Ministers for Agriculture of the African Union (AU) Member States and their key partners held a virtual meeting on the impact of COVID-19 on Food Security and Nutrition in Africa on 16 April 2020.
The Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of The Gambia welcomes the initiative. The meeting,chaired by Minister Thoko Didiza of South Africa took place with the support of the African Union Commission (AUC)’s Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). It was attended by 40 Ministers for Agriculture of the African Union Member States and development partners such as the European Union, the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), the World Bank, African Development Bank (ADB) and the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD).
Thisjoint statement is intended to inform the Gambian citizens about the current situation as well as notify about the commitments the Ministers agreed upon especially in relation to food and nutrition security in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is the wish of Agriculture Ministers with the support of the AU, FAO and development partners that actions and commitments outlined will save many lives, in a context where many of the measures put in place ways to slow down the transmission of the disease. The health crisis, that is affecting countries all around the world, has from the beginning been viewed through a public health lens for obvious reasons. Currently, this attention is also spreading to the economic, and food and nutrition security impacts generated by the global recession the pandemic is causing. There is a real concern that these impacts will further exacerbate the rates of hunger, malnutrition and poverty, especially in the rural areas. In this regard, the commitments by Ministers of Agriculture are designed to minimize disruptions to the food and agriculture systems by advocating for and provision of the following:
1. Measures tosupport the food and nutrition security for all and especially for the most vulnerable segment of our populations, with measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic while minimizing food system disruptions, simultaneously. Adequate safety nets, including cash, food, and other relevant social protection measures to support all vulnerable population groups.
2. That agricultural actors and activities at all levels particularly planting and harvests, are not severely affected by the unintended consequences of the containment measures and restrictions on movement, while keeping safe the work environment of producers, traders and workers.
3. As the outbreak unfolds, food and agriculture system activities are carefully monitored and assessed, and all actors are engaged and advised timely and transparently to pursue their operations. That farmers have timely access to quality equipment and crop inputs, including seeds and planting material as well as corresponding inputs such as animal feeds and pasturesby livestock farmers, including pastoralists. Fish farmers be supported to receive quality fish inputs to support the aquaculture industry.
4. Putting in place measures that will reduce food post-harvest losses and thus have more food available in the markets. Working with local leaders to ensure that downstream and upstream food and agriculture markets and the informal food sector, remain open and operate properly, while complying with health and safety guidelines.
5. Addressing simultaneously, as governments with our partners, the double burden of COVID 19 and other pests such fall army worm, desert locusts, which, together, are challenges of grave magnitude that must be kept at the heart of the urgent work programme in Africa.
6. Working with food and agriculture system traders and transporters, and officials in other sectors and local governments to resolve any bottlenecks affecting the safe movement, transport and marketing of essential people, goods and services in the system. Keeping the national borders open for food and agriculture commodity trade so as not to disrupt regional and interregional trade in food and agriculture products and inputs.
7. Ensuring adequate emergency strategic food reserves and storage facilities, including through public-private partnerships, where appropriate and feasible, and directly linked to the social protection programs.
8. Guaranteeing the role of national leadership in advancing the food and nutrition security agenda to achieve concrete results, through putting in place pragmatic policies and strategies, mobilizing and allocating adequate resources, and enhancing institutional capacities and capabilities for accelerated implementation of sustainable food and agriculture systems in an integrated and coordinated manner, even during COVID-19 pandemic.
9. Redoubling efforts and concerted actions, in cooperation with all stakeholders, to ensure food and nutrition security for all citizens during and after the COVID-19 pandemic and to enable meeting Africa’s commitment to ending hunger by 2025.