Why COVID-19-impacted World Food Day 2020 is the time to prioritize investments in food systems (By Wambui Gichuri)
COVID-19 lockdowns and decreases in incomes have generated a double demand shock – increasing the number of poor and vulnerable people, particularly in Africa’s cities
Acting Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, African Development Bank
World Food Day 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization, but celebrations this 16 October are muted due to the coronavirus.
COVID-19’s multi-sectoral impact should have governments and development institutions rethink investments in food security, healthy diets, and building infrastructure that supports how food is grown, processed, traded, delivered, sold and consumed.
COVID-19 lockdowns and decreases in incomes have generated a double demand shock – increasing the number of poor and vulnerable people, particularly in Africa’s cities.
To meet today’s needs, the African continent relies on more than $75 billion worth of food imports to supplement its food supply. From cereals like wheat, maize and rice, to dairy products and other animal products – Africa imports essential food in significant amounts and this deficit has quadrupled in the last 15 years.
But we are planting the seeds to reverse this trend.
In line with the World Food Day theme, “Grow. Nourish. Sustain. Together,” the African Development Bank’s Feed Africa strategy is working with African governments and the private sector to grow more – and more nutritious – food.
Feed Africa aims to build robust food systems. For example, our Feed Africa Response to COVID-19, or FAREC (https://bit.ly/2T8wude), is supporting our regional member countries with a range of investment options designed to stabilize food systems and minimize disruptions to the delivery and accessibility of nutritious food in the short term, as well as build more sustainable, healthy diet-oriented food systems in the longer term.
The Bank’s Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation, or TAAT (https://bit.ly/347dBh7), is working with developers of food production technologies, seed companies, farmer groups, regional economic commissions and researchers to more efficiently deliver certified seeds, breeds and young fish (fingerlings) to 40 million farmers.
To date, TAAT-funded programs have produced 65,000 metric tonnes of heat-tolerant, certified wheat seeds in Ethiopia that resulted in higher-producing, higher-quality wheat harvests in areas that were once inhospitable to the grain. Similarly, TAAT has helped produce 27,000 metric tonnes of certified drought-tolerant maize seed for distribution to farmers in Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.
Virtually all African nations have been affected by COVID-19. During this pandemic, we must emphasize advocacy and economic sector work related to agriculture, nutrition and building back food systems.
The reality is that resources are being directed to emergency COVID-19 responses. However, we can maintain the momentum around nutrition and food systems awareness by leveraging the lessons learned from the coronavirus era to conduct analytical work and knowledge sharing. This is also an opportune time to carry out policy research to implement bolder programs as we “build back better” from COVID-19.
Post pandemic, resilience is key. Our priorities to build food systems that deliver safe, affordable, nutritious food and diets include: support to the capacity of smallholder farmers and agro-input providers to enhance productivity; promotion of enterprise development and digital technology; and building up key quality infrastructure that focuses on public-private partnerships financing and support for government-led connectivity programs.
To achieve these goals, we also need closer involvement and engagement with key stakeholders who we are celebrating as Food Heroes on this World Food Day. Food Heroes are important players and influencers in the agricultural value chain, from farm to fork. Let’s recognize just a few:
Food Heroes are the Food and Agricultural Organization, with whom the Bank recently hosted a series of online sessions on Digitalization to Transform Agriculture in Africa and Respond to COVID-19 (https://bit.ly/2T3zrvZ).
Food Heroes are the World Food Program of the United Nations, which won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2020 for its leadership in supporting provision of food and nutrition to the most vulnerable around the world.
Food Heroes are Bank President and 2017 World Food Prize laureate (https://bit.ly/3dyT3Bu) Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, who in his re-election inauguration speech committed to building on the Bank’s accomplishments in agriculture to help feed Africa, to process more of what we grow and to generate jobs.
Food Heroes are the African agripreneurs submitting their agribusiness start-up plans to our AgriPitch competition (https://bit.ly/2T70Cpr), being held in November. The competition offers business development training and a combined $120,000 in investment fund prizes.
Food Heroes are our newly named SME Champions (https://bit.ly/35xTaLN), part of a growing number of small and medium enterprises dominating Africa’s domestic food supply chains, largely in processing, wholesale, logistics and retail.
And Food Heroes are Bank staff and consultants who develop and implement projects and policies to light up and power Africa, industrialize Africa, integrate Africa, improve the quality of life for the people of Africa and feed Africa. They are making the continent’s food systems stronger, sustainable and more resilient.
