ITALY The United Nation’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has launched a new fund, the COVID-19 Rural Poor Stimulus Facility targeting to raise at least US$200 million.

The fund aims to support farmers and rural communities to continue growing and selling food amid the COVID-19 pandemic and economic slowdown threatening the lives and livelihoods of the world’s most vulnerable people

To mitigate the effects of the pandemic on food production, market access and rural employment, IFAD has made a US$40 million commitment to the fund and launched an urgent appeal for additional funds from Member States, foundations and the private sector.

As part of the broader UN socio-economic response framework, IFAD said that the Facility will ensure that farmers in the most vulnerable countries have timely access to inputs, information, markets and liquidity.

“We need to act now to stop this health crisis transforming into a food crisis,” said Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of IFAD.

“The fallout from COVID-19 may push rural families even deeper into poverty, hunger and desperation, which is a real threat to global prosperity and stability.

“With immediate action, we can provide rural people with the tools to adapt and ensure a quicker recovery, averting an even bigger humanitarian crisis.”

With movements restricted to contain further spread of the virus, many small-scale farmers are unable to access markets to sell produce or to buy inputs, such as seeds or fertilizer.

Closures of major transport routes and export bans have further affected food systems adversely. This has disrupted the entire production chains resulting to rise in unemployment.

IFAD estimates that about 80 percent of the world’s poorest and most food insecure people live in rural areas. Even before the outbreak, more than 820 million people were going hungry every day.

“This pandemic is threatening the gains we have made in reducing poverty over the past years. To avoid serious disruption to rural economies, it is essential to ensure agriculture, food chains, markets and trade continue to function,” said Houngbo.

IFAD hopes that these measures will help avert a larger hunger crisis – one that would have particularly harsh effects on vulnerable people in developing countries.

The fund has already garnered support from British actor, filmmaker and humanitarian Idris Elba and model and activist Sabrina Dhowre Elba.