Section 3.2a: Sphere Minimum Standard: Participation in Food Aid

This is an excerpt from the Sphere Project Handbook - an international effort to establish minimum standards for humanitarian assistance.

Food Aid Analysis Standard 3: Participation

The disaster-affected population has the opportunity to participate in the design and implementation of the assistance programme.

Key Indicators

  • Women and men from the disaster-affected population are consulted, and are involved in decision-making that relates to needs assessment, programme design and implementation.
  • Women and men from the disaster-affected population receive information about the assistance programme, and have the opportunity to comment back to the assistance agency about the programme.


  • Equity: the participation of disaster-affected people in decision-making, programme design and implementation helps to ensure that programmes are equitable and effective. Special effort should be made to ensure the participation of women and balanced male and female representation within the assistance programme. Participation in the food aid programme may also serve to reinforce people's sense of dignity and worth in times of crisis. It generates a sense of community and ownership which can help ensure the safety and security of those who are receiving assistance, as well as those who are responsible for its implementation.
  • People can be involved in the food aid programme in different ways: for example through provision of paid and volunteer labour for handling and distribution; through participation on distribution committees; through involvement in decision-making on ration levels and selection criteria; by disseminating information about food distributions; by supplying household lists; by assisting in crowd control and security.
  • Coordination committees: coordination committees help ensure people's involvement in the assistance programme. Gender, age, ethnicity and socio-economic status should be taken into consideration in order to ensure that committees adequately represent the affected population. Acknowledged political leaders, female and male community leaders and religious leaders should also be represented. The roles and functions of a coordination committee should be agreed upon when it is set up.
  • Seeking views and opinions: participation can also be achieved through regular polling and discussions. This can take place during distribution, through home visits or when addressing individual concerns. Group discussions with members of the affected community can yield useful information on cultural beliefs and practices.

From the Sphere Project Handbook 2000