Fund to Help Prevent Food Crisis in Wake of COVID-19 Launched

By Abdi Ali
Published April 25, 2020

Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of IFAD, says policymakers and investors can no longer ignore the ocean-linked economy from which more than 800 million people worldwide derive their livelihood.A new multi-donor fund to help mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on food production, market access and employment has been launched.

The US$240 Million COVID-19 Rural Poor Stimulus Facility by United Nations’ International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) was launched on April 20, 2020 with urgent appeal for funds to support food security.

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“We need to act now to stop this health crisis transforming into a food crisis,” said Gilbert F Houngbo, President of IFAD. “The fallout from COVID-19 may push rural families even deeper into poverty, hunger and desperation, which is a real threat to global prosperity and stability. With immediate action, we can provide rural people with the tools to adapt and ensure a quicker recovery, averting an even bigger humanitarian crisis.”

Besides its own US$40 Million seed money, IFAD says it hopes to raise at least US$200 Million more from Member States, foundations and the private sector for this initiative that it says is part of the broader UN socio-economic response framework that is aimed at ensuring that ‘farmers in the most vulnerable countries have timely access to inputs, information, markets and liquidity’.

Quoting a United Nations University study as warning that the economic impact of the pandemic could push a further half-billion people into poverty, IFAD says its fund shall help many small-scale farmers whose access to markets to sell produce or buy seeds or fertilizer has been restricted as a measure for containing the spread of COVID-19.

As entire production chains are disrupted and unemployment rises, IFAD says, the most vulnerable include daily labourers, small businesses and informal workers. Even before the outbreak, more than 820 million people were going hungry every day.

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“This pandemic is threatening the gains we have made in reducing poverty over the past years. To avoid serious disruption to rural economies, it is essential to ensure agriculture, food chains, markets and trade continue to function,” Houngbo says. “A majority of the world’s most impoverished people are already suffering the consequences of climate change and conflict. An economic downturn in rural areas could compound these effects, generating more hunger and increasing instability, especially in fragile states.”

The Rural Poor Stimulus Facility focuses on:

  • Providing inputs for production of crops, livestock and fisheries to small-scale producers so that they can weather the immediate effects of the economic crisis
  • Facilitating access to markets to support small-scale farmers to sell their products in conditions where restricted movement is interrupting the functioning of markets, including providing logistics and storage support
  • Providing targeted funds for rural financial services to ensure sufficient liquidity is available and to ease immediate loan repayment requirements to maintain services, markets and jobs for poor rural people, and
  • Using digital services to share key information on production, weather, finance and markets.

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“A timely response to the pandemic is an opportunity to rebuild the world’s food systems along more sustainable and inclusive lines and build the resilience of rural populations to crisis, whether related to health, climate or conflict,” Houngbo says.

IFAD says it has received requests from governments in more than 65 countries to help respond to the impact of the pandemic and that it has already adapted its projects and diverted funds to support this.