NAIROBI, Kenya (PAMACC News) - As the world grapple with containment of COVID-19 pandemic, food protests especially among poor and vulnerable African communities are likely going to be deadlier than the virus itself, if governments and international institutions do not act now, experts have warned.
In a virtual meeting with the press from across Africa, experts from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and ONE – a global movement campaigning to end extreme poverty and preventable disease by 2030 said that there exists a window of opportunity for governments to save the situation, and plan for future eventualities but only if they act in time.
“We are heading towards a real disaster because when hunger comes in, people will always protests,” said Dr Fidel Ndiame, AGRA’s Vice President for Policy and State Capacity, noting that COVID-19 effects to food security are going to be worse than what was witnessed during Ebola, because the current virus is affecting the entire world.
As a short term measure, the experts want African governments to expand and improve food assistance and social protection programs to protect the most vulnerable including cash-based transfers as the primary safety net, which can largely be distributed through contactless solutions; in-kind food assistance such as take-home rations, food package delivery, and food vouchers where necessary.
It was observed that at the moment, there is no food shortage in the global market. In Europe and the US for example, milk is being dumped and eggs are being smashed as demand from restaurants decreases. But access to the food poses a problem because borders have been closed, and movements curtailed as part of COVID-19 containment measures.
At the same time, during such crisis, some families panic and hoard food. In response, countries impose export restrictions in a misguided effort to protect domestic prices. This is likely going to be a huge problem because many African countries depend on imported food, especially rice from Asian countries.
“Food security concerns go hand in hand with pandemics,” said Edwin Ikhuoria, ONE’s Africa Executive Director, noting that the SARS and MERS outbreaks led to food price hikes and market panics in affected areas, leaving the poorest groups without access to essential foods, especially staples
In the East African region for example, Tanzanian President Dr John Pombe Magufuli has publicly urged farmers in his the country not to sell food to neighboring countries, and if they must sell it, they must make sure they charge exorbitantly to take advantage of food shortages in countries that imposed lockdown to contain the virus.
With the invasion of desert locust, floods and containment measures for COVID-19, Kenya and Uganda are the most affected in the region. Kenya in particular heavily relies on supplies of commodities such as onions, fruits, tomatoes and other vegetables from Tanzania through Namanga border. Yet, due to the COVID-19 pandemic containment measures, movements across the border have been restricted.
To that end, the experts asked all governments to step up efforts to ensure adequate food reserves by stepping up local production and storage, and called on donors to fully fund the US$1.5 billion requested by the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP).
GAFSP, created by the G20 in response to the 2007-2008 food price crises, is a multilateral mechanism to improve food and nutrition security that has effectively channeled finances to governments, the private sector, and directly to farmers.
To the international institutions, the experts called on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Board to act to create $500bn in Special Drawing Rights and all actors should immediately enact a debt moratorium for bilateral, multilateral and private debt for 2020 and 2021.
“Special Drawing Rights should be allocated to poorer countries, providing them with immediate liquidity to respond to the crisis, said Ikhuoria, further calling on donors to fully fund the US$6.7 billion requested for the Global Humanitarian Response Plan.
The GHRP is a coordinated global humanitarian response plan to fight COVID-19 in 64 of the world’s most vulnerable countries, and includes financing for the UN World Food Program (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The IMF forecasts global economic growth to contract by 3% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020, a downgrade of 6.3 percentage points from the January 2020 projection. This will make it the worst downturn since the Great Depression. As a result, 419 million additional people could fall into extreme poverty in 2020, particularly in the sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia according to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
Recent studies on the impact of COVID-19 in rural China confirm that in order to ensure adequate food, families substituted high nutrition foods such as meat and produce, for lower nutrition items like grains and staples, significantly impacting nutrition. In Senegal, more than 85% of its population has seen a reduction in income, and as a result, over a third of them now eat less food every day.
