This was contained in a report on the coronavirus pandemic published by AGRA on May 16, 2020.

The report said: “about 1.5 million people in Ghana (approximately 5% of the population) are food insecure and 2 million people are vulnerable to become food insecure if COVID disrupts planting season for 2020. Planting has commenced and 60% of farmers demand seeds and fertilizer is secured.”

The report added that though the partial lockdown has been lifted land borders with neighbouring countries (Togo, Cote d’Ivoire, and Burkina Faso) remained closed preventing the free movement of produce from one country to the other.

Regarding the interventions by government of Ghana, AGRA said there has been “fiscal and monetary policy incentives to Commercial Banks to increase the supply of credit to the private sector – US$120m credit scheme to support SMEs US$ 100m COVID-19, Social Protection Fund Facilitate access of 1million smallholder farmers to seed and fertilizer for the 2020 planting season @ 50% subsidy, Develop new lands under irrigation and inland valleys for rice production.”

AGRA indicated that it is leading a campaign to help support the 2020 planting season in Ghana, provide PPEs to support the work of agriculture front line staff reach out to farmers, facilitate farmer access to private sector driven input and out markets, and digital payment system: Facilitate Area yield insurance for 10,000 farmers- bundle agro-input with insurance Digital extension service through SMS messaging, Radio, videos, etc. are being introduced and adopted.

On food security on the African continent, AGRA said that the pandemic is slowly leading to food insecurity on the Africa continent.

According to AGRA, measures introduced by governments, which include the closure of borders are affecting the ability of farmers to harvest and sell their produce.

In Ethiopia for example, the government has projected that food production in the upcoming season could be lower by 8% due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“Government-mandated restrictions around the movement of people and the need for social distancing continues to pose challenges for farmers, especially in Southern Africa, where countries are in the harvest season and workers must gather for harvesting, cleaning and packing crops for transport.”

“To address these challenges, some farmers and traders are using social media and farm-based sales to bridge production and market gaps during the pandemic.”

“Kenya is leading the way in these efforts. Post-harvest training, which help farmers meeting international quality standards, are being conducted via digital platforms through village-based organizations.”

“In Rwanda, AGRA has partnered with others to expand mechanization so as to reduce manual labour requirements and thus enable social distancing,” a statement said.

The statement added: “In East Africa, farmers are still feeling the impact from locust invasions, while eradication efforts continue. Ongoing flood conditions in Kenya and Uganda are shortening the planting season.

“However, the high rainfalls have also created an opportunity for “dry season” crops using the abundant residual moisture. In Southern Africa, recurring climate shocks are significantly contributing to reduced food production and driving staple food prices up.”

Meanwhile, the UN has increased its original appeal for COVID-19 response funds from $2 billion in mid-March to $6.7 billion in mid-May.

Executive Director of the World Food Programme, David Beasely, in April, said “I was already saying that 2020 would be the worst year since the second world war” Already, the COVID-19 pandemic, has “taken us to uncharted territory”, he said. “Now …. We are looking at widespread famines of biblical proportions.”hj