Dr Agnes Kalibata, President of Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), has said that while efforts were being made to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, there is need to make efforts to ensure people have food, else, food crisis would become imminent.
Kalibata, in a statement stressed the need to consider the very real danger that the COVID-19 pandemic would pose in its wake; a food security crisis that could affect the political, social and economic health of African countries.
She urged the federal and state governments to ensure adequate food production using the existing policies and innovations in agriculture amidst the lockdown, adding that government should take lessons from other African countries to avert impending food crisis.
According to her, “if this is not done, COVID-19 will result in a food crisis that will affect poor people the most, in both rural and urban areas and add to the already 250 million people in Africa without food. These vulnerable populations will suffer more from both the short- and long-term effects of the pandemic,” she said
She pointed out that each of the 14 countries that AGRA partners with had imposed some degree of restrictions to protect the populations from the spread of the virus and protect the interests and well-being of the most vulnerable by ensuring farmers continue to do their work.
She said Nigeria could learn from the Indian government by exempting agriculture and allied activities from the ongoing lockdown, noting that the government of Ethiopia found ways to get inputs to farmers at lower prices than usual to ensure that all farmers have access to the right inputs also.
In Ghana, she added, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture had secured inputs, seeds and fertilizer for farmers through the government flagship, planting for Food and Jobs Programme.
Meanwhile, the Country Representative of AGRA, Dr. Kehinde Makinde, commended the Nigerian government for lifting ban on the movement of fertiliser across the country as part of measures to continue food production during the lockdown period.
Professor Victor Chude, National Coordinator, AGRA Project on Strengthening Fertilizer Systems in Nigeria and also the Registrar Nigeria Institute of Soil Science, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the directive to release 70,000 metric tons of food as palliative during the lockdown period.
He recommended that government should ensure a speedy rollout of farm inputs to farmers in order to allow timely planting as rainy season is setting in.