Wambui Gichuri is Acting Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, African Development Bank.
She also holds the position of Director for Water Development and Sanitation at the Bank.
News RendezvousDespite COVID-19 pandemic, Africa still a prime investment destination, participants affirm at African Development Bank (AfDB) webinar for Asian audiences.The webinar noted that the policy recommendations of the African Economic Outlook Supplement could be regarded as important opportunities for investmentsParticipants at a webinar to present the African Development Bank’s (www.AfDB.org) African Economic Outlook Supplement (https://bit.ly/33pjJjy) to Asian audiences on Monday have endorsed the report as critical for post-COVID-19 Africa.The supplement revises the growth projections and outlook for Africa for 2020 and 2021 and highlights the impact of COVID–19 on Africa’s socio-economic landscape. It recommends policy responses to safely reopen economies and accelerate growth recovery.“Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, investment opportunities still abound in Africa,” said Tetsushi Sonobe, the Dean of the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI). “Global markets are shifting to South Asia and Africa. In a sense, Africa is not very far for Asian investors who might be interested in the investment opportunities on the continent.”Around 350 participants attended the virtual event, which was co-hosted by the Asia External Representation Office of the African Development Bank. The audience included government officials, representatives from the African diplomatic corps in Asia, development professionals, representatives of civil society, academics and think tanks, students, journalists, and the general publicSonobe observed that Africa’s GDP growth is projected to quickly rebound in 2021 following steady growth before COVID-19.Sonobe identified some of the potential opportunities highlighted in the African Economic Outlook Supplement: “A large market with a very talented youthful population; a three-trillion-dollar market opportunity through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreements; greater manufacturing potential as low-cost manufacturing opportunities continue to move to Africa; improved business environment; and improving macroeconomic governance.”Khaled Sherif, the African Development Bank’s Vice President for Regional Development, Integration and Business Delivery said despite the pandemic affecting all African economies, its magnitude will vary considerably from country to country, depending on the economic characteristics and initial conditions of the countries.“This urges us to avoid the one-size-fits-all solution to address the effects of COVID-19 in Africa. For that, the AEO Supplement notes that the continent will need the support and expertise of all. This is an opportunity to enrich the debate on what appropriate measures are needed to support African countries to recover from the pandemic, drawing particularly from Asian experience,” Sherif said.The webinar noted that the policy recommendations of the African Economic Outlook Supplement could be regarded as important opportunities for investments. Participants also observed that although Africa is human-resource-rich, Africa will need to work on closing its infrastructure gap – an issue the African Development Bank has made one of its top priorities.The African Economic Outlook Supplement underlines the urgency to build the resilience of Africa’s healthcare systems and economies to improve countries’ preparedness for future shocks. This means that African countries will need to rethink their current development strategies and priorities, which have clearly shown their limitations.“Policymakers must seize the new and real opportunities for participation in global value chains, particularly with Asia and within Africa and build the infrastructure needed to encourage large-scale teleworking, e-health, and distance learning architectures for a rapid, resilient, and sustainable recovery in a post-COVID-19 digital world,” said Chuku Chuku, Officer in Charge of the Bank’s Macroeconomic Policy, Debt Sustainability and Forecasting Division.“The pandemic notwithstanding, Africa is open to business and we look forward to working with our Asian partners.”Released annually since 2003, the African Economic Outlook provides compelling up-to-date evidence and analytics to inform and support African decision-makers.
I welcome you all to the National Briefing by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 for Monday, 14th September, 2020.
Friday, 11th September marked six months since the WHO used the term ‘pandemic’ to characterize the multiple outbreaks of COVID-19 reported around the world on 11th March 2020. We all recall that the organization had already declared the outbreak a ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern’ on 30th January, which is the highest level of alarm under international health law.
Over the past eight months since the world first learned about this virus, scientists, health workers, leaders and communities have learned a lot about how to manage it.
There are tests to identify it, we have an understanding of how it affects people of different ages, a range of symptoms have been identified, and we know how to care for patients with currently available medicines and equipment.
What the world still awaits is the arrival of an effective vaccine. The PTF updated you last week about the progress made with candidate vaccines and the phases of the trials.
We also assured you that Nigeria will not be left out when eventually access is needed for a safe and effective vaccine certified by global public health authorities.
