Local Organizations Can Provide Insight Essential to Mitigate Covid-19 Impacts

NCBA CLUSA connects millet farmers in Senegal with school nutrition programs, increasing capacity of the producer organizations to complete big contracts and supporting local government to procure local products.

As many low-income countries seek to follow WHO guidance and institute prevention practices such as hand washing, social distancing and use of face masks, only partial up-take is realistically possible, given lack of access to water/handwashing facilities; close living quarters, transport, and work environments in urban areas; and severely limited health care infrastructure serving the poor. Thus risk of exposure is elevated. ICT developed preliminary estimates using country experience and google data sources that have suggested that social distancing on average in Africa might be expected to reduce contact by 10-20% and with strict enforced population restrictions by 40-60%.[i]Meanwhile, countries such as Ghana are already lifting ‚Äėlock-down‚Äô orders. South Africa is relying on extensive testing, tracing and ‚Äėpop-up‚Äô clinics. Some African health officials have looked at the realities facing them and have called for the basics: soap and palliative support such as decongestant and fever-reducing medications. Two thirds of the continent‚Äôs airports were reported as closed in late April, and medical supplies are sitting in storage. Given the wide range of health challenges from malaria to malnutrition, WHO‚Äôs Africa Director has called for essential services to be continued.

To mitigate the medium and long-term impacts of Covid-19 on lives and livelihoods, careful attention and monitoring of local situations will be essential. The global impact will be significant: a joint agency food crisis report (April 20), notes that 265 million worldwide will experience acute food insecurity by the end of 2020, twice the record number estimated to be affected by severe food shortages in 2018. It emphasized; ‚Äúconflict/insecurity, weather extremes, desert locusts, economic shocks and Covid-19 are expected to be the key drivers.‚ÄĚ[ii]¬† Meanwhile, UNDP estimates that half of jobs in sub-Saharan Africa will be lost due to Covid-19.[iii]

The National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International (NCBA CLUSA) works with and through formal and informal community groups and associations to support resilient livelihoods and improve food security and nutrition at the household, community, and food system level. We know that it takes local commitment, knowledge and empowerment to develop and adapt solutions to local contexts in order to be effective. Our field teams expect direct impacts on health and nutrition due to illness and death of wage earners, farmers, and care-givers. We also expect impacts on impacts on food supplies and food access. While encouraging social distancing, reduced crowds in public spaces, transport and events, severely enforced ‚Äėlockdown‚Äô measures can disrupt livelihoods and drive hunger and malnutrition for those living on a daily earned income, or limited access to foods. Without national safety nets, the many households are reliant on remittances. They are also at risk, as wage earners abroad lose their ability to earn income because of the pandemic‚Äôs economic impacts.

Broader economic destabilization and civil unrest will also affect local food systems, which are more vulnerable in low-income countries. Countries where CLUSA works, such as Senegal and Niger, have seen demonstrations as people reject lock-down restrictions. In countries with large Muslim populations, the start of the holy month of Ramadan, with daytime fasting and evening socializing, has created additional stress. The collapse in oil prices is affecting some developing economies like South Sudan, Venezuela, and Nigeria, where two thirds of government revenue comes from oil sales ‚Äď if sustained, this will affect government health budgets. While IFPRI points out that there is no shortage in the overall global food supply, with strong harvests of staple crops worldwide, some governments seek to safeguard their own food supply by restricting exports, such as Kazakhstan‚Äôs restriction on wheat exports and Vietnam‚Äôs brief suspension of rice export contracts. FAO spokespersons have noted that ‚Äúmeasures against free trade will be counterproductive‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúbarriers will create extreme volatility.‚ÄĚ Impacts are already being felt in DRC where over 80% of food supply is handled by the informal sector. Supply chain failures can include product spoilage or dumping, border closings or packaging and sales channels that shift as a result of food processing companies working at lower levels or closing due to Covid-19 impacts. Pesticides are blocked in storage that are urgently needed to address the locust plague in the Horn of Africa and East Africa, a crisis affecting pastoralists and farmers alike.

The impacts on the vulnerable in societies are just beginning to emerge. To date, civil protests and looting amid lockdown frustrations and concerns have erupted in a few contexts (e.g., Kenya, Colombia, South Africa), and may continue to flare up where government cash, food or other assistance mechanisms prove too limited. Furthermore, there are concerns that authoritarian leaning governments may use Covid-19 as a pretext to extend authoritarian regimes.[iv]In countries and districts on lock down, school feeding programs have been suspended, exacerbating child hunger. In India, some low-wage workers are reported leaving cities, others are thronging food distribution and meal centers. Humanitarian workers are looking at impacts of refugees living in close conditions and people living in conflict zones whose vulnerability is elevated.

Some governments and programs are already initiating plans to provide cash or food assistance, especially in impacted urban areas. A global response facility for vulnerable countries has just been announced by the UN.[v]Nevertheless, global policy makers note that it remains difficult to gauge the impact that Covid-19 will have on future agricultural production. Situations are likely to be highly variable and will require local problem solving, for example, where outbreaks are occurring, or food transport is being disrupted. Flexibility, agility, and immediateness of response is important for timely mitigation. While international aid responses can take months to implement, civil society already plays a strong role, and can be effectively supported to assist local government and communities.

