- COLEACP and PAFO in partnership with OACPS
- EAC unveils COVID-19 Response Plan
- SectionCORAF adjusting priorities to tackle COVID-19
- Bold solutions needed for Africa: examples from Togo and Kenya
- ECLAC and FAO – effects on Latin American and Caribbean food systems
- Caribbean Export – webinars on business adaptation and continuity
COLEACP and PAFO in partnership with OACPS
The Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (OACPS) reports that it is working together with the Pan African Farmers Organisation (PAFO) and COLEACP to reduce the impact of the health crisis on the agricultural production systems and food supply in OACPS Member States. The two Intra-ACP platforms, both beneficiaries of the 11th European Development Fund (EDF), jointly managed by the European Union (EU) and the OACPS, recently signed an Addendum to their ongoing Memorandum of Understanding, which will provide community, farm and company-level adapted information and training tools relevant to preventive health and safety measures. Both platforms will also continue to provide technical assistance to farmers’ organisations in Africa. In addition, the Addendum proposes to launch a detailed study of the effective impacts of COVID-19 in the short and medium term, in order to design effective contingency measures, recovery action plans and advocate for the mobilisation of resources to implement the plans.
OACPS Secretary-General H.E. Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti commended the two platforms for their prompt response to the OACPS initiative, saying, “This pandemic has made it even clearer that we live in an inter-connected world. Now, more than ever, we need to work together to safeguard the well-being of the citizens of the OACPS and do our best to maintain production and ensure food and nutrition security for all. These are undoubtedly severe challenges, but we need to see how, through collaborative action, we can address these to benefit our Member States.”
In the Caribbean, similar initiatives are being undertaken as the region seeks to galvanise local production to meet future demands. Ministers of Agriculture and other stakeholders met in a special session of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) in late March 2020 to consider the impact the Pandemic was likely to have on food and nutrition security in the region, given the its dependence on food imports and the unprecedented closure of borders and ports.
In early April 2020, the Pacific region was lashed by a late-season Category Five cyclone, Cyclone Harold, which in addition to the havoc created in the islands affected – Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu, further reduced the region’s food security.
OACPS has noted the seriousness of the the worst desert locust outbreak in 25 years for most of the affected States (Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda). OACPS Secretary General H.E. Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti said: “At this moment, the agricultural productive capacity of our Member States is already compromised by the COVID-19 Pandemic. We are working with and through partner organisations to bolster food production along the value chains, but the current locust invasion is undeniably going to have a severe impact on crops and livelihoods and aggravate an issue that was already, in some cases, problematic.”
A formal request has been sent to the African Union Commission (AUC) to provide technical support to all actors in their efforts to develop the Desert Locust Impact Assessment Methodology and Tools. This technical support will facilitate the mapping of appropriate response structures and mechanisms to address future locust infestations in the region and in the Continent. An appeal was also made to the AUC to elaborate a strategy to be applied within the continent to both anticipate and effectively curb the spread of locust infestation.
To avert a crisis situation, the Secretariat of the OACPS, within the framework of the ACP-EU Natural Disaster Risk Management Programme, is collaborating with regional partner ICPAC, the European Union (EU) and a network of international partners to ensure that special measures are in place to help mitigate expected losses. During the next few weeks, these efforts will aim to provide support to the ongoing efforts of OACPS Members to prepare for the next surge of locusts.
EAC unveils COVID-19 Response Plan
On 27 April the East African Community (EAC) published its COVID-19 Response Plan. Among the key interventions proposed in the plan are risk communication and community engagement, which will entail strengthening sensitisation programmes and awareness creation on COVID-19. While the key interventions focus on health, they also include mitigation of the impacts of the pandemic on the vital economic and social sectors of the region, including MSMEs. Targeted actions under consideraton that specifically affect agriculture and food production include a focus area to facilitate the movement of goods and services in the region, which includes “Undertake analysis of food needs for the region and put in place mechanisms to support farmers to keep producing by giving them inputs; putting in place digital agricultural solutions to improve access points and mechanisms to distribute food to the most vulnerable families.” Other potential targeted actions in this focus area involve customs and cross-border trade, including electronic submission and handling of documentation required for customs declarations, and a focus on women cross-border traders; capacity for online training and the development of regional standards; and building the capacity of ports, shipping lines, clearing agencies and other players involved in the supply chain to forestall any breakdown and ensure future trade facilitation.
CORAF adjusting priorities to tackle COVID-19
The Regional Centre for Agricultural Research in West Africa (CORAF) is focusing its programme priorities to support smallholder farmers, seed businesses and seed cooperatives that are being increasingly hurt by COVID-19. It sees its key role as providing technical support to producers to enable them to ensure a supply of agricultural products to the population. The activities of the Research Centre focus on linking producers of quality seeds and seedlings with farmers through an updated information system on seed systems. This information will initially cover cereals (maize, rice, sorghum, millet, cowpea, groundnut) and then will be extended to roots and tubers (cassava, yam, potatoes).