Given this timeline, however, we do not expect vaccines to be available for countries till the second half of 2021. What this means is that we need to, more than ever before, adhere to the prescribed NPIs and diligently avoid contracting the virus.
A careful study of the numbers coming out of Africa will reveal that there is a flattening of the curve in the African region. There has been a weekly decline in the number of new COVID-19 cases reported since the 20th July. Fatalities are also on a downward trend. More than one million people have recovered. While this is a welcome development, as we’ve seen from other regions of the world that cases can decline only to start rising again.
The WHO has informed that it is working in collaboration with the Africa CDC to launch a network of laboratories dedicated to genetic sequencing so as to better understand the evolution of the pandemic and how SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, is spreading.
Over time, the PTF has been sounding the alarm bell of increasing evidence that Nigerians and indeed Africans living with non-communicable diseases such as hypertension and diabetes are more likely to suffer severe cases of COVID-19 and die.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reaffirmed the importance of everyone having access to quality health care that they can afford.
Reports have however shown that diagnosis and treatment for chronic conditions are among the most frequently disrupted health services globally. A rapid survey by WHO revealed that 41 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have reported disruptions to such services.
It is of great concern to find that just when people with hypertension and other chronic conditions need support the most, many are being left out in the cold.
The PTF therefore urges the various medical facilities not to neglect patients with other conditions on account of COVID-19.
Nigeria continues to progressively witness declining confirmed cases of COVID-19 with a record low number of 79 cases on Sunday, September 13, 2020. While this suggests that we are winning this war, the reality is that we need to improve on our commitment to eliminate the virus completely by abiding with the protocols so that we can return to a semblance of what was our normal life.
In a very modest way, therefore, we could say that our National Response, under the guidance of Mr. President, is achieving impressive results and this has been commended by our development partners. The PTF wishes to use this opportunity to also thank our development partners as their support has contributed in no small measures to the successes so far recorded and we count on their continued support as we progress in tackling this pandemic.
One critical element we must not loose sight of is the fact that our cautious approach has tremendously helped in our containment efforts. Therefore, we should avoid complacency at all cost. Our focus should go beyond flattening the curve and ridding our land of this virus just as we did with the polio virus.
Similarly, the contribution of our health workers has no doubt contributed to our gains. In this regard, the PTF wishes to appreciate the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) for calling off their strike action. The PTF, however, views the recent declaration of industrial action by the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) as rather unfortunate and capable of reducing our gains and endangering more loss of lives. We, therefore, call on JOHESU to stand up to be counted at this critical moment because a continuation of the strike could jeopardize the small gains made in the fight against the virus and the efforts to transform our health systems.
The Hon. Minister of Labour & Employment has assured that every effort is being made to resolve all issues and have JOHESU call its members back to work.
The PTF, therefore appreciates Mr. President for keeping our land borders closed because those are potential seeding points for importing the virus into Nigeria. More so, as ECOWAS Champion of the COVID-19 response, Mr. President should adopt all practical means of containing the virus within the sub-continent of West Africa.
The PTF has received with encouragement, the recent United Nations General Assembly omnibus resolution seeking for a comprehensive and coordinated global response to the coronavirus pandemic which further amplifies the significance of Mr. President’s role in the West African Region.
The PTF is aware that a number of sub-nationals have announced the re-opening of schools from this week, while others have developed a phased plan for such re-opening. I wish to re-iterate the need for more vigilance in adhering to protocols appropriately developed with the guidance of experts.
The fear of a likely spike and/or resurgence should always put us on our toes. Always remember that a number of countries including Israel have announced new stringent measures. These are warning signs for us in Nigeria and Africa.
Before I close this remark, I am compelled to remind Nigerians, to always wear a face mask or face covering and do so properly. Similarly, I remind you to avoid crowded places and mass gatherings, stay at home if going out is unnecessary and maintain hygienic practices.
I now call on the Honourable Minister of Health, DG NCDC and the National Coordinator to update you on developments.
I thank you all for your kind attention.
The minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, has flagged-off the distribution of assorted grains as palliative to about fifty nine thousand, three hundred and thirty eight (59, 338) vulnerable households in Adamawa.
The minister explained that the Palliatives from the national grain reserve was meant as a response to cushion the adverse economic effect of lockdown on residents as government works hard to curb the spread of Coronavirus in the state.