For example, in Senegal NCBA CLUSA is already contributing to COVID 19 prevention at the regional and municipal level, enhancing local adaptive capacity to this crisis. Supporting government approved messages in local languages on community radio stations, information caravans, and working with local artisans to access cloth for cloth facemasks for distribution, assure quality, and develop distribution channels through an existing network of agriculture agents (CultiVert) and community based Citizens Working Groups. Preparing to mitigate the impact on disadvantaged families, and especially young children vulnerable to malnutrition, NCBA CLUSA is engaged with grain processing groups to produce stocks of nutritious blended flours for young child feeding.

Three practical solutions worth scaling up include awareness and prevention; response to infection (tracing); and monitoring and mitigating livelihood disruption. To focus actions, NCBA CLUSA believes in tapping local civil society and community organizations, for example, to help with tracing, and identify groups who are particularly affected. Specific assistance may be needed for older workers/farmers affected by illness/mortality; youth who are affected by closing schools or migrating to find work; and children orphaned by Covid 19. Restrictions on internal movements is now affecting the flow of food, goods and services, as has been reported in several countries in West Africa.[vi]In Goma (eastern DRC), this is causing food prices to double and triple for some products that are suddenly less available.  (Al Jazeera). We anticipate longer-term problems where there is disrupted access to seeds, fertilizers and pesticides due to market closures, and where agricultural production, storage and distribution systems are experiencing disruption. Food and agriculture systems will need monitoring and targeted support.

Context is everything. In this unprecedented time, aid agencies and governments can work with local civil society and private sector organizations with key expertise and relationships with local leaders and population groups. They can work with multiple actors, and should be supported and encouraged to take key steps to support not just Covid-19 spread, but also mitigate potential impacts on hunger and malnutrition.

Community-based groups, farmers associations and cooperatives can:

1)     Help promote simple preventative measures, especially hand-washing, use of face coverings, and social distancing measures, to the extent possible.

2)¬†¬†¬†¬† Support tracking and problem identification, conducting ‚Äúreal time‚ÄĚ data gathering to:

·       Identify affected households for case and impact monitoring, as well as for support through local programs

·       Identify food and agriculture system disruptions and support local supply chain solutions

·       Market and food price data that are sufficiently disaggregated to examine dietary diversity and access to nutritious foods (beyond staple crops)

3)     Engage in collaboration and sharing between communities and actors, to develop local solutions to reduce the spread and impact of Covid 19 and to ease the disruption to livelihoods, supporting resiliency in the face of the pandemic.

We can support local organizations by better tapping work done by data experts, who have already developed useful better practices on how to effectively gather and utilize local information for country and sub-regional specific analysis from a perspective of localized solutions finding or feed into efforts to examine likely or actual effects of Covid-19 on health, market, food, agricultural systems:

¬∑¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Know and use your publicly available data ‚Äď Further information may also be available from local ministry offices or aid agencies

·       Present the data in a way that is useful to local decision-makers Рwhich means finding out what questions they want answered, and adapting the model to the parameters or categories that are being considered for national policy or needed for local implementation

¬∑¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Incorporate local conditions ‚ÄstSeasonal shifts, such as the onset of rainy season can initiate significant population shifts. Consider recurring climatic, cultural, or political events. Historical cell-site data, securely aggregated to protect privacy, can be used to build these events into COVID-19 modeling.

¬∑¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Refresh as often as possible ‚Äď Real time data collection via digital means using sentinel sites to gather market data, food prices, health data can quickly create a powerful resource. Document and share as much possible to help others use, improve, and share.

WFP has also called for anticipatory actions such as: real-time monitoring, food, livelihood and nutrition assistance to vulnerable groups, food positioning, and social protection systems scale up, and support for food processing, transport and local food markets, to ensure that trade corridors remain open to ensure the continuous functioning of the critical food supply chain and agri-food systems. [vii]

[i]Originally published by Cooper/Smith as How to use your data to fight COVID-19: A roadmap for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.  The post 4 Ways to Use National Data in African COVID-19 Digital Response appeared first on ICTworks.  ICT estimate source endnote:

These are rough estimates, based on assumptions, and many caveats apply. But these estimates, however imperfect, have a foundation in observed behavior, making them a reasonable basis to inform policymaking.¬†Here¬†is more information on our approach- Combining Google‚Äôs category-specific data with those assumptions, we calculated a weighted, overall ‚Äúreduction-in-contact rate‚ÄĚ for each country. For example:

  • Zambia, employing social distancing, reduced contact by 15%.
  • Kenya, using social distancing plus additional restrictions, reduced contact by 37%
  • Rwanda, with enforced population restrictions, reduced contact by 57%.

By doing this across multiple countries, we were able to estimate a ‚Äúcontact-reduction range‚ÄĚ to help policymakers anticipate the likely effect of each category of restrictions:

  • Social distancing would be expected to reduce contact by 10‚Äď20%.
  • Social distancing plus additional guidelines would be expected to reduce contact by 30‚Äď40%.
  • Enforced population restrictions, the strictest category, would be expected to reduce contact by 40‚Äď60%.



[iv]The Economist, April 24, 2020.


[vi]Update on the impact of Covid-19 on food and nutrition security in West and Central Africa, WFP Regional Bureau Dakar , Research, Assessments and Monitoring, Emergency Preparedness, Nutrition and Supply Chain Units, 17 April 2020.


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