COVID-19 is impacting the world in an unprecedented manner. While the full consequences of COVID-19 are still unknown, there is emerging consensus that, in addition to the impact on global public health, this pandemic will present considerable, long-lasting economic challenges and is rapidly exacerbating an ongoing food security and nutrition crisis.
It is therefore critical to start thinking about the post-pandemic recovery now in order to anticipate and mitigate some of the longer-term impacts and to prevent escalation into a larger scale poverty and food crisis. This is where the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) has a role to play.
GAFSP was launched in response to the 2007-08 food price crisis to address a need for increased investment in agriculture and food security in low-income countries, and support smallholder farmers and businesses recover and grow in the medium to long term. Since its launch in 2010, GAFSP has invested a total of $1.6 billion to support more than 13 million smallholder farmers and their families, including 5.6 million women. Instead of reinventing the wheel, GAFSP can be used as a ready financing instrument to stave off another food crisis and help governments respond effectively to food insecurity in the COVID era.
How GAFSP is responding to COVID-19
In the immediate term, GAFSP made close to $60 million in additional funding available for both the Public Sector Window and the pilot Missing Middle Initiative (MMI) to top up or re-purpose any current projects, in line with adjusted national agriculture plan priorities. At the most recent GAFSP Steering Committee meeting on September 24, 2020, it was decided to allocate close to $54 million to ongoing public sector projects in Bhutan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Haiti, Honduras, Lao PDR, Rwanda, Senegal, Uganda, Yemen, Zambia. MMI projects in Bangladesh, East Africa, Mali, and Senegal received close to $4 million in additional financing.
In the medium to longer term, GAFSP will launch a new Call for Proposals in early 2021 and all eligible countries will be able to apply. This Call would operationalize GAFSP’s new adjusted operational model and be strategically timed to fund COVID-19 recovery, and support countries to strengthen the performance, resilience, and sustainability of their agriculture sector and food systems in a changing climate.
GAFSP is already helping countries mitigate COVID-19's impact and work towards a quick recovery — some ongoing projects have already made small but critical changes.
In the Kyrgyz Republic, the Agriculture Productivity and Nutrition Improvement Project to improve water infrastructure and developing the capacity of water user associations (WUAs) will begin distributing agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilizer through 30 project WUAs to address vulnerable populations.
In Bangladesh, lockdown restrictions have had a disruptive impact on agricultural supply chains. Leaders of producer organizations reached out to the Sara Bangla Krishak Society (SBKS) for help in resolving logistics and communication issues. SBKS immediately tapped into its national network of 55 producer organizations –with over 8,000 smallholder farmers– and its resources to assist. With technical support from FAO, through the Increasing Access to Finance for Farmers’ Organizations MMI pilot project, SBSK quickly set up 57 call centers throughout northern and southern Bangladesh allowing farmers to continue selling their commodities and buying essential inputs and services. The call centers are also being utilized by non-member neighboring farmers who can obtain fairer prices for their products.
In Nepal, the Food and Nutrition Security Enhancement Project (FANSEP) is already COVID-19 responsive because it targets activities to reach the most vulnerable communities in some of the poorest districts of Nepal and those regular project activities focus on capacity building as well as technical and financial assistance. Specifically, the following ongoing activities include input distribution; awareness raising; developing a needs assessment, including identification of small market/input public infrastructures rehabilitation; and providing small and matching grants to cater to the financial and nutrition needs.
In Honduras, the Corredor Seco Food Security Project in Honduras has helped to ensure that vulnerable communities have access to food and markets in spite of country-wide restrictions on movement. In fact, according to smallholder farmers in project areas, they were better able to weather the pandemic as a result of GAFSP’s project.
With COVID-19 disrupting supply chains, industries, and markets across the globe, the GAFSP Private Sector Window launched its COVID Conversation series, where clients explain how the health and economic crisis is affecting their businesses and the smallholders in their supply chains. As part of the series, interviews were conducted with:
- Nadeem Ahmed, Founder and Chairman of Global Tea and Commodities Ltd., an integrated tea, coffee, and macadamia nut company
- Daniel Spitzer and Teresa Law, CEO and CFO respectively, of Mountain Hazelnuts, Bhutan’s largest private sector employer
- Tesfalidet Hagos, the founder and general manager of Luna Export Slaughterhouse, one of Ethiopia’s largest meat processors
- Iris Krebber, Head of Agriculture and Land at the Directorate General for Economic Development and International at the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and GAFSP Private Sector Window Donor Committee chair.