Farouq made the remarks, Wednesday, while flagging off the distribution of the palliatives in Yola, Adamawa state.
Sadiya Farouq said, “I am also here on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari to present to you, assorted grains from the National Food Reserve, approved as palliative for distribution to vulnerable persons affected by the recent restriction of movement to curtail the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
“We all know that the outbreak of the pandemic has brought about changes and challenges to our normal ways of living.
“Most obvious, is the vulnerable persons that depend largely on others for their daily survival.
“Such persons are the aged, people living with disabilities and persons of concerns, that deserve support in terms of basic necessities including foods.”
Giving details of the items for distribution, the minister said, “The food items brought to the state are, Maize 1,366.52 Metric tonnes (46 trailer load), Millet 172.19 Metric tonnes (6 trailer load) and Sorghum 1,428.17 Metric tonnes (48 trailer load)
“These food items are meant to cater for 59,338 households.”
She added that, “It is important to put on record that Adamawa State has benefitted from the Emergency Agricultural Intervention Programme which was approved by President MuhammaduBuhari in 2019.
“It commenced with verification of affected farmers and was immediately followed by the distribution of farm inputs.
“The inputs already distributed comprised of seeds and seedlings, agrochemicals and knapsack sprayers.
“A total of 10,142 farmers have been verified to benefit from the fertilizer for having been affected by the flood and 11, 400 affected by conflicts.
“Modified liquid fertilizer will be supplied for the distribution in place of solid NPK which was suspended in 2019 based on directive of the National Security Adviser.”
The minister also used the occasion to draw the attention of the state government on the need to put measures on ground to curb the possible effect of the impending flood.
She said, “May I draw the attention of Your Excellency to the 2020 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction and the Annual Flood Outlook.
“The Annual Flood Outlook informed that 102 Local Government Areas, in 28 States fall within the highly probable risk areas, while 275 Local Government Areas in the 36 states of the Federation including the Federal Capital Territory fall within the moderately probable flood risk areas.
“The remaining 397 Local Government Areas fall within the low probable flood risks areas.
“Unfortunately, the predicted floods have started to occur in many parts of the country, therefore, it is imperative to activate all plans and measures against the prediction as the season moves towards the peak.
“This year, the highly probable flood risk areas in Adamawa State are Yola North, Yola South and Lamurde Local Government Areas, while the probable flood risk areas are Numan, Guyuk and Demsa Local Government Areas.
“In view of the foregoing, I wish to request the State Government to kindly take proactive and necessary mitigative measures in addressing these issues, namely, directing the State Emergency Management Agency, frontline Local Government authorities and other response agencies to put in place preparedness actions.
“Carrying out public enlightenment campaigns, targeting vulnerable communities to undertake mitigation actions and prepare for evacuation to safe ground, identifying high grounds for possible Internally Displaced Persons camps, to shelter evacuated communities.
“Desilting river channels and canals, removing all refuse and weeds from water channels, drainages, and all avenues for river run offs so as to allow free flow of flood waters.
“Organizing State Humanitarian Coordination Forum meetings to prepare all stakeholders for mitigation and response, prepositioning relief materials for prompt response after the flood, the Federal Government through the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development has taken note of this year’s prediction and has been working with stakeholders to mitigate the possible effect of the flooding.”
While welcoming the minister, the Adamawa state governor, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, has called on the federal government to facilitate the completion abandoned federal government projects in the state.
Fintiri drew the attention of the minister to the abandoned Chochi dam which he said would go a long way in taming the adverse affect of the flood.
He promised to put every possible response of the government in place to provide succour for residents of the state who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and for those that might be hard hit by the impending flood.
The minster later visited the North East Humanitarian Hub where she commended the efforts of the hub in mobilising young Nigerians to deal with the effects of poverty and economic challenges in the region through creative development of solutions.
The minister while at the hub chaired over the virtual graduation of over 800 women representing the Hub’s first cohorts of Women Codeprenuer program funded by the ministry of Humanitarian Affairs.
While welcoming the minister the Innovation Hub outlined some of its successes over the years including the launching of a 3D printing lab and internship program, the provision of prosthetic limbs to ten beneficiaries including a nine year old Mohammed and DSP Adamu, a service police officer, the organising of free women coding and entrepreneurship program for hundred women in Adamawa state in the first instance and to about six thousand beneficiaries across the the north east states in 2020, among several other numerous outstanding achievements.