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Prevent Covid-19 from becoming food crisis in Africa, says FAO

25 September 20203 min reading

UN says Covid-19 and other pressures on food supply chains are threat to food security and nutrition. Official stressed the importance of “building back better” through transformed food systems that focus on better production and better nutrition.

There is urgent need for collaboration to provide people with nutritious food and to prevent the Covid-19 crisis from becoming a food crisis in Africa, FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu has said.

Qu spoke in Kigali, Rwanda, before a forum of leaders and international institutions at the African Green Revolution Forum that was held from September 8-11. He alluded to the enormous challenges for ensuring food security in the region and called for urgent co-operation to transform agri-food systems so people can access safe and nutritious food.

In his address, Qu noted that Africa had the highest prevalence of undernourishment which is more than twice the global average, and the fastest growth in the number of hungry people compared to other regions.

“Covid-19 and other pressures on food supply chains, such as fall armyworm and desert locust are threatening food security, nutrition, and economic prospects in Africa in unprecedented ways,” Qu said.  The director-general emphasised the need to create jobs, improve income opportunities and social protection while calling for greater innovation and use of technologies and digitisation of agriculture.

He stressed the importance of “building back better” through transformed food systems that focus on better production and better nutrition, while driving more research and development into fruits and vegetables, highlighting the potential of traditional African leafy green vegetables and indigenous foods.

The Food and Agriculture Organization has established a Covid-19 response and recovery programme to support countries and help to prevent a food emergency arising from the pandemic. “To overcome these enormous challenges, we must work together in new ways,” Qu said.

FAO is a partner in AGRF 2020, along with 22 other organisations including the African Development Bank, the African Union, Bayer, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CGIAR, the Ikea Foundation, the Tony Blair Institute, UK Aid and US Aid.

Rwanda’s Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources Gerardine Mukeshimana told the symposium that Africa was “lagging behind” as other continents had managed to use science and technology to produce enough food and to produce it cheaply.

World Bank's Regional Director for Sustainable Development Simeon Ehui said there were economic benefits in investing in nutrition but for many Africans nutritious food is currently unaffordable.

“The cost of food needed to come down and there was a need for greater efficiency in moving food from producers to consumers.  I call on governments to be front and centre,”  Martin Fregene, the Director for Agriculture and Agro-Industry at the African Development Bank, said.

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