household food security. The value added analysis and reporting that you are doing with
the data makes your use of the data unique, and of great value to decision makers.
6.3.3 Always compare changes in price and market behavior to reference values
One way that data becomes information is to put current data into the proper historical
perspective. By comparing current data to specific reference periods (e.g., last year or a
particularly or bad year) or averages provides the proper context to illustrate the current
situation and its impact on household food security.
Reporting prices in Zambia increased ten percent in February tells the reader nothing.
This sort of price increase is a normal seasonal development just before the harvest. The
necessary context would be to compare the change in price (along with the level of price)
with last year or an average of the last five years. This context would show that this rate
of change is not at all unusual.
6.3.3 So what?: Assessing the impact of unusual price patterns
In addition to putting the current data into the proper perspective, the effective analyst
always tries (to the degree possible) to what possible causes and potential impacts of the
price changes. Decision makers need to know so what? . If you can not answer that
question, you need to either do more analysis or collect more information (or clarification
about the data/information already collected) from key informants. This is especially true if
the expected impact will be negative and affect a large number of people.
A critical aspect in identifying and understanding data anomalies is the comparison of the
price data implications with other data and information, especially field reports. This is an
important FEWS concept called convergence of evidence . The idea is to see if all
available data sources are indicating the same thing. If they are, then one has more
confidence that the price signal is correct. If not, the contradiction in data has to be
The verification of unusual price behavior can be done sequentially, meaning that there are
progressively more costly (mostly time) ways to understand the situation. It is not necessary
each time there is an apparent unusual price movement that you jump in the vehicle to see
what is going on. This is unrealistic from a resources standpoint, and more importantly
often not necessary.
The sequence of verifying unusual price behavior is:
Go back to the institution that provided the to verify that the unusual price behavior
is not just the result of a data entry error or poor reporting from the field
. This is an
important service to provide to the suppliers of the data. As an active analyst, you
may problems in the MIS data collection or processing routines that need to be
corrected. If the unusual price movements reflect real economic conditions, your
feedback might draw the attention of the MIS to an interesting situation they might