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Hope in midst of the crisis

How IFAD Supported The Resilience Of Small Farmers Throughout COVID-19?

The landmark year 2020 will be long remembered for the COVID-19 pandemic and the many challenges it presented, not only as a public health emergency, but its economic and social impacts as well. As of this writing it has claimed 2.06 million lives. The disruptive impact of the COVID-19 on the global economy has been broad and varied, and for IFAD, of paramount concern were the effects on small-scale farmers, agriculture workers, and rural communities, due to disruptions in health services, food systems, transport, finance and markets. But it also showed how much we depend on them.

The Central Asia and Eastern Europe region is no exception. Most of the hub countries have been suffering from serious challenges resulting in high unemployment rates, low incomes, and rural migration of the youth, and with the pandemic the challenges get deeper. Agriculture and its allied sectors have a crucial role in food security and employment opportunities, and are the main sources of livelihood for over 30 per cent of the population.

Governments across the Hub have tackled the crisis with decisive measures to avoid a food crisis, providing fiscal and financial stimulus to support employment and soften the downturn. It is estimated that around 140 million additional people could fall into extreme poverty this year globally.

IFAD’s strategic response to the COVID-19 crisis is centered on a coordinated range of activities that address immediate impacts, prevent the erosion of results from past and ongoing operations, and put in place the building blocks to support post-crisis recovery. The organization’s decentralization policy has reaped its fruits by not only enhancing its portfolio and fruitful partnerships across ECA region but also in crafting more efficient and innovative solutions to address COVID-19 pandemic.

For instance, the Hub processed the first restructuring in IFAD, to repurpose EUR 1 million from the Rural Competitiveness Development Programme (RCDP) in Bosnia & Herzegovina, and allow the Government of Republic of Sprska to respond to the adverse effects of COVID-19 on the country’s poorest rural people. Agricultural packages for essential crops were procured and distributed to more than 9000 vulnerable household. Farmers were to be provided with vegetable seeds, seedlings and fertilizers by the programme, and they could then grow those crops for household subsistence or sell them directly at local markets.

IFAD’s prior epidemic operations in the sub-region that indirectly supported the government and rural people in addressing COVID-19 included the establishment of a state-of-the-art USD 200 million co-financing for Agriculture Diversification and Modernization Project (ADMP) in Uzbekistan.

The crisis has been a wake-up call to rethink and redesign more sustainable and resilient agricultural systems. Although the situation is evolving, the pandemic’s effects highlight the need to use digital solutions (ICT4D) for improving the resilience of projects beneficiaries. In this context, IFAD and FAO have established a partnership on digital agriculture in Kyrgyzstan.

To conclude, IFAD remains committed to support countries to improve their capacity to respond to crises. The magnitude and speed with which the COVID-19 outbreak affected the agriculture and food system should be a motivation for us to invest more and use smart and innovative technology in agriculture and throughout the food value chain to ensure better, more resilient livelihoods. For the real guardians of our food security are the farmers and agriculture workers, which is why IFAD is investing in “recovery, rebuilding and resilience.”

Bernard Hien

Head of IFAD’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Hub and Country Director

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