Certainly, farmers are paying a huge price for the COVID crisis! A lot has changed, and, in quick successions for the smallholder farmers in the past few months. Unfortunately, these farmers have limited capabilities to rapidly make adjustments to adapt to these changes.
With the COVID containment measures; farmers already face challenges accessing markets to sell their produce or buy critical inputs; prices have crushed for food stuffs in villages yet the towns struggle with higher food prices – due to logistical problems. How this will affect the supply of the major food staples in the long-term is unknown! How the situation will affect the emergency food needs for the most vulnerable populations is still unknown! And how the lost incomes will affect the farmers’ livelihoods and household economies is yet to be established. We need to consider the entire food supply chain involving the farmers, farm inputs, transportation, the consumers, processing, and storage, and see how we can insulate it by means compatible with the COVID containment guidelines. Otherwise we risk slipping into catastrophic situations – including higher levels of hunger, malnutrition, increased vulnerability to diseases, and possibly shuttered livelihoods.
It is probably too early to predict the long-term food impacts of the coronavirus crisis with precision; however, it’s time to ponder how prepared are farmers to anticipate and mitigate these impacts? As we know, they’re already overstretched by the impacts of climate change, environmental degradation, conflicts, and pests and diseases. Many households were already struggling with food scarcity and malnutrition even before the COVID-19 crisis. My considered view is that they cannot afford any further disruptions. Moreover, this is a group with no formal social protection systems in place. As such, we need to intervene with risk reduction measures to protect the most vulnerable and mitigate the impacts across the food system.
A woman constructing a food granary