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How accurate is food security early warning? Evaluation of FEWS NET accuracy in Ethiopia


Famine early warning systems are fundamental for anticipating and preventing food security crises. These systems require diverse socio-economic, climate and other environmental indicators. However, the uncertainty that is inherent in climate forecasts and other early warning data can influence the accuracy of early warning systems. Inaccurate forecasts result in ineffective preparedness and poor resource allocation. We present a replicable method to evaluate the accuracy of the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) food security projections. The analysis was carried out for Ethiopia over the period January 2011 to June 2017. The findings show high levels of accuracy in the system overall which should give decision makers a high degree of confidence in using the information provided by FEWS NET. The results indicate higher accuracy in the western parts of the country and lower accuracy in the generally food insecure northeastern regions – likely due to insufficient information and high levels of vulnerability. In addition, we found a significant decrease in accuracy during the 2015/2016 El Niño, likely linked to the heterogeneous impacts from El Niño and higher levels of forecast uncertainty. The results also show mixed forecasting accuracy in situations of transition from food security to food crises and point to geographical areas where investments in early warning data collection and analysis would likely yield valuable improvements in the performance of the system.

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This research was carried out with the support of Tetra Tech International Development Services, a leading science-based consulting firm.

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Correspondence to Richard J. Choularton.

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Both authors declared that they have no conflicts of interest.

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Choularton, R.J., Krishnamurthy, P.K. How accurate is food security early warning? Evaluation of FEWS NET accuracy in Ethiopia. Food Sec. 11, 333–344 (2019).

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  • Early warning systems
  • Food security
  • Skill∙ FEWS NET
  • Accuracy
  • Climate services