COVID-19 pandemic threatens to reverse gains made on Sustainable Development Goal 1 and 2


A new study analyzing bean production and food security across 11 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, found COVID-19 pandemic-related restrictions to significantly impact bean production. Border controls and high transport costs have led to drops in production of the key food security crop, threatening to reverse gains made in achieving Sustainable Development Goals 1 and 2, towards no poverty and zero hunger, respectively.

Even before the pandemic, 55% of the world’s hungry people and 70% of the world’s poorest people lived in Africa, the researchers said. In addition, food systems across Africa were already affected by the adverse impacts of climate change, disease and pests, such as the worst desert locust outbreak in 70 years impacting food security in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and other countries in eastern Africa.

“The food system is already highly inefficient. What we’ve seen is that measures taken to control the virus led to wider food security restrictions and disruptions, exacerbating those already-existing insecurities,” said author Eileen Nchanji, a gender researcher at The Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (The Alliance). “Pay cuts, job losses, and high food prices due to reduced food imports and closure of informal markets all disrupted food supplies, with poorer communities especially affected.”

The data, collected between March and April 2020, shows that most households in Eastern Africa ate only twice during the pandemic. Uganda was most affected, with all surveyed farmers eating only once per day during the pandemic. The research also found a 34% decrease in access to labor attributed to the fear of getting the disease, the high cost of public transportation, and social distancing measures. Farmers also noted difficulties in accessing finance, farm inputs, seed and extension information.

The research highlights that 36%, 20%, and 3% of farmers in Burundi, Uganda, and Kenya respectively lost income during the pandemic, with knock-on impacts on food security. The low number in Kenya is due to the fact that crops were already planted, and farmers were relying on maize and other crops stored from the previous harvest for food and to generate income, while in Uganda and Burundi, planting was ongoing, and so more money was spent on inputs, seed and food, as prices and costs of transport increased.

The authors called for an immediate transformation of food systems in all the sub-regions. Governments should invest directly in input supply systems and short food supply chains through digital access, mobile-based payments, credit and food delivery, they added.

> Source: EurekAlert!