Pre-Crisis Market Assessment- A Prerequisite For Disaster Preparedness And Timely Response

In Nepal, disaster risk management (DRM), till recently, used to be very response centric, with little attention to other aspects of disaster risk reduction and management.

June 17, 2021, 10:23 a.m.

Both natural calamity and man-made disasters severely impact the functioning of the market and its marketplaces. This causes a severe negative impact on people's lives and livelihoods. Undertaking a Pre-Crisis Market Assessment (PCMA) as part of the preparedness has a significant advantage in comparison to simply providing a benchmark on the functionality of several critical market systems with reference to ‘post shock’ times. By understanding the capacity and constraints of the critical market system, the pre-crisis market mapping and analysis will not only enhance preparedness and feed into contingency planning but will also help in designing and developing a response plan, that could mitigate the effects of a crisis, through protecting and/or strengthening certain parts of a market system.

The PCMA is an approach to conduct market assessments prior to emergencies in order to anticipate how markets will respond after a shock occurs. It builds on earlier experiments with market baseline mapping and analysis conducted in pre-crisis settings. However, PCMA does not replace existing market analysis tools; rather it should provide a guide to applying those tools in pre-crisis contexts, particularly in contexts that are prone to recurring humanitarian crises. Pre-Crisis Market Assessment is an overarching process that guides relevant professionals and stakeholders to know the details of the market, marketplaces, market system, access and availability of goods and services at the municipality/community level. However, PCMA is not a market analysis tool in itself but it helps the above groups to use the available market assessment and analysis tools. It covers the existing income & expenditure market systems that are already part of the people’s livelihood and basic needs, but not new market opportunities. Till now, PCMA-conducted exercises have solely used EMMA, RAM and few other available tools. It is assumed that the MAG, the Oxfam 48-hour tool and the WFP trader survey can be used in pre-crisis settings as well, but the body of knowledge surrounding the latter tools is still fairly limited. Hence, Market Assessment should be part of a preparedness plan of each municipality/township, which significantly assists the local level authority to improve readiness to respond to the future crisis, if they occur. In general, the components of PCMA can be summarized as below.

In Nepal, disaster risk management (DRM), till recently, used to be very response-centric, with little attention to other aspects of disaster risk reduction and management. With the introduction of the Sendai Framework for DRR (2015-30), followed by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRM) Act 2017, the focus is slowly moving to all cycles of disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM). Besides, the Local Government (LG) Operation Act 2018, has now made local governments fully responsible to champion all cycles of DRRM with extra priority to preparedness and mitigation for achieving resilient local communities and sustainable local development.

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PCMA is comparatively a recent phenomenon in Nepal and this concept is yet to be consolidated and institutionalized at the local level. The capacity of municipalities needs to be enhanced to internalize and champion this concept in a local context. However, there are very few related initiatives taken in this direction by different organizations at different points in time. These initiatives are a good beginning and hence provide some practical knowledge and lessons about the application of this concept in the field.

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In addition, the review of post-assessment results also provides necessary leads to better understand the contribution of PCMA in strengthening disaster preparedness and post-disaster response in any municipality. With the legitimate backing of new legislation and a strong push from the national authorities and Development Partners (DPs), the trend of conducting PCMA in local municipalities should be increased. There are few tools developed by different international agencies, which need to be thoroughly examined and tailored to our local context and requirements before they are successfully applied and up-scaled in the field.

Conducting PCMA by local municipalities would also be in line with the recent evolution in the country, particularly in the sector of Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM). Both global and national DRRM related protocols clearly emphasize the need for extra attention and investment in improved preparedness and coordinated post-disaster response. Nepal is also following this direction and therefore investment in preparedness-focused activities such as PCMA, disaster awareness, knowledge building, contingency planning, Early Warning System, logistic and equipment support, risk reduction measures, stockpiling and others are gradually growing but still not enough.