Generally, the main productive asset of the poor is physical labor. Yet, this has already been affected by social distancing measures making efforts to contain the virus much more challenging, according to IFPRI.
As a result, media reports have shown that vulnerable citizens in Tunisia have disobeyed lockdown measures to protest over hunger. In Zimbabwe, where extreme hunger debilitates 30% of the population, many are willing to risk contracting COVID-19 if it means they can eat.
“We need governments to develop sustainable food systems that can support individual countries even in times of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ndiame.
On this International Mother Earth Day, all eyes are on the COVID-19 pandemic – the biggest test the world has faced since the Second World War.
We must work together to save lives, ease suffering and lessen the shattering economic and social consequences.
The impact of the coronavirus is both immediate and dreadful.
But there is another deep emergency -- the planet’s unfolding environmental crisis.
Biodiversity is in steep decline.
Climate disruption is approaching a point of no return.
We must act decisively to protect our planet from both the coronavirus and the existential threat of climate disruption.
The current crisis is an unprecedented wake-up call.
We need to turn the recovery into a real opportunity to do things right for the future.
I am therefore proposing six climate-related actions to shape the recovery and the work ahead.
First: as we spend huge amounts of money to recover from the coronavirus, we must deliver new jobs and businesses through a clean, green transition.
Second: where taxpayers’ money is used to rescue businesses, it needs to be tied to achieving green jobs and sustainable growth.
Third: fiscal firepower must drive a shift from the grey to green economy, and make societies and people more resilient
Fourth: public funds should be used to invest in the future, not the past, and flow to sustainable sectors and projects that help the environment and the climate.
Fossil fuel subsidies must end, and polluters must start paying for their pollution
Fifth: climate risks and opportunities must be incorporated into the financial system as well as all aspects of public policy making and infrastructure.
Sixth: we need to work together as an international community.
These six principles constitute an important guide to recovering better together.
Greenhouse gases, just like viruses, do not respect national boundaries.
On this Earth Day, please join me in demanding a healthy and resilient future for people and planet alike.
KAMPALA, Uganda (PAMACC News) - As climatic conditions continue to disrupt normal rainfall patterns, drying up rivers and streams, the African Ministers’ Council on Water is now seeking to understand groundwater, following numerous studies that have shown that it is key to building resilience.
“The volume of groundwater in Africa is estimated at 0.66 million km3, which is more than 100 times the annual renewable freshwater resources, but since it is hidden underground, it remains under-valued and underutilized,” said Dr Paul Orengoh, the Director of Programs at African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW).
This comes after a recent study led by scientists from University College London (UCL) and published in the Nature Journal suggested that groundwater in the Sub Saharan Africa region was resilient to extreme climate conditions, making it a key resource for climate change adaptation.
To examine how groundwater is replenished, Prof Richard Taylor of UCL together with several other scientists from different institutions abroad and in collaboration with their counterparts in Africa examined how different aquifers behaved with different rainfall patterns.
"Our results suggest that the intense rainfall brought about by global warming strongly favours the renewal of groundwater resources,” said Prof Taylor noting that over half the world's population is predicted to live in the tropics by 2050, and therefore dependence on groundwater as a resource will continue to rise.
And now, AMCOW has formed an initiative that will help member states understand their water resources, manage it sustainable, and use it for poverty alleviation in their respective countries.
“The AMCOW Pan-African Groundwater Programme shortened as APAGroP seeks to improve the policy and practice of groundwater in Africa for better lives and livelihoods in all the 55 member countries,” said Orengoh.
Studies have shown that at least 320 million people in Africa lack access to safe water supplies, and therefore developing groundwater resources sustainably, according to experts, is a realistic way of meeting this need across Africa.
APAGroP therefore comes in to bridge the knowledge deficits gap around groundwater on the continent.
Through the initiative, AMCOW seeks to support Member States to develop, manage, and utilize water resources to assure water, food and energy security in Africa. “WASH has historically attracted prime attention. Strategy is raising the priority given to water for food, energy and industrial production,” said Orengoh.
