The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic was cause for global concern, but the effects of the virus may be particularly acute for Africa’s food systems. African countries were among the least prepared to deal with a pandemic, and many faced significant food insecurity even in normal times.
For all of Africa combined, instances of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in East Africa accounted for around 13% of all infections there. Even though the immunization effort has begun in the majority of nations in the subregion, it proceeds slowly. To this point, around 25 vaccine doses per one hundred individuals have been given out in Ethiopia, which is the East African nation that has been hit the worst by the outbreak. In Kenya, there were around 33 doses per 100 people.
The combination of COVID-19’s impact on trade, human resources, and production could devastate African agriculture and aggravate hunger and poverty. To mitigate these risks, it is imperative that we understand how COVID-19 has affected Africa’s food systems and take steps to bolster them.
How Has Covid-19 Affected Africa’s Food Systems?
The pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing trends and challenges in Africa’s food systems, including:
– Trade Disruptions
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to disruptions in global food supply chains, including in Africa. For example, the closure of borders has disrupted the importation of food, and the export of African agricultural products has declined. In some cases, the export ban on Chinese goods has also slowed the flow of goods and services to Africa. As a result, food insecurity has increased in some regions and has worsened existing food insecurity levels.
– Human Resources Challenges
In many parts of Africa, the pandemic has impacted the availability of food and nutrition-related workers. For example, the Ministry of Health in Uganda reports that more than 50,000 healthcare workers are out of work due to COVID-19.
The same report reveals that this is about 20% of the total number of health workers in the country. As these workers return to work, they will need to be trained and retrained to provide adequate care for people with COVID-19 and other conditions, further depleting the available workforce.
COVID-19 has also had an impact on food production in Africa. The lockdown measures implemented to prevent the spread of the virus have made it difficult for farmers to access inputs and markets.
While some have begun to resume some agricultural activities, much of the continent remains locked down. As the world awaits the full development of a vaccine or treatment, there will likely be more disruption in the food supply.
What Steps Can Be Taken to Bolster Africa’s Food Systems?
In light of the challenges posed by COVID-19, we must take steps to recover Africa’s food systems. Some potential measures include:
– Improving Agroecology
Agroecology is an approach to farming that seeks to strengthen sustainable livelihoods and protect natural resources. In Africa, agroecological practices such as livestock husbandry, crop diversification, and cover crops are essential for conserving soil and water resources while improving soil quality.
Agroecology can also help alleviate farmers’ burden by increasing efficiency and sustainability. This practice can help mitigate the effect of COVID-19 on Africa’s food systems.
– Strengthening Food Security Interventions
Food security interventions such as agricultural and livestock development, social protection, and rural infrastructure are essential components of any successful mitigation strategy. These efforts should target the most vulnerable groups, such as children and women, and help strengthen the resilience of our agricultural systems.
– Fostering Innovation and Entrepreneurship
A strong foundation of innovative technologies will help overcome the food system’s weaknesses. However, innovative solutions must also be integrated into existing programs. For example, if food systems become more efficient and productive, they can create jobs and generate revenue to finance other development projects.