ACP regional responses
The Eastern Caribbean Trading Agriculture and Development Organisation (ECTAD CARIBBEAN) is a nongovernmental small farmer-based rural development organisation operating in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Based on dialogue and discussions with its key small farmer leaders and coordinators about how COVID-19 is affection their incomes and future plans, ECTAD CARIBBEAN has drafted an Action Plan.
- With the average age of our farmers 60+ we have to ensure safety and protection as a first priority.
- In the short, to medium plan, we are mobilising resources from friends, donors, government and traditional private sector to support safety and protective gears for farmers, and supplies of planting materials, seeds, fertilizers, organic manure, tools and equipment, marketing equipment and materials.
- In the medium to long term, we seek to support and strengthen implementation of our key projects to strengthen climate-smart production and marketing of healthy nutritious foods for local, regional and overseas markets by small farmers/small farm families; and encourage the general population in household backyard production of healthy fruits and vegetables.
- With young people at home, encourage their participation in agriculture and the agri value chain.
- We are also lobbying our governments to provide safety nets for our most vulnerable small farm families.
ECTAD CARIBBEAN is monitoring food prices and markets, working with farmers to make realistic production decisions to link into the circumstances of the new emerging market trends, and calling on governments and traditional private sectors, such as banks, to invest with farmers to help build a more sustainable food security and a market system, especially in such crisis times. ECTAD is also monitoring the circumstances of border closure supply chain interruption, and the interruption of shipping and trade.
The President of AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa), Dr Agnes Kalibata, has released a statement on the organization’s commitment to smallholder farmers in light of the COVID-19 pandemic (AGRA Harvest, 10 April). Africa’s smallholders produce 80% of Africa’s food.
In the face of national restrictions, AGRA draws attention to the danger that the pandemic will lead to a food security crisis in African countries. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Africa’s GDP growth is predicted to drop from 3.2% to 1.8%. A food crisis will affect poor people the most, in both rural and urban areas.
Dr Kalibata highlights good responses from across Africa and beyond, with some countries exempting agriculture and related activities from lockdown, and developing guidelines to keep agricultural value chains alive while following public health guidelines. Examples include the Government of Ethiopia, which is finding ways to get inputs to farmers at lower prices than usual. Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture has secured inputs, seed and fertilizer for farmers through the government flagship Planting for Food and Jobs programme, and is supporting rice millers with working capital so they can continue purchasing rice from farmers. In Kenya, the Government will stock up cereals and pulses to mitigate food security challenges, and village-based advisors have come up with creative ways of delivering government-subsided inputs to farmers while educating them on COVID-19 safety guidelines.
AGRA suggests that “Our collective duty now is to ensure that efforts like these are scaled up across the continent”. This will mean working with governments to ensure village-based agrodealers’ shops stay open so that farmers can access affordable inputs, and expanding the role of village-based advisors, equipping both agrodealers and advisors with safety equipment and information, and stepping up the use of digital tools, mobile phones and radio.
See AGRA’s position paper on COVID-19 here.
AgriCord has issued an urgent call for increased international support to farmers’ organisations in response to the COVID-19 crisis, stressing the importance of including farmers’ and cooperative organizations in policy dialogues at country and regional levels in low- and middle-income countries.
In the context of an exodus in Africa from cities to rural areas, and food imports to cities falling because of border closures, food prices are increasing. This could give a boost to local agricultural businesses and their cooperatives (production, processing), if only the enabling conditions were there. But there are significant problems with the input chains while half of Africa is in its planting season; blocked markets; and disturbed labour markets. There is a need for simple, low-cost innovations to support the logistics of transport, collection and distribution of produce and inputs. Farmers’ organisations play a crucial role in communication and organisation of food systems at the very local level. There is also a need for guarantee schemes to micro-finance institutions and local agricultural banks so that they can continue to give input and trade credits to local cooperatives, farmers’ organisations and local SMEs.
Nairobi-based Selina Wamucii Ltd, an agricultural company and social enterprise that markets food and agricultural produce from African agricultural cooperatives and farmers’ groups across 54 countries, has published a report on the impact of coronavirus on Africa’s agriculture. John Oroko, CEO of Selina Wamucii, told Modern Ghana (14 April) that “The COVID-19 pandemic has unfortunately come at a time when our farmers depend largely on exports to markets outside the continent and also before the commencement of trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) […] Now, unlike no other time, we can see a demonstration of why the success of the AfCFTA will be directly linked to securing the livelihoods of African farmers in the future.”
Morocco tops the list of African countries whose agricultural exports face the highest risk, largely due to the country’s over-reliance on the European market. Kenya’s agricultural exports also face a great risk, mainly due to the over-reliance on fresh cut flower exports, the bulk of which end up in the European Union. While agricultural production in South Africa has not been adversely affected by the pandemic, logistics and border restrictions are likely to affect the country’s agricultural exports. South Africa has closed 35 land borders and two seaports, and has prohibited crew changes in all of its ports amidst a looming container shortage.
Other African countries expected to experience significant drops in the fresh fruit and vegetable exports are, in order of projected severity: Tunisia, Senegal, Cameroon, Uganda, Mauritania, Tanzania and Egypt.