It is imperative that Africa’s response to COVID-19 focuses heavily on Agriculture and the rural poor. Former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo and fellow African leader, Hailemariam Desalegn Boshe, former Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, share their views through article below by International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
Africa has so far escaped the worst health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the continent looks like it could be the worst hit from the economic fallout of the crisis: 80 million Africans could be pushed into extreme poverty if action is not taken. And disruptions in food systems raise the prospect of more Africans falling into hunger. Rural people, many of whom work on small-scale farms, are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of the crisis. It is therefore vital that the COVID-19 response address food security and target the rural poor.
At this time, the international development agenda is prioritizing health, economies and infrastructure. But there must also be a focus on food security, agribusiness and rural development. This is especially important on the African continent.
Agriculture contributes 65 per cent of Africa’s employment and 75 per cent of its domestic trade. However, the rich potential of agriculture as a tool to promote food security and fight poverty is at risk from the effects of COVID-19.
In March, the UN Economic Commission for Africa predicted growth in Africa would drop from 3.2 per cent to 1.8 per cent in 2020. Within the continent, lockdowns are disrupting inter-regional trade. The effect of restrictive measures on food trade is especially worrying, in particular for food-importing countries, but also because of shrinking export markets for the continent’s farmers.
Across the European Union (the largest export market for Africa’s fresh fruits and vegetables), demand has dropped for popular produce such as Kenyan avocados, South African citruses and Moroccan vegetables. Kenya has also recorded an 8.5 per cent decline for tea exports to destinations like Iran, Pakistan and UAE. Within countries, we are already seeing that interruptions to transport and distribution systems are impeding small-scale farmers from accessing essential inputs – like seeds and fertilizer – and from getting their food to markets.
African governments have defined stimulus measures to mitigate national and regional economic impacts of COVID-19. As they do, they must remember that investments in agriculture can be up to five times more poverty-reducing than investments in other sectors. Investments in rural, small-scale agriculture are particularly important for the region’s food security, for safeguarding the livelihoods of some of its most vulnerable people and for sustaining the gains in poverty alleviation and wealth creation.
Small farms everywhere traditionally make a huge contribution to global food security. Around the world, small-farm dominated systems produce 50 per cent of all food calories on 30 per cent of the world’s agricultural land. In sub-Saharan Africa, however, the role of small-scale farms is even more significant: 80 per cent of farms are small in most of these countries.
Even before the current crisis, globally more than 820 million people were going hungry daily. And the majority of the world’s poor and hungry people live in the rural areas of developing countries. In Africa, reliance on food imports, and lack of services and infrastructure to enable small-scale farmers to produce and market food, along with the shocks of climate change, have all increased the fragility of food access.
In April, the World Bank projected the pandemic would hit Africa the hardest of any region, pushing 23 million people into poverty. This raises the question of how small producers in Africa can get access to inputs and finance to grow and sell the food needed to ensure food security and support livelihoods. African leaders must be in the vanguard of funding solution.
Push Your Dreams 2020
“Push Your Dreams” is an Electronic Non-Fiction Book of inspiring and powerful educational extracts authored by Olatorera Oniru. “Push Your Dreams” has 365 pages filled with powerful sparks to help you grow fast into an influential master of business and life. Available now on Olatorera.com and on Amazon.com.
About Olatorera Consultancy (OC):
Olatorera Consultancy is a modernistic venture combining deeply-rooted knowledge on Africa’s culture and challenges plus close relationships with topmost leaders to promote development. We provide consultancy, business development and advisory services to notable companies and high net-worth individuals.