Eugenia Saini is currently FONTAGRO’s Executive Secretary. FONTAGRO is the Regional Fund for Agricultural Technology. She leads the investment fund and a portfolio of 70 international operations related to science, technology, and innovation for the Latin America and the Caribbean region. She is from Argentina and is an agronomist by training. She holds a doctorate in agricultural sciences, specializing in total factor productivity analysis. One of her seminal works in this field was the estimation of 120 years of TFP for the agricultural sector in Argentina. She is also a National Public Accountant and holds an MS in Food and Agribusiness and an MS in Applied Economics, both from Universidad de Buenos Aires. She has worked in the private and public sectors, both nationally and internationally, especially in multilateral banks. She was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship at Cornell University and, more recently, with the Abshire-Inamori Leadership Academy (AILA) Scholarship at the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C.
COVID-19’s impact on agriculture systems in Africa
In a recent survey, the Sasakawa Africa Association heard from 433 key actors in African agriculture about the impacts the pandemic has had across the continent.
June 23, 2020
The productivity and sustainability of our agriculture and food systems are constantly threatened by pandemic outbreaks of disease and pests. The Harvest 2050 blog is providing a weekly-updated list of resources and articles that explore the threats to agricultural productivity, food security, livelihoods, and environmental sustainability from diseases and pests that sicken and kill people, livestock, and crops.
The 2020 GAP Report will also explore these themes, as well as describing technologies, practices, and policies that foster productivity growth, while also mitigating the risks of pandemic disease and threats.
A survey across African countries brings pandemic impacts to light
Guest blog by Sasakawa Africa Association
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to expand rapidly. It has severely disrupted supply chains, created significant volatility in global financial markets and changed the communication and business landscape. Governments across the globe are tasked with minimizing the impact of the pandemic, whilst also protecting human lives, livelihoods, and ensuring sufficient food availability along the entire food supply chain.
The agriculture sector of African countries, in particular, is extremely vulnerable to the pandemic – with millions at risk of being deprived of their livelihoods. Records show the number of cases on the continent continuing to rise, with 306,567 official cases and 8,115 fatalities reported, as of the most recent data available on June 21, 2020.
The Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) recently conducted an assessment on the impact of COVID-19 on African food systems. The survey was conducted virtually with key actors across the agriculture value chain, and covered the countries in which SAA operates: Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria and Uganda (SAA focus countries); as well as Benin, Burkina Faso, Malawi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Tanzania.
Results of the assessment showcase the negative impact COVID-19 is having across the agriculture sector, including on productivity, delivery of extension services, and food security. A total of 433 respondents were surveyed, with key findings from the focus countries available below.
- 88% of farmers surveyed cannot access their farms
- 83% have not received extension services training
- 71% could not obtain pre- and postharvest handling services
- 76% of agro-processors cannot access raw materials due to limited market availability
- 67% observed a sharp decline in rice milling services, among other staple crops
- 92% are expecting poor crop productivity this season
- 85% of extension agents have experienced difficulty accessing farmers
- 91% of input traders experienced agricultural input scarcity
- 60% of output traders observed reduced availability of produce
- 50% of respondents reported reduced sales
- 36% suffered from reduced household food rations, with 17% reducing the number of daily household meals
- 83% of farmers surveyed have not received any extension services since the beginning of the pandemic in March.
- 86% of input and output dealers reported a decrease in sales
- 87% of agriculture private service providers (PSPs) experienced a lack of demand for their services
- 75% experienced unreliable transport with increased costs
- 75% believe the pandemic will affect their food security
- 83% are unable to access extension services
- 60% of output traders reported a deficiency in grain stock levels
- 60% of agriculture private service providers (PSPs) reported shortages and price increases of raw materials, resulting in reduced sales of processed grains
The assessment also explored the impact felt by financial institutions in the sector. In Nigeria, 89% of respondents reported a decrease in loan deposits made by farmers, and 67% failed to collect loan repayments altogether. Farmers in Mali observed a decline in their income which in turn affects their ability to secure credit by banks. Both Nigeria and Mali reported a sharp decline in rural credit flow to farmers. Similar results were recorded in Ethiopia where 75% of financial institutions are affected by the slow loan disbursement and repayment performances, with 30% of farmers having experienced limited access to credit. Respondents in Uganda also reported a steep decline in the number of farmers and PSPs seeking credit.
The survey also showed that teaching-and learning processes of the universities and agricultural colleges has been significantly reduced, with a far-reaching impact on the overall education cycle and increased food and nutrition insecurity in Africa.
In response to the findings, SAA has sought to propose measures to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 in its countries of operation. These proposals include, among others, scaling up capacity building, enhancing knowledge transfer, and the dissemination of appropriate agriculture technologies and equipment. Once adopted, these measures will work to improve food security both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
SAA’s response to the impacts of COVID-19 on food systems in Africa (Sasakawa Africa Association News; June 8, 2020)
- More information on SAA’s work and the rapid assessment explored in this blog post.
U.S. farming body and Zambian firm partner aim to boost crop yields (Reuters; June 21, 2020)
- “The chairman of African Green Resources (AGR), Zuneid Yousuf, said the private sector deal with U.S-based African Fertiliser and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) included a scheme supporting 250,000 mainly subsistence farmers to double their maize yields and help feed around 10 million people in Zambia and the southern African region.”
Economic impact of COVID-19: Protecting Africa’s food systems from farm to fork (Brookings Institute; June 19, 2020)
- In this in-depth article, the Brookings Institute examines a range of issues affecting Africa in the wake of the pandemic — including rising food prices and lockdowns and their impact on the informal sector — and how Africans are finding solutions to mitigate the impact of these challenges.
Addressing Gender-Based Violence from an Agriculture Perspective Amid COVID-19 and Beyond (Agrilinks; June 15, 2020)
- Gender-based violence is estimated to be on the rise worldwide as lockdowns create added tension in communities. This has implications for agriculture systems, but efforts in Rwanda, Malawi, and Mozambique highlighted in the article illuminate opportunities to integrate gender-based violence as a component to development projects.
In Kenya, Two Heroes Weathering the Covid-19 Storm Together (The Rockefeller Foundation Blog; May 13, 2020)
- Opened in 2018, the Karurumo Processing Center in Kenya helps to reduce post-harvest crop loss. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the center is finding ways to help reduce shocks to farmers’ livelihoods and help feed the nation.