As COVID-19 cases continue to increase in AGRA-focus (1) countries, food insecurity remains a concern as economies suffer, AGRA’s COVID-19 Situation Report Number 5 for July 2020 states.
With slowing growth across Africa, governments are launching new initiatives to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 and bring agriculture to the forefront of economic recovery.
Food prices remain volatile and affordability of food and inputs is starting to be of concern, it notes.
Food insecurity has continued to rise across Africa as the pandemic continues to spread. The IMF warned in late June that the recovery will be slower than expected following a “crisis like no other”.
A McKinsey Study noted in April that GDP in Africa was likely to decline from estimated 3.9% growth in 2020 to -1.4% in 2020 as a result of economic impacts from the pandemic. We are seeing signs of this playing out now in AGRA-focus countries, including Ghana, where GDP is estimated to have declined by -27.9% during the three-week lockdown period; and in Nigeria, which expects 4% quarter on quarter decline in contribution of the agricultural sector to GDP.
In AGRA-focus countries, the number of COVID-19 cases increased by 40% – rising to around 73,000 cases from approximately 52,000 cases two weeks ago. However, the July report notes that the recovery rate is improving, with the rate of those dying as a result of COVID-19 remaining low – around 2% of those reported infected have died.
“We are also seeing governments cautiously opening up economies, with many borders expected to open soon”. The impact on overall growth continues to be felt in AGRA-focus countries. Ghana’s GDP is estimated to have declined by -27.9% during the three-week lockdown period with -36.4% agri-systems contribution in 2020 to GDP.
In response, Ghana’s Agriculture Sector COVID-19 Response Strategy is leading the way to provide economic stimulus to support farmers; and the Ghana government’s Flagship agricultural programme, ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’, is delivering 520 multipurpose mini-tractors to smallholder farmers.
The financing arrangements for Ghana’s Agriculture Sector COVID-19 Response Strategy programme will be in two phases. Phase-1 is from July to December 2020, and Phase-2 January to December 2021.
The total cost for Phase-1 is estimated at GH¢2.143billion (approximately US$360MM). For Phase-2, the implementation cost is estimated at GH¢2.512billion (approximately US$425million).
Ongoing support AGRA is providing in focus countries includes coordinating support to governments. Across all AGRA-focus countries, AGRA is engaging and supporting coordination efforts and design of COVID-19 response plans.
For example, in support of the COVID-19 government support strategy, AGRA is part of government COVID-19 response working groups in Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania.
In Ghana, the COVID-19 Response Plan for Agriculture was developed and validated by the Agriculture Sector Working Group, of which AGRA is a member. The plan articulates impacts of COVID-19 on the agricultural sector, defines short- and medium-term mitigation measures, and outlines resource mobilisation.
In response to COVID-19, AGRA is partnering with technology partners to supply smart and SMS extension content for farmers. In many countries, easing containment activities means that it is easier for AGRA country teams to implement programmes on the ground to support farmers.
In Ghana, taking advantage of easing COVID-19 measures, the Ghana Country Team visited seven regions to monitor grants implementation, assess the level of preparation for farmers in the planting season amid COVID-19, and to interact with key partners with respect to measures being taken against spread of COVID-19 after the lockdown.
The team observed that Consortia partners are actively facilitating training and capacity building sessions for Community Based Advisors (CBAs) and farmers, linking farmers to input and output market. Interaction with farmers showed that almost 90% of them farmers have secured their inputs and have already planted.