SAA's response to the impacts of COVID-19 on food systems in Africa
Coronavirus is continuing its spread across the world, with more than six million confirmed cases. More than 370,000 people have lost their lives, and though Africa has had less than 160,000 cases so far, World Health Organization (WHO) experts warn the continent will have a prolonged outbreak over several years.
In mid-April this year, SAA conducted a rapid assessment to measure the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on food systems across the agricultural value chain, and to establish the measures which can be put in place to mitigate the impact. The survey was conducted virtually – using telephone and email interviews – with a range of stakeholders, including farmers, input and output traders, Agricultural governmental officials, and university lecturers and students in our intervention countries: Ethiopia, Nigeria, Mali and Uganda (mainly); and Tanzania, Malawi, Benin, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Ghana.
Results showed the pandemic had significantly affected the agriculture sector, with different stakeholders being affected in different ways. The ban on public transport and social gatherings, for example, reduced farmers’ access to agriculture inputs (e.g. seed, agro-chemicals and fertilizer), financial services, farm labor availability as well as output markets. Additionally, the pandemic has disrupted the provision of agricultural extension services, leaving farmers with limited access to capacity building. Students at agricultural colleges and universities have had to deal with disrupted studies, exacerbated by the poor ICT infrastructures to enable effective online learning. Overall, survey results suggested that should the pandemic continue, these limitations are expected to affect crop production and productivity, which could jeopardize food security in Africa.
SAA will continue to ‘take it to the farmer’, and to work hard to mitigate the impact of the pandemic through short, medium and long-term interventions, using innovative technology – such as e-extension platforms – to strengthen the resilience of the African food system, in response to COVID-19.