Keeping Food and Agricultural Systems Alive: Analyzes and Solutions in Response to COVID-19 – World

INTRODUCTION

The COVID-19 pandemic is a public health crisis, but there are considerable risks of it turning into a food crisis unless governments take urgent action to protect the most vulnerable and mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on agriculture and food systems. Prior to the pandemic, the food security situation in sub-Saharan Africa was of great concern. In 2018, 239 million people went to bed hungry and 65 million people were acutely food insecure (FAO, ECA and AUC, 2020). Today, the continent is faced with a health crisis that negatively affects a stubborn food and nutritional security situation, in particular for vulnerable populations, such as small farmers, herders, artisanal fishermen, people with the means of livelihood depend on the informal economy and migrants.

COVID-19 has not only exacerbated an already fragile food security environment in sub-Saharan Africa, where chronic food crises and high levels of food insecurity exist, but has added another complex layer to other food security threats, such as climate change, crop shortages, conflict and economic downturns and downturns.

It also exacerbates other threats to food chains affecting food security, including Fall Armyworm and various Desert Locusts (desert, red, African migratory. Crop and livestock losses, reduced harvests and limited food availability on the ground. formal and informal markets.

Agriculture is one of the most important economic sectors in Africa, accounting for 23 percent of the continent’s GDP. With over 60 percent of Africa’s population living in rural areas and dependent on agrifood systems, COVID-19 poses a serious risk not only to livelihoods that depend on food supply chains and access to markets. local, regional and international, but also to household food and the nutrition of vulnerable populations. If left unchecked, the vulnerability of large numbers of households facing shocks from multiple crises at the same time could very well lead to an unprecedented increase in the number of hungry and vulnerable people in Africa. Refugees, internally displaced people and people living in conflict-affected and fragile areas are particularly at risk.

In Africa, the impact of COVID-19 on food systems is of great concern because:

• Many countries on the continent depend on imports, especially for food and agricultural inputs.
At the same time, the exports of these countries are skewed towards agricultural products (eg cocoa, coffee, tobacco). Dependence on limited agricultural exports increases the risk that the GDP of several countries will experience commodity price shocks or the risk of global demand contraction. On the other hand, when these countries’ trading partners impose export restrictions, countries lose access to necessary commodities. (Fortunately, few export restrictions have been imposed at the time of this writing.)

• Although there is a vibrant private sector, most African economies are characterized and dominated by a large informal sector, comprising up to 70 percent of the economies.

• Limited safety net programs and social protection systems cover only about 10 percent of Africa’s population. COVID-19 containment measures have exposed the inadequacies of existing social protection and safety net programs across the continent.

• The loss of income-generating opportunities and the global economic slowdown are expected to lead to an unprecedented recession in the region. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) predicts a contraction of around 2% in Africa’s GDP growth at the best of times.

Lana T. Arthur