Covid-19 exposes African food fragility – MD Rockefeller Foundation

By Jimoh Babatunde

The Managing Director, Rockefeller Foundation, Mr William Asiko, yesterday, the closure of markets during the lockdowns occasioned by COVID -19 pandemic showed the fragility and lack of resilience of African urban cities in terms of the food chain.

Speaking at the second day of the ongoing 2020 virtual summit of the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Kigali, Rwanda, Asiko said Africa has real work to do to build food resilience as the COVID pandemic also exposed the fragility of the continent’s transportation.

“The challenge of maintaining social distancing in open-air markets left the government with no option but to shut them down. But that was also not tenable and we now must work to create modern market facilities,”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the importance of strengthening local agricultural production. We have enough resources in the continent to sustain all our food needs.”

Asiko calls for public-private partnerships in resolving the problem of hunger in Africa’s cities, “so policymakers should come together as we need private sector involvement.”

“The AGRF presents a good opportunity for all stakeholders in the African agricultural value chains to design food systems that are equitable, sustainable, resilient, and capable of meeting the challenges of malnutrition, poverty and climate change as well as remain responsive to emerging and unforeseen challenges – such as those posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Also speaking at the press briefing, the Managing Director, African Green Revolution Forum, AGRF, Adebisi Araba, said the flooding experienced in some part of Nigeria recently has shown that resilience is a journey.

He said Nigeria needs the right policy framework on climate, “what happened in Kebbi state where rice farms were washed away reminds me of what happened eight years ago.”

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Araba said Nigeria needs to build resilience by insuring the smallholder farmers, “ we need to ensure that we factor insurance into agriculture inputs like seeds and fertilizers.”

He added that farmers need to be connected to markets as that will give them the confidence to plant in peace.

Araba wants the youth to look at agriculture as a profitable business sector. “Agriculture is not something you do when all else has failed,” he says.

“Agribusiness is complicated, and that’s why it needs serious, business-minded people who are dedicated and intelligent to make a success of it.”

Meanwhile, experts at the Feeding the Cities: A Civic Call to Action session of the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) virtual summit described the ongoing rural-urban migration trend in Africa as a burden to cities’ resources but also remained confident that the related food shortage problems could be resolved within reason.

In Kigali, for instance, the city’s administrators have set aside 23 per cent of the land for agricultural purposes, a strategy that His Worship the Mayor Pudense Rubingisa says proved resourceful during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We want the city to be resilient, and after the pandemic, we now see the importance of a strategic plan in terms of food security,” said Hon. Rubingisa.

Still, the Mayor recognizes that the city cannot be entirely self-sufficient and that its leaders have to collaborate well with their peers from other regions that have a better capacity to produce food.

“The City of Kigali is supplied by neighbouring districts, which supplement what cannot be produced locally. We are, therefore, building more feeder roads into the city to connect to the markets that are feeding it. We are also encouraging joint partnerships bringing together different ministries and the Rwanda Development Board to plan for the City and entire country,” said Hon. Rubingisa.

A similar strategy is being implemented in Ethiopia, where the capital Addis Ababa is now re-evaluating its farming prospects in favour of increased local production.

“COVID-19 worsened the food security situation within the city and that was a turning point. The city has now started thinking about self-sufficiency especially when it comes to the production of dairy products and vegetables,” said Dr Mendefro Nigussie, who leads the Agriculture Sector Development of Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture.



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