorous testing conditions.

2.       The results obtained immediately (in real-time) from the server are noted to be equivalent (no significant difference) to those results obtained from the hard –copy approach using the two PET manuals (each one being 100 pages long) with written data input, hand transfer of data and post-event analyses.

3.       The great advantages of the apps are that there are a) no cumbersome materials; b) no data transfer; c) immediate drawdown of weighted averages; and)  the ability to generate reports from the server in real-time.


4.       The apps also have the potential, for more crops to be added without having to reprint manuals. 



[1] PETs are manuals of photo-indicators supporting  well-tried, hard-copy methodologies for rapid appraisal, prepared and used in UN FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Missions in a series of countries, beginning in  Ethiopia (2003) and encompassing  South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan and Karamoja, Uganda (2015). Derived, designed and produced by Dr W. Ian Robinson ex-CAZS Director (1993-2005) and now Director of AA International Ltd, Aberystwyth, Wales, UK (2005-onwards). With the exception of the latest PETs (2014-15) prepared for FAO entirely with UKAID funds, the production of previous PETs has been funded by mostly by EC, with support from the  World Bank and the Qatar Fund. 

Transplanting of Cereals

Gardeners will know the benefits of transplanting seedlings from nursery beds into their final growing positions, a long practiced technique for many vegetable species. This is also traditional practice among some cereal farmers around Lake Chad, as well as Nigeria and Vietnam. Its application in the production of sorghum and pearl millet in some semi-arid regions of Africa has been shown to be beneficial in overcoming the effects of unpredictable rainfall patterns.

Small-scale subsistence farmers practicing rain-fed farming in some semi-arid regions experience poor yields and regularly face total crop loss due to erratic and unreliable rainfall. The first rains are often insufficient to support early growth, resulting in patchy stands or complete failure. Re-sowing is frequently necessary and the foreshortened season may not be long enough for the crop to reach maturity.

In a series of trials conducted by CAZS-NR between 2001 and 2005 in Zimbabwe and Ghana, the possibility of transplanting sorghum and pearl millet at the start of the rains, from pre-season nurseries, to reduce the growing period in the field and improve crop stands, was tested as a method to combat such problems. Results from over 200 on-farm trials over four seasons show that transplanting sorghum and pearl millet can reduce the time to maturity in the field by up to two weeks and increase grain yield significantly.

In 2007, the introduction of the technique under the FAO Emergency Unit Project, with technical assistance from AA International Ltd, in Anseba and Gash-Barka regions in Eritrea, produced similar results. Transplanting sorghum and pearl millet offers a workable and sustainable option for smallholder farmers with erratic  and unreliable rainfall, now increasingly exacerbated by climate-change, to improve production with no external inputs and by doing so, improve their own and possibly their neighbours' food security. 

You can download a booklet (free of charge) describing the successful application of the technique in Ghana and Zimbabwe; 'Transplanting Sorghum and Millet - a Key to Risk Managementhere.

Technical Guidelines for Transplanting Sorghum and Pearl Millet' can be downloaded here.

Situation Reviews

AA International Ltd can conduct rural and market situation reviews, producing reliable information necessary assist rural development and food security planning and interventions.

Examples include the Regional Market Surveys conducted by AA International Ltd for Central Asia and the Caucasus in 2008, for the UN World Food Programme Regional Office, Cairo. Field visits were made to individual states in these regions and detailed discussions held with some 100 key participants in the agricultural sector. Reviews of reports and statistics were carried out and recommendations made accordingly. You can download these reports here: Market Situation Review Caucasus and Market Situation Review Central Asia.

In 2012, AA International Ltd also led a study into the factors affecting the commercialisation of Ethiopian farms for UNDP.

Training and Workshops

Staff and Associates of AA International Ltd have extensive experience in the organisation of technical workshops and lesson learning reviews in developing situations.

We have organised and delivered several FAO CFSAM Workshops, training local agents in Crop and Food Supply Assessment techniques prior to missions in Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda and Somaliland. The use of the Pictorial Evaluation Tools that we have developed is incorporated into this training. Ian has also contributed to several other FAO CFSAM Workshops in Mozambique, Angola, Kosovo, Afghanistan and ASERECA countries (Uganda).

Livestock Body Condition Assessments
AA International Ltd specialists consider that the dearth of production information regarding livestock production is the biggest handicap to its development, emphasising a need for simple recording. Too little investment in understanding the existing performance of the large domestic animals and the indigenous forages they graze and browse, has led to decades of irrelevant research and development programmes and, consequently, very little progress in the performance of ruminants has been made in most low-income developing countries.
AA International Ltd has developed methods of visually categorising livestock body condition for farm recording purposes - see our Livestock Pictorial Evaluation Tools page. Based on the experience gained by our director in Mauritania, Eritrea, India, South Africa and Ethiopia (working with the World Bank, European Commission, British Council and DCI, Ireland), we can also develop simple and appropriate livestock recording schemes, ensuring participatory development of agro-pastoral and pastoral herds and flocks. 

AA International Ltd can:
Develop Livestock Pictorial Evaluation Tools for body condition scoring and assessment;
Custom-design a recording scheme to suit levels of literary and frequency of contact;
Provide an analytical service for farmer/herder returns;
Prepare custom-built livestock development programmes, based on real facts for farmers/herders.

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AA International News

APPS of PET Crops and PET Livestock

PET Crops TM and PET Livestock TM   are being modernized into a digital format to be used on android smart-phones and tablets.  The apps incorporate crop yield and livestock body condition data collection using the tried and tested PET photo- indicators; data compilation and analysis leading to real-time reporting by field officers.  

Climate Change Busting:Transplanting
CLIMATE-CHANGE DESERVES NEW IDEAS........... Transplanting sorghum and millet seedlings  is an old idea with a new and relevant application if you do it from pre-rains nurseries.
Environmental Management
AA International is accredited to Environmental Management Standard BS8555: Phase 2. The Standard enables us to monitor our environmental impact and identify ways to control and improve our environmental performance.

CFSAM South Sudan 2016
FAO/WFP have released the Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission for South Sudan, Special Report, April 2016AA International Ltd provided the consultant agronomist to this mission, which was conducted during November and December 2015.

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