The COVID-19 pandemic is a global health crisis that is already having devastating impacts on the world economy – both directly and through necessary measures to contain the spread of the disease. These impacts are also being felt by the food and agriculture sector.
While the supply of food has held up well to date, in many countries, the measures put in place to contain the spread of the virus are starting to disrupt the supply of agro-food products to markets and consumers, both within and across borders. The sector is also experiencing a substantial shift in the composition and – for some commodities – the level of demand.
The Covid19 pandemic should be seen as a wake-up call for humanity, to reflect, rethink and redesign food systems that are safe, healthy, sustainable, and beneficial to all. This crisis has disrupted food supply chains, affecting lives and livelihoods.
The crisis created by the COVID19 pandemic brings into focus the relevance of location specific nutrition sensitive agriculture approaches such as FSN that draw on local food diversity. The crisis has also highlighted the importance of decentralized models and of local value chains. In many parts of India for instance, farmers’ producer organisations were seen to be playing a proactive role in aggregating produce from smallholder farmers and facilitating market access (Rengalakshmi and Rao 2020). Pingali et al. (2019) draw attention to the need for similar measures, in their recent work on transforming food systems.
The report on Global Food Crises 2020 dwells on this aspect in the light of the COVID19 crisis, and calls for support to ensure the continuous functioning of local food markets, value chains and agri-food systems in food crisis contexts, including support to food processing, transport, marketing and strengthening of local producers’ groups (FSIN 2020). Torero (2020) calls for sustainable use of land and water resources to grow essential, nutritious food in a more resilient way and ‘better treatment for smallholders and migrant workers, who form the backbone of farming’. Swaminathan (2020) draws parallels with the Irish famine crisis of the 1840s and emphasizes the need for genetic diversity for resilient agriculture systems and post-harvest processing, storage, value addition and marketing mechanisms.
The Covid19 pandemic should be seen as a wake-up call for humanity, to reflect, rethink and redesign food systems that are safe, healthy, sustainable, and beneficial to all. A farm-system-for-nutrition approach that is location specific, that promotes production of safe and healthy food, which is based on the sustainable use of natural resources by small farmers, that takes into account the risks posed by climate change, and that promotes development of local value chains, can help build resilience of local communities to crises such as the COVID19 pandemic.