The initiative will cover the 15 ECOWAS countries, plus Chad and Mauritania. It will align with and complement the products designed for the COVID-19 Fertilizer Observatory for West Africa, led by the International Fertilizer Development Centre (IFDC).
This should ensure that there are no restrictions on the import, distribution and use of quality seed by farmers, producers and other users. The ultimate objective is to strengthen the resilience of the sub-region’s agricultural system and prevent a food crisis.
Bold solutions needed for Africa: examples from Togo and Kenya
A McKinsey article, “Finding Africa’s path: Shaping bold solutions to save lives and livelihoods in the COVID-19 crisis”, suggests that the impact of COVID-19 in Africa could be devastating unless governments, development institutions and the private sector act with extraordinary speed and agility in the weeks ahead. Around two-thirds of Africa’s workforce, around 300 million people, are in informal employment, and most members of this informal-sector workforce are involved in subsistence agriculture. To support individuals and households, many governments are launching direct cash-transfer programs to reach vulnerable populations.
One example is in Togo, where the government has acted swiftly to provide emergency financial support to households in Lome, the capital city, where economic activity has been sharply curtailed during a COVID-19 lockdown. The programme, created in just one week, transfers small tranches of financial support to affected households each week, with women receiving more than men; at the time of writing it had registered more than 300,000 beneficiaries. It is using electoral cards, issued to nearly all adults ahead of a recent election, as the basis for the programme.
The report suggests a key priority for governments is financial support to SMEs, and recommends the creation of “agile structures” such as Kenya’s Situation Room, formed by the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development, which convenes companies and private sector associations regularly to identify issues rapidly, conduct analyses, and propose solutions. It has also set up a 24/7 hotline for inquiries and a system to unearth operational problems in different parts of the country and in different sectors, and is coordinating with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture, and security services to ensure joint implementation of ideas.
The National Employers’ Council of Togo (CNP) has published its analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on Togo’s enterprises and knock-on for the national economy, followed by a series of proposals (CommodAfrica, 28 April). The study, which takes into account more than 100 entities in a dozen sectors, ranging from banking to hotels, services, agriculture and transport, notes “a drastic decline in activities or even a temporary suspension in some sectors”. The report proposes that measures should be taken to relieve economic operators’ cashflow to some extent and to preserve jobs, as envisaged in the National Development Plan. It also suggests “the continued payment of domestic debt, with priority given to SMEs, the establishment of a guarantee fund to facilitate financing for the recovery of enterprises, particularly SMEs, and the establishment of a framework for quadripartite consultation”.
ECLAC and FAO – effects on Latin American and Caribbean food systems
A bulletin produced by FAO with the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) on “Analysis and responses of Latin America and the Caribbean to the effects of COVID-19 on food systems” analyses the effects so far of the COVID-19 pandemic on agricultural markets. Problems identified by FAO National Offices in the Caribbean were related mainly to issues of supply rather than demand, linked to the islands’ dependence on food imports (unlike Central and South America). Policies and proposals related to mitigating the impact on food demand included improvements in household food access, either by strengthening imports or by improving food availability for households. For example, in Jamaica measures worked to ensure food availability for quarantined communities. A common measure in Caribbean food systems has been the intensification of field production, implementing ‘boosts’ by the injection of working capital, availability of inputs, fertilisers and agricultural seeds, for example in Dominica, as well as Antigua & Barbuda, where special programmes for the availability of seeds and fertilisers have been intensified.
Caribbean Export – webinars on business adaptation and continuity
The Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export), in collaboration with the Delegation of the European Union in Barbados, is exploring a number of initiatives focusing on SME development in response to the current pandemic and its potential adverse effects on regional firms. In collaboration with the Caribbean Development Bank, a survey targeting SMEs and business support organisations aims to identify the most relevant and effective interventions.
In addition to access to finance, Caribbean Export provides a range of capacity-building initiatives which are now being delivered online. A webinar series titled ‘Talking Exports: A Crisis Management Series’ has covered topics such as ‘Cost and Financial Management During the COVID-19 Crisis’ and ‘Supply chain management during the COVID-19 crisis’ – recordings can be viewed online. Upcoming webinars include:
- Survive and thrive: Steps to manage social media during a crisis! (12 May) – In this fluid environment when information is unavailable or inconsistent, communication is critical and can make the difference between retaining customers, attracting new ones or losing some for good. Responding to increased digital demand, rapid direct communication of updates, responsible marketing techniques during COVID-19, and keeping informed on industry trends all contribute to successful crisis communication.
- Tips for leaders during turbulent times (19 May) – As the crisis changes our workplaces dramatically, SME leaders need to adapt quickly to lead operations within a digital space and interact positively with team members.
- Business continuity in the face of a crisis (26 May) – The recovery from COVID-19 will require unprecedented global, regional and national collaboration and coordination across the public and private sectors, but what measures can businesses adopt to mitigate the risk and impact? A robust business continuity plan can improve chances of resilience and recovery.
Caribbean Export’s business-to-business portal also provides an online space where Caribbean firms can register to interact with buyers and suppliers.