Fresh Solutions To Food And Farm Security
The current coronavirus pandemic is a wake-up call to the world, in which we were unprepared for the effect of this deadly virus. As nations scrambled to fight the virus, the issue of food security has become evident—and there needs to be a better solution!
Food Security & Sustainability
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), “both lives and livelihoods are at risk from this pandemic [and its aftermath]. This is no longer a regional issue—it is a global problem calling for a global response. We risk a looming food crisis, unless measures are taken fast to protect the most vulnerable, keep global food supply chains alive and mitigate the pandemic’s impacts across the food system.”
The FAO continues, “Border closures, quarantines, and market, supply chain and trade disruptions could restrict people’s access to sufficient/diverse and nutritious sources of food, especially in countries hit hard by the virus or already affected by high levels of food insecurity. There is particular concern about this pandemic’s impact on vulnerable communities already grappling with hunger or other crises – the Desert Locust outbreak in the Horn of Africa, for example – as well as countries that rely heavily on food imports, such as Small Islands Developing States, and countries that depend on primary exports like oil.”
Further, “these vulnerable groups also include small-scale farmers and fishers who might be hindered from working their land and fisheries. They will also face challenges accessing markets to sell their products or buy essential inputs, or struggle due to higher food prices and limited purchasing power. Informal laborers will be hard hit by job and income losses in harvesting and processing. Millions of children are already missing out on the school meals they have come to rely upon, many of them with no formal access to social protection, including health insurance.”
Protecting Farmers At All Costs
Many farmers in the country have lost their entire harvest due to the Pandemic outbreak. Roads and markets have been slow to react, and consumers have switched much of their buying to canned, shelf-stable and comfort foods instead of fruits and vegetables. In crisis, the case for the Philippine farmer is weakened and in some cases their livelihood is lost forever.
“As countries worldwide are trying to cope economically and prioritizing for themselves, Filipino businessmen have urged government to refocus growth strategy on the domestic market and aim for food security”, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce (PCC) said on April 13, 2020. Aside from infrastructure support that include farm-to-market roads, irrigation, post-harvest facilities and other related projects, “agriculture and aquaculture sectors must be provided input subsidies and access to research and development and technologies.”
Emphasis must be made on providing a “buffer zone”, an area where farmers can bring their harvests, in good times and bad, to process them into long-life finished goods. This will completely alleviate the waste in farm harvests due to shifts in demand and market access.
“A paradox of global hunger is that, despite their activity, smallholder farmers in the rural areas of developing countries are disproportionately at risk of food insecurity themselves, with low incomes a major reason for that”, according to FAO. “It would be tragic if that problem were to be exacerbated, and their ability to produce food reduced, at a time when we are trying to make sure that food supply remains adequate for everyone.”
So policy makers must pay attention to them! “What we know - and we saw it during lockdowns in West Africa during the Ebola crisis - is that restriction of movements and road closures curb farmers' access to markets both to buy inputs and sell products. They also reduce the availability of labor at peak seasonal times. The result is that fresh produce can accumulate without being sold, leading to food losses, while those who grow it lose income. Another point here is that what we have seen so far is a spate of exceptional purchases of non-perishable foodstuffs. In Italy, demand for flour has spiked by 80 percent. Canned goods are all the rage. Yet, due to psychology and the restrictions on movement, it's proven harder to sell fresh produce and fish, both of which are harder to store for future consumption.”