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As learned from the past few experiences, the role of PCMA and follow-up action as per the recommendations provided by the assessment is always very helpful in strengthening preparedness and securing sustained market response in case of any crisis in the area/region. In addition, it is also important to ensure that the development of market areas follows the principle of safe construction and resilience building to ensure that the market functions (or bounces back quicker) in full capacity with limited distortion and supports its population in case of any disaster. In the case of Nepal, where the market size of the municipalities, in general, is comparatively smaller (with limited stocks and storage capacity), it is important that available outlets (producers, wholesalers, retailers) are appropriately tuned to post-disaster needs and requirements of the local communities. Some market-level improvements (locational and physical characters) may also be considered as part of the PCMA recommendations.

The experience of COVID-19 is very apparent. A similar initiative is already considered by many global agencies (UN-DRR, UNDP, UN-Habitat, and others) and also by the national and local governments around the globe. Besides many other new agendas, the overstretched supply-chain and market capacity are frequently reported by many local municipalities of the country, as markets are key to the business and economic prosperity of any municipality.

The knowledge and insights gained from the PCMA exercise undertaken by few municipalities need to be documented and shared in the public domain. This will prove as a valuable effort in furthering the agenda of PCMA and how it is supportive to improved preparedness and coordinated response in case of any disaster in town or in the region. The successful implementation of PCM assessment results will also help to avoid artificial price hikes/monopolies and black marketing of essential commodities in a situation of crisis and emergency. In addition, the result promotes informed decisions to choose the best options (provision of cash, voucher, or in-kind material) for supporting disaster-affected populations during the crisis. Besides, the participatory approach followed to implement PCMA, will make the interventions more targeted, collaborative and leading to improved preparedness and development of a resilient market. At the same time, it is also important that the new interventions should internalize the new form of governance system and thus connect to all relevant stakeholders with special priority to local governments. This study will not only build the local capacity but will also help municipalities in developing strong partnership and collaboration with the private sector (producer, trader, wholesaler, retailer and support service providers) for making market-focused decisions and investments, risk-informed and, their development inclusive, sustainable, and resilient. It is therefore important that the PCMA initiative at the municipality level is sufficiently comprehensive and robust.

Pre-Crisis Market Assessment will support local municipalities to have better preparedness by integrating best practices, standard norms and principles, guidelines and evaluations, all emphasizing the importance of including markets in emergency situations and response analysis. While this approach has become more widely accepted by international organizations in recent years, however, the market analysis in practice is primarily confined to a post-emergency environment. Responses to slow and rapid onset disasters, either manmade or because of natural hazards, can all be rapidly accelerated and improved, through greater awareness of markets before, during and after disasters strike. To improve timeliness and effectiveness of the emergency response, to intervene earlier to protect livelihoods, and to reduce the impact of market shocks; greater attention, effort, and guidance is needed on incorporating market analysis in pre-emergency contingency planning, preparedness, disaster risk reduction (DRR), and early warning initiatives, ultimately contributing to resilience building.

In view of the above discussions, it is not difficult to conclude that PCMA is an effective tool that has a profound impact on strengthening preparedness and ensuring timely and effective response. The size (population-wise) of our municipalities is generally small and therefore the corresponding markets catering to the municipalities are also small. In this situation, it is even more important to conduct PCMA to better understand the market dynamics and prepare the market to better serve the local communities at the time of distress. In this process, both structural and non-structural measures would be considered elevating the market status and build the confidence of business communities. Improved market performance not only boosts the timely response, but it also protects the need of marginalized and vulnerable communities of the society. The improved market will support both access to basic needs and livelihoods so that the local populations could potentially better withstand shocks and after-shocks. In a nutshell, PCMA may address the long-term or ‘chronic’ nature of vulnerability and poverty at the local level. The local government therefore should prioritize this agenda and implement it collaboratively to boost disaster preparedness and effective response.

Dr. Karna is a well-trained Urban Governance and Disaster Risk Reduction Specialist, presently working as a freelance consultant for UN and other international agencies both in Nepal and abroad. He can be reached at sumankarna@hotmail.com.

Er. Rajendra Kumar Lal is a Market Assessment and Operation Specialist, presently working as a freelance consultant. He has long experience of working in multiple countries in the UN and other international organizations. He can be reached at rajendra.kayastha@gmail.com

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