There is a risk of poverty levels among small scale farmers going up if the ongoing restrictions on country borders due to the Covid-19 pandemic continue to be effected.
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad) President Gilbert Houngbo said governments should consider easing their lockdowns and find other ways of controlling the spread of the disease.
“When countries close their borders, or if they decide they will not transport their food, it means that for countries that import, food will not arrive,” he said.
Dr Houngbo spoke during a question and answer reporting online session organised by the Thomson Reuters Foundation as part of a Covid-19 professional development programme run in association with Ifad
NO FOOD SHORTAGE
Currently, there is no food shortage, he said, but if some countries make decisions not to export their food, it means some countries will face shortages.
He said governments should ensure that farmers will not have to sell the little they produce to survive.
Dr Houngbo also said that the whole food chain from the production to access needs to stop making unilateral decisions without thinking about the international economies.
“We need to make sure that the rural poor are not negatively affected by the pandemic. Farmers should also avoid a monoculture approach and produce two or three crops, some being staple and others being cash crops,” he said
He said Ifad is repurposing its ongoing projects to respond to the pandemic after realising that it has impacted small scale farmers, both economically and socially.
Currently there are 70 countries which have asked the projects to be repurposed to ensure the funds are used to respond to needs occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic. “Ifad is not a humanitarian agency and we don’t want to engage in humanitarian emergency response. We want to ensure our focus to the rural small scale farmers remains even as the world strives to respond to the pandemic,” said Dr Houngbo.
He revealed that Ifad is engaging banks to give waivers to the small scale farmers to enable them respond to the pandemic.He said that, so far, there has not been shortage of food across the world as was expected but that could change if the pandemic stays longer.
He said donor funding has been consistent and hoped to get more funds to support farmers to continue with production and maintain food security across the world.
“We were worried that there may be a shift from agriculture to health but that hasn’t happened so far. There are some donors who have shown interest to contribute to emergency,” he said.
Dr Houngbo further asked governments to invest in ensuring small scale farmers and the rural poor get access to smart phones and embrace digital farming as part of innovative measures that need to be taken.
“Digital agriculture should be embraced to enable farmers communicate to their customers and market their farm produces,” said Dr Houngbo.
He said there is need for farmers to be innovative and continue farming during the lockdowns.
He said the Covid-19 pandemic is a serious shock to the global community and farmers need to develop resilience.
“The shock of locust invention in farms in East Africa is also a major threat to food security. Governments should help farmers to build resilience to such shocks,” he said.
In Kenya, the government has been spraying the locusts which have been invading farms in several counties.