Informing future responses to shocks and pandemics by drawing lessons from COVID-19’s impact on food systems

December 08, 2020
A customer in a mask purchasing fruits from a masked vendor at a local market.
World Bank Group

Five recently funded projects will examine the impact of COVID-19 in sub-Saharan Africa. Funded by IDRC’s Rapid Research Response Initiative, these projects are intended to produce results that can inform the development or implementation of more efficient and equitable actions and policy to minimize or alleviate the impacts of COVID-19 on nutrition and food security in sub-Saharan Africa, in particular in West Africa and the Sahel.

The COVID-19 pandemic has generated numerous challenges for the food and nutrition security of the world’s most vulnerable populations. In many regions, national lockdowns and social distancing measures adopted to control the spread of the virus are limiting the distribution of agricultural inputs and the labour force, constraining agricultural production and supply chains, and threatening the livelihoods of large segments of the population.

IDRC’s recently approved CA$4 million initiative in sub-Saharan Africa will support the documentation and analysis of the efficacy of various responses to the current COVID-19 pandemic in the region (specifically in the Sahel) and learn from the actions taken to control the spread of the virus and mitigate its impact on food systems. Over the course of the next 12 months, projects in Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Chad, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania will generate knowledge to inform the design of longer-term research initiatives in low- and middle-income countries. They will also strengthen their capacity to respond to subsequent waves of the epidemic and potential future shocks and pandemics.

Read more about the five new Rapid Research Response on COVID-19 projects

Responding to COVID-19 through social protection and the strengthening of local food systems: the case of the Niayes in Senegal
A man operating a mill and grinding equipment in Senegal
IDRC/Sylvain Cherkaoui

This project explores the Government of Senegal’s measures to control the pandemic and to understand the socioeconomic effects that these measures have on food and nutrition systems. Led by Initiative Prospective Agricole et Rurale, one of the strongest think tanks in Senegal and West Africa, the project will analyze government and stakeholder responses to food and nutrition insecurity in the Niayes region and generate knowledge and decision support tools to improve social protection mechanisms and strengthen local food systems.

Assessing the impact of government COVID-19 responses on food systems and livelihoods in the Sahel
Photo of a village farmer standing in his field of last season's millet crop.
A village farmer standing in his field of last season's millet crop. The growth of last season's millet was accompanied by the water harvesting technique of Zai Pits.

Implemented by CORAF, this project aims to improve gender-sensitive food and nutrition security in the Sahel against physical and biological shocks, and in particular COVID-19 and future pandemics. It will draw lessons from ongoing policy formulation and interventions to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis and to inform future responses in Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Mali, Niger, and Senegal. Data and results from the research will enhance risk management and disaster risk reduction methods of national and regional food system policies so that they are more impact oriented, with due consideration for gender, youth, and vulnerable groups.

Supporting the implementation of relevant and sustainable measures to respond to the impact of COVID-19 in the livestock sector in West and Central Africa
Two dairy goats stick their heads out of their "house" in Kunke Village, Mvomero District, Morogoro Region of Tanzania
Brian Sokol
In Kunke, one of four villages in Tanzania, goats were given to farmers to expand the availability of cross-bred goats and increase goat milk production. The research was conducted by IDRC, the Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania and the University of Alberta, Canada.

Implemented by the Association pour la Promotion de l'Élevage au Sahel et en Savane, this project aims to support the generation of knowledge and evidence that will help policy and decision-makers define and implement relevant measures to respond to the impact of COVID-19 in the livestock sector in West and Central Africa.

Assessing the impacts of COVID-19 responses on the political economy of African food systems
Members of the Mapogolo Village Farmers Group in Mbeya, Mapogolo, Tanzania weeding their co-op field
Members of the Mapogolo Village Farmers Group in Mbeya,Tanzania weeding their co-op field during a Demo Plot given by the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP).

This project aims to implement action-oriented research on the impacts of COVID-19 across formal and informal food systems in three African countries. It will cover a spectrum of different economies, food systems, and COVID-19 responses in Ghana, South Africa, and Tanzania. The project aims to inform and influence African governments, development agencies, business, and civil society in their responses to COVID-19 and future shocks by investigating the policies and practices affecting the food system, and to bring forward the voices, experiences, and priorities of marginalized actors in the food system.

COVID-19, food security, and opportunities for reconfiguring unequal gender relations in Burkina Faso and Senegal
A person holding a packet of grains selected from a bucket.
IDRC/Sylvain Cherkaoui

Implemented by the Centre d'études et de cooperation internationale based in Canada, in collaboration with the Centre d'études, de documentation et de recherche économique et sociale in Burkina Faso, the École nationale supérieur d’agriculture in Senegal and Brock University in Canada, this project aims to assess the impact of the pandemic as well as measures to control it that are based on the pillars of food security (production, access, availability, and stability) for poor and vulnerable rural households in Burkina Faso and Senegal.