The COVID-19 pandemic has created significant challenges for global food systems. What can we do to safeguard food and nutrition security by making food systems more resilient, efficient, and sustainable, and how can cooperation and collaboration between key stakeholders lead to food systems transformation?
The International Rice Research Institute is in solidarity with the global community as we utilize our expertise and resources to address the myriad challenges brought about by the pandemic. Collaborating with countries, partners, and OneCGIAR, IRRI is committed to working towards ensuring food and nutrition security through rice-based agri-food systems during this crisis.
Rice plays a strategic role in food security in West Africa, but the region increasingly relies on imports, and local value chains face constraints in terms of technology, finance and coordination. In an article published in Global Food Security, scientists from CIRAD, AfricaRice, and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) propose different policy options to reduce the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on rice value chains in West Africa. To increase the resilience of local value chains, policymakers need to focus on supporting millers, especially by facilitating their access to credit.
The COVID-19 pandemic is more than a health crisis. Over the last six months, we have witnessed its extreme socio-economic consequences, including grave threats to food security and nutrition. As the pandemic continues to take its toll and make an indelible mark on agri-food systems, organizations like the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), a member of CGIAR, are aligning their efforts to ensure a relevant, timely, and well-coordinated response to safeguard the health and livelihoods of the poorest and most vulnerable.
IRRI strongly supports the United Nations Secretary-General’s plea to work together and leverage concerted action to avoid the pandemic’s worst impacts to agri-food systems. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in his recent Policy Brief on Food Security and Nutrition, calls on UN Member States to work together so the world can transition into more sustainable food systems that can withstand shocks similar to COVID-19.
As governments around the world are realizing the multiple connections between the COVID-19 health crisis and the global and local food systems, they are contemplating an array of policy decisions or already implementing preventive measures to protect food supply. In most cases, these measures are taken in autonomy and with little consideration for the global food systems and their interdependence.
Understandably, governments feel a sense of urgency to act. This arises from the rapid spread of the health crisis and the exponential rate of contamination of people by the coronavirus. Although there are established linkages between health and food systems, they are not the same. They operate under different timescales and conditions. In times of crisis, there is a need to look at the big picture and get a sense of proportion, possibly relying on market foresight.
Dr. Nafees Meah, IRRI Regional Representative for South Asia, highlights salient points in the policy brief "Creating Sustainable Value Chains For Transforming Food Systems"
The exponential spread of the COVID-19 virus has forced many countries in the developed and developing world to take unprecedented policy and regulatory measures, such as the temporary lockdown of the entire country in order to break the chain of transmission. These restrictions have imposed a complete or partial shutdown of their production, manufacturing, and service economies.
For decades, millions of Indian men have migrated away from rural areas to seek employment in cities. Now that the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing men to go back home, a reverse migration crisis is exposing risks to rural women’s resilience.
The Indian government has taken stringent measures to arrest the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). A complete lockdown of the vast country seems to have been a successful strategy. At the same time, the government has come under flack for not anticipating the consequences this lockdown has had for the large number of rural migrant workers, mostly men, who have been left stranded in cities throughout the country.
One group that is receiving woefully little attention, however, is rural women. Given the ongoing large-scale return of men back to rural areas, it is relevant to ask what impacts this reverse migration will have on women, on farm productivity and on food security in the short, medium and long term.
Safeguarding food security is critical during the #COVID19 pandemic. Policies should be in place and farmers should be empowered in order to ensure food production, distribution, and access to markets. However, the situations are different from country to country and challenges to maintain well-functioning food systems are huge.
In this #webinar, experts from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), ASEAN, Asian Development Bank (ADB), and Grow Asia share insights and discuss information on the impact of COVID-19 to the food systems in Southeast Asia.
Regularly visit irri.org and our social media channels for more informative webinars.
As COVID-19 continues to threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in Southeast Asia, additional concerns are being raised about the longer term health of the sub-region’s food systems – a complex matrix involving farmers, fishers, labourers, drivers, cold storage, food processors, retailers, and consumers.
Dr. Yurdi Yasmi, IRRI Representative for Southeast Asia, provides an overview of the policy brief "Safeguarding food systems in Southeast Asia amid COVID-19" which focuses on these three broad questions related to food systems in Southeast Asia: i) What are the main challenges for the food systems from the COVID-19 pandemic? ii) How can we safeguard food systems in the short- and long-term?, and iii) What policy measures should be taken to protect food systems?
COVID-19 is the biggest public health crisis of the 21 century so far. The policies and programs to contain COVID-19 also have had massive secondary social and economic effects globally. In Asia, COVID-19-induced lockdowns have disrupted the lives and livelihoods of more than four billion people including millions of rice value chain (RVC) actors. The magnitude of the impacts, however, varies across RVC segments, households, regions, and countries. We developed a conceptual framework to analyze the impacts of COVID-19 on the RVC (See the Figure). For this exercise, we used multiple sources of primary and secondary data such as reports, personal observations, and anecdotal evidences across Asian countries including telephone interviews with RVC actors such as input dealers, farmers, millers, traders, consumers, and policy makers in selected countries.
An economic slowdown is now on the horizon due to the COVID-19 crisis. A recent World Bank report tells us that an economic slowdown in 2020 is inevitable, as suggested by its revised lower global growth forecast.
This dark outlook deepens the hardship of people who have lost income due to the lockdown and economic stoppage. While an economic slowdown has many negative impacts, one of the most important is the fall in real income. A substantially lower disposable income can weaken food security among the poor, as people find it more difficult to afford the food they want. In Asia, where rice is the main food staple, we expect that variations in income will impact rice demand. More precisely, falling income is expected to force poor people to shift to less expensive staples. Thus, a key question is the extent to which the current economic slowdown may raise the demand for rice. A related question is whether the global rice system is capable of supplying this demand and can avert any negative impact on rice-based food security. The answers to these questions have important bearing on the type of policy interventions that governments should contemplate to address poverty and food security risks, especially in developing countries where large fractions of the population are already suffering from limited or erratic access to health care and other essential services.
Given that the average age of farmers is 60 years, agriculture faces a serious shrinking labor force. Clearly, this is one sector where young people can make a deep and lasting mark. But how can we end hunger by 2030, one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, if fewer young people are getting into farming? Additionally, what are the challenges we face in convincing bright and ambitious young people to find a career in farming?
IRRI and FAO celebrated #WorldFoodDay with a special plenary discussion moderated by IRRI’s Research Lead for Livelihoods, Gender and Nutrition Dr. Ranjitha Puskur. The panel, which includes Carolyn Florey (IRRI Technology for Development Lead), Lincoln Lee (Rice Inc. CEO), and Margaret Makelo (Kenyan State Department for Agriculture Research Director of Knowledge Management,Technology Transfer and Capacity Building), zoomed in on the role of youth in achieving #ZeroHunger.