COVID 19 Update: AfDB unveils roadmap to resilient and sustainable food systems

AFRICA – The African Development Bank has unveiled a strategic roadmap of projects and programmes to assist African countries in tackling the nutrition and food security aspects of the COVID-19 crisis through a raft of immediate and longer-term measures.

The multilateral development finance institution has unveiled the Feed Africa Response to COVID-19 (FAREC), which the Bank says will pave the way for a comprehensive intervention to build resilience, sustainability and regional self-sufficiency in Africa’s food systems and help farmers cope with coronavirus-related disruptions to the agricultural value chain.

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“The Bank’s response to support the agriculture sector lays out specific measures aimed at addressing challenges faced by African countries across all aspects of the agriculture sector. Africa cannot afford a food crisis in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Jennifer Blanke, the Bank’s Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development.

A report released alongside the roadmap recommends immediate, short- and medium-term solutions for the agriculture sector including; support of food delivery for the most vulnerable; stabilization of food prices; optimization of food processing; extension support services, and provision of key agricultural inputs through smart subsidies.

According to the report, the Bank will prioritize policy support to enhance movement of inputs and food, to establish food security task forces in countries, and to strengthen the capacity of regional organisations to monitor multi-country initiatives. 

The pandemic has worsened volatility in the price of food staples and complicated food system actors’ investment decision-making. The confluence of impacts risks deepening food insecurity and malnutrition.

World Bank’s recent (April 2020) report on the impact of Covid-19 in sub-Saharan Africa, projected that economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa will decline to between -2.1% to -5.1% in 2020; the first recession in the region in 25 years.

According to the World Bank report, agricultural production is likely to contract between 2.6% – 7% with food imports declining substantially by up to 25%.

World Food Programme signals one of the biggest impacts will be on food security, seen through limited access to food, restrictions on labour and imports and price fluctuations. To highlight, over 40 million West Africans face food shortages in the coming months.

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FAREC forms one part of the Bank’s COVID-19 Response Facility (CRF) of up to US$10 billion. The CRF is the Bank’s primary channel to deploy financial and technical measures to cushion African economies and livelihoods against the health, social and economic impacts of the pandemic.

In May, the Bank’s African Development Institute, its focal point for capacity development, hosted a seminar that examined the pandemic’s impacts on Africa’s agri-food systems and offered policy recommendations to make them more resilient and efficient.

“Ensuring food security for Africans in all situations is at the core of the Bank’s Feed Africa Strategy. Our institution will coordinate its efforts with different stakeholders across the continent to effectively answer the needs of regional member countries,” said Dr. Martin Fregene, Director of the Bank’s Agriculture and Agro-industry Department.

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