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Covid-19 updates

Food Security Initiative: Emergency Food Flows


Each week Maastricht School of Management (MSM) is collecting information through their educational partners and collaborators located in Africa, Asia and South America on issues caused by COVID-19 affecting sustainable local development. This week the focus is on emergency food flows.

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As discussed in our earlier updates, Covid-19 has disrupted food supply chains and also production through disruption in supply of inputs. This disruption has immediate, short-, medium- and long-term implications. How one is hit, depends on how vulnerable they were before the Covid-19 crisis. People with resources can easily substitute foods. For example, if import flows are cut-off, they can buy other foods. Covid-19 is then just an inconvenience. Disruption of supply in inputs means a coming crisis if farmers do not plant in time.

However, there are people who were already facing food crisis pre-Covid, for them the Covid-19 was likely to push them over the cliff to starvation. Note that risk of starvation can come from disruption of food flows or disruption of livelihoods as many vulnerable people are working in low wage informal jobs. These people can easily go into starvation through loss of jobs. Covid-19 crisis has seen many livelihoods vanishing as a result of lockdown measures.

The need for bringing food relief
Covid-19 has the potential to bring many people into a food emergency crisis and this is the case. FAO reports that in 2019 – prior to the COVID-19 pandemic – 135 million people experienced “crisis” and worse levels of acute food insecurity. A further 183 million were on the edge in “stressed” food security conditions[1].  For these people Covid-19 was really a food emergency rather than a health emergency. Indeed, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) Global Food Security Alert has warned that an estimated 94 million people across the 29 countries will need urgent humanitarian food assistance as result of Covid-19.

In response to food emergencies spawned by Covid-19, we have observed a number of actions in our network countries. These include:

In Colombia, the undersupply of basic food products was immediate for the most vulnerable families. To curb these needs, emergency food kits are entering local communities. However, many of them do not include the necessary amount of fruits and vegetables, and other important nutrients.

The Western Cape Province in South Africa, has also launched an emergence food project.

In Ethiopia the government has established an authority, which responds to emergency cases to fill the gap between supply and demand. There are also international organizations that work closely with the government to fill the gap.

Governments are also tapping national buffer stocks to support emergency relief. For example, the Indonesian government has organized emergency food flows together with BULOG, a national logistical supply organization. They combine products from small-scale farmers, large companies and imported products.

In Kenya, a public private partnership has seen the establishment of the Covid-19 Emergency Relief fund to collect donations from the private sector and NGOs and also from individuals.

Food relief always carries a logistical challenge and more so in the Covid-19 environment of restricted movements. We are observing innovations to help. For example, we have seen:

  • Initiatives seeking to distribute cash, as the key challenge is loss of income rather than lack of food. For example, the Shikilia initiative is seeking to give $30 per month to families in Kibera and Mathare slums for 3 months[4].
  • Mobile Apps being developed to collect food packages at designated collection points. Potential donors go to the application’s dashboard and generate the list of individuals, they have identified as people in need and assign collection points, whether it’s large-scale supermarkets or small-scale kiosks[5].

There is also potential for further innovation. For example, in Ethiopia we have local home to home food suppliers that have emerged during the closure period. This approach can be further leveraged using technology developed to create peer-to-peer food supply programs. Homes that have food can be paired with homes that have no food and donations channeled help this type of relief. This can be very beneficial as it is likely very low cost in terms of logistics. It can also help boost communities by putting money in the community directly. It is likely the same money that can be used to employ the vulnerable persons due to the stimulus impact of these arrangements.

Suggestions have also been made to the government concerning its food packages.

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Food Security Initiative
Maastricht School of Management’s food security initiative is born out of the extensive partnerships between MSM and its project partners in Colombia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. MSM brings insights on COVID-19’s impact on food security from the countries (and rural areas) where we operate. The updates will inform on the effects on small- scale and commercial farmers, traders, processors, input suppliers, financial institutions, and will provide useful insights for policy makers, donors, NGO’s and scientists. In doing so, MSM can indicate potential changes in food flows in regions around the world and support decision making on how to counterbalance negative impacts of COVID-19 measures. Supported by data flows and local partners, MSM will facilitate multi-actor and cross-sector collaboration through platforms for action.

A special thank you to our project partners and collaborators ESAP, ARN, Holland House, and PBA in Colombia, Latia in Kenya, Al Shoubak University College, Jordan Valley College and Al Huson University College in Jordan and Elsenburg Agricultural College, Vhembe TVET College, Boland TVET College, NCRTVET College and Nkangala TVET College in South Africa, Wolaita Soddo Agricultural TVET, Alage ATVET College, Arba Minch University, Bureau of Agriculture and Natural Resource, Bishoftu Polytechnic college, Amhara TVET Bureau, Bako ATVET College, Addis Ababa City, Federal TVET Institute, Oromia TVET Bureau, Jimma University, Merawi TVET, Woreta TVET College and Kombolcha TVET College in Ethiopia, Kwadaso Agri College, Asuansi Farm Institute, Wenchi Farm Institute, Adidome Farm Institute in Ghana and College of Vocational Studies in Indonesia for providing us with their view and experience on the current situation.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET)
Daily Nation
Capital Business: