African Agric ministers brainstorm covid-19 impact on food security, nutrition

May 20, 2020, 12:29 PM | Article By: Ismaila Sonko

Ministers for Agriculture of the African Union (AU) Member States and their key partners held a virtual meeting 16 April 2020 on the impact of covid-19 on Food Security and Nutrition in Africa.

The Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of The Gambia welcomes the initiative. The meeting, chaired by Minister Thoko Didiza of South Africa took place with the support of the African Union Commission (AUC)’s Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

It was attended by 40 ministers for Agriculture of the African Union Member States and development partners such as the European Union, the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), the World Bank, African Development Bank (ADB) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

 The Gambia’s Agriculture Minister, Amie Fabureh said the joint statement was intended to inform Gambian citizens about the current situation as well as relay the commitments the ministers agreed upon especially in relation to food and nutrition security in the context of the covid-19 pandemic.

“It is the wish of Agriculture Ministers with the support of the AU, FAO and development partners that actions and commitments outlined will save many lives, in a context where many of the measures put in place ways to slow down the transmission of the disease,” she explained.

The agriculture minister added that the health crisis that is affecting countries all around the world has from the beginning been viewed through a public health lens for obvious reasons. “Currently, this attention is also spreading to the economic, and food and nutrition security impacts generated by the global recession the pandemic is causing.”

According to her, there is a real concern that these impacts will further exacerbate the rates of hunger, malnutrition and poverty, especially in the rural areas. In this regard, the commitments by Ministers of Agriculture are designed to minimise disruptions to the food and agriculture systems by advocating for so many measures to be put in place.

She noted that there are measures to support the food and nutrition security for all and especially for the most vulnerable segment of our populations, with measures to contain the spread of the covid-19 pandemic while minimising food system disruptions, simultaneously.

Minister Fabureh highlighted the need for adequate safety nets, including cash, food, and other relevant social protection measures to support all vulnerable population groups. That agricultural actors and activities at all levels particularly planting and harvests, are not severely affected by the unintended consequences of the containment measures and restrictions on movement, while keeping safe the work environment of producers, traders and workers.

“As the outbreak unfolds, food and agriculture system activities are carefully monitored and assessed, and all actors are engaged and advised timely and transparently to pursue their operations,” she noted.

According to her, farmers have timely access to quality equipment and crop inputs, including seeds and planting material as well as corresponding inputs such as animal feeds and pastures by livestock farmers, including pastoralists. “Fish farmers should be supported to receive quality fish inputs to support the aquaculture industry.”

She said measures put in place will reduce food post-harvest losses and thus have more food available in the markets, citing that they are working with local leaders to ensure that downstream and upstream food and agriculture markets and the informal food sector, remain open and operate properly, while complying with health and safety guidelines.

She said addressing simultaneously, “as governments with our partners, the double burden of covid-19 and other pests such as fall army worm, desert locusts, which, together, are challenges of grave magnitude that must be kept at the heart of the urgent work programme in Africa.

She, however, guaranteed the role of national leadership in advancing the food and nutrition security agenda to achieve concrete results, through putting in place pragmatic policies and strategies.

Minister Fabureh urged people to redouble efforts to ensure food and nutrition security for all citizens during and after the covid-19 pandemic and to enable meeting Africa’s commitment to ending hunger by 2025.