It is not often we experience a single event on a global scale to the extent Covid-19 has impacted the world. In the United States, we are witnessing major shocks to the economy and to people’s livelihoods. This includes food market shortages in addition to gaps in healthcare supplies and facilities. However, despite these challenges, the U.S. and other western countries have systems in place to respond more readily to disruptions.
But for many countries around the world, these assurances are not guaranteed. Developing countries lack basic infrastructure to respond quickly to the kind of shocks we are seeing. Countries are struggling to provide the foundation for a sustainable food supply. Shortages are increasing in a climate of unstable markets. Rising prices are decreasing affordable access. On top of everything else, restrictions on travel are making it all that much harder. Without solidly established systems in place, rural communities will struggle even more to feed their families.
In times of crisis, the most vulnerable are the ones who suffer the most. The Covid-19 pandemic will negatively affect millions of people who are already on the margin. People who are currently food insecure and living below the poverty line of $1.90 a day will be pushed even further. The economic impact of this health pandemic is expected to create even more severe shortages, resulting in 265 million people facing food crises around the world.
Across sub-Saharan Africa, many of those who live in extreme poverty are smallholder farmers. The crops they grow provide upwards of 80 percent of the food consumed within their countries. They already struggle with insufficient inputs for planting and high postharvest losses. They lack affordable tools and resources to save and preserve their crops. Additional challenges for these farmers will have negative implications on their capacity to sufficiently supply local markets.
Vulnerabilities revealed in times of crisis show us that the work we are doing to improve the local food supply in Africa is more important than ever. Increasing the capacity of rural entrepreneurs and smallholder farmers is vital to building more resilient communities and avoid the possibility of one crisis leading to another. The stronger the food systems, the more resilient nations are to disruptions. This includes the use of efficient processing methods, safe food handling and storage practices, and the necessary transportation infrastructure for distributing food and products in order to reach consumers.
These past few weeks have shown us that we truly live in a global society. We must work together to raise up the most vulnerable among us and ensure we all grow resilient together.