Speaking at the recently concluded African Water Association (AfWA) forum in Kampala Uganda, Dr Callist Tindimugaya, the Commissioner for Water Resources Planning and Regulation Ministry of Water and Environment in Uganda said that there is need to to support and implement APAGrop- from transboundary to local scale.
“APAGrop should have a strong link with all Regional Economic Communities, River Basin Organisations and member states for easy implementation,” he said. “These regional organisations and member states can contribute through actual implementation on the ground, capacity building, resource mobilization, and advocacy,” noted Dr Tindimugaya.
Apart from regional platforms and member states, AMCOW seeks to work in close collaboration with consumptive sectors, which include agriculture, water supply, industry, among others through appropriate platforms.
Others are research-to-use organizations and associations such as the International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH), Civil Society Organisations, the private sector and international bodies and organiosations.
“By the end of the day, we expect to have increased knowledge base on groundwater resources, strengthened groundwater networks, strengthened capacity for groundwater development and management across all member states, and strengthened multi-purpose and sustainable use of groundwater to enhance water and food security and climate resilience,” said Dr Orengoh.
MADRID, Spain (PAMACC News) – On the eve of a critical year for environmental decision-making, Colombia, Germany and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) today announced that Colombia will host World Environment Day 2020 in partnership with Germany and that it will focus on biodiversity.
World Environment Day takes place every year on 5 June. It is the United Nations’ flagship day for promoting worldwide awareness and action for the environment. Over the years, it has grown to be the largest global platform for environmental public outreach and is celebrated by millions of people in more than 100 countries.
Making the announcement on the margins of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid, Spain, Ricardo Lozano, Colombia’s Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Jochen Flasbarth, Germany’s State Secretary for Environment, and Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, stressed that with one million plant and animal species facing extinction, there has never been a more important time to focus on the issue of biodiversity.
“2020 is a year for urgency, ambition and action to address the crisis facing nature; it is also an opportunity to more fully incorporate nature-based solutions into global climate action,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UNEP. “Each year, World Environment Day is a powerful platform to accelerate, amplify and engage people, communities and governments around the world to take action on critical environmental challenges facing the planet. We are grateful to Colombia and Germany for demonstrating leadership in this effort.”
2020 is a critical year for nations’ commitments to preserving and restoring biodiversity, with China hosting the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming. Next year also provides an opportunity to ramp up to the start of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030), intended to massively scale up the restoration of degraded and destroyed ecosystems to fight the climate crisis and enhance food security, water supply and biodiversity.
“In Colombia we will face an important challenge in 2020, and it is to host the 3rd and last OEWG [open-ended working group] meeting of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework before the COP in China. In Colombia, we are willing to work together to reach an agreement that allows us to move forward positively towards ambitious results in the COP that will meet us in China; we welcome Germany’s gesture of support in this global effort and look forward to a successful collaboration," said Ricardo Lozano, Colombia’s Environment Minister.
Listed as one of the world’s “megadiverse” countries and sustaining close to 10 per cent of the planet’s biodiversity, Colombia ranks first in bird and orchid species diversity and second in plants, butterflies, freshwater fish and amphibians. The country has several areas of high biological diversity in Andean ecosystems, with a significant variety of endemic species. It also has part of the Amazon rainforest and the humid ecosystems of the Chocó biogeographical area.
“There is no better time to come together for the planet than now,” said Jochen Flasbarth, Germany’s State Secretary for the Environment. “Climate action and biodiversity conservation are two sides of the same coin. We need to develop policies that stop the extinction of plant and animal species. Germany is pleased to support Colombia and other member states in making 2020 a year that kicks off action for biodiversity.”
According to a landmark report this year by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), current negative trends in biodiversity and ecosystems are projected to undermine progress towards 80 per cent of the assessed targets of the Sustainable Development Goals related to poverty, hunger, health, sustainable consumption and production, water, cities, climate, oceans and land.