We hope you are keeping well and staying safe during this challenging time.
As the second quarter of 2020 concludes, agriculture continues to suffer from the negative effects of the COVID - 19 pandemic. It is widely expected that food production in the coming seasons will be negatively affected as a result of disruption on various supply chains, including farm labour supply as countries implement and enforce various forms of lockdowns and social distancing. This will undoubtedly increase food insecurity among poor and vulnerable households and further disrupt small and medium businesses across the continent.
At CABI-Africa, we join hands with other stakeholders to help mitigate the effects of the pandemic on food systems in the countries where we work.
As the crisis unfolds, it is heartening to see that African governments, donors and the international community, in general, have classified agriculture as an essential sector by recognizing that farmers’ continued ability to grow, harvest and sell their crops is part and parcel of the mitigation and resilient efforts against the pandemic alongside the more mainstream public health interventions.
The disruption due to the pandemic is not only affecting farmers' daily livelihoods directly but also hampering the efforts of other very important support systems for farmers. For instance, it is complicating and limiting access to advisory services and other forms of knowledge brokerage necessary for improving productivity. So we need to ensure that information continues to flow between farmers, decision-makers, extension agents, and the private sector during this period.
CABI is supporting continuity and resilience of the agricultural sector during this period by working with partners to develop, adapt and deploy digital and online capacity building and decision support tools that help users translate data and information into positive action and impact on crop health.
Various digital tools and resources are now at the disposal of stakeholders to support capacity building and knowledge brokerage to address the needs of agricultural personnel including plant doctors, plant health advisors and trainers, as well as the private and public sector organizations.
For example, the CABI Academy developed and rolled out a trial free e-learning course on Crop Pest Diagnosis that provided approximately 15 hours of learning time on the principles of symptom-based diagnosis for various cadres of farmer intermediaries. The course provided online training opportunities for agricultural extension professionals whose ability to continue providing interpersonal extension services has been disrupted.
The e-learning course also provided them an opportunity to continue building skills during the time in lockdown. The recently launched BioProtection Portal also remains active in creating linkages between farmers and suppliers of biocontrol and biopesticide products registered for use in any particular country. This complements other resources such as the CABI Fall Armyworm Portal and the newly launched CABI Fall Armyworm Research and Collaboration Portal.
CABI has also made 17,000 relevant records from across Global Health and CAB Abstracts free to access for public health professionals, researchers, academia and policymakers who are vital in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We continue with our commitment to support resilient food production and supply systems during this challenging period. Our key programmes continue to operate while ensuring that the health and safety of all staff and stakeholders are maintained.
Regional Director, CABI Africa
CABI Africa Centres
CABI’s Zambia office serves the Southern African region. As agriculture is the main employer and source of income for the majority of the population here, this office executes our development projects and improves knowledge sharing to address agricultural and environmental challenges encountered by Southern African smallholder farmers.
Our centre in Ghana serves West Africa – a region made up of 15 states, and with a population of about 300 million. This is a region where agriculture is of huge importance. However there are significant challenges to effective trade in agricultural commodities in this region.
CABI has a regional centre for Africa in Nairobi. Agriculture is essential for sub-Saharan Africa’s economic growth and yet average crop yields in Africa are among the lowest in the world. Over 80% rely on it but many face challenges in growing sufficient good quality produce.