SADC strengthens mechanisms on food security in response to COVID-19

SANF 20 no 19 – by Egline Tauya
The SADC region is strengthening mechanisms for food security as the coronavirus continues to spread with a potential risk to food security and nutrition.

The Ministers responsible for agriculture, food security, fisheries and aquaculture have reviewed the guidelines developed by the SADC Secretariat in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Soon to be presented to the Council of Ministers, the guidelines provide SADC Member States with measures to avoid disruption to food supply chains and associated livelihoods resulting from the impact of COVID-19

The guidelines provide measures to minimize disruption to farming operations, and enable access to production inputs, including critical emergency veterinary drugs.

The measures include ways to reach markets for farming households.

The Ministers noted that the impact of COVID-19 can lead to a decline in the nutritional status of vulnerable populations due to a reduction in household food security and access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene services, which may result in increased sickness.

Disruption to supply chains through blockages on transport routes, transport restrictions and quarantine measures are resulting in significant increases in food loss and waste.

This effect is significant in perishable agricultural produce such as fruit and vegetables, fish, meat and dairy products.

Labour shortages caused by restriction on movement of key stakeholders in production and transport, are impacting on food supply resulting in food shortages in some markets. This contributes to food loss and to waste of supplies.

The need for guidelines to turn these challenges into opportunities becomes imperative to boost food security and maintain health.

The move by SADC to set up guidelines on food security is supported by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation which has proposed strategies to reduce food loss and manage harvest gluts in traditional local supply chains.

The strategies include supporting labour migration toward ensuring the uninterrupted harvesting of crops.

Another strategy is to promote appropriate measures that increase shelf-life and improve packaging and storage to reduce food loss.

Other measures include exempting transporters of bulk food and certain food distribution networks from curfew hours to facilitate the transport of perishable foods during the cooler times of the day and at night to maintain quality and reduce food loss.

To facilitate and ease the process of transporting essential goods and services, including food items within the region, SADC has set guidelines on transport.

As part of the guidelines, Member States have agreed to establish national transport and trade facilitation committees or use existing structures comprising officials from the ministries responsible for transport, health, police/army, and trade to coordinate the implementation of the guidelines, and resolve operational issues at borders or road blocks.

To assist and coordinate Member States and corridor groups in implementing the transport guidelines, a Regional COVID-19 Trade and Transport Facilitation Cell has been created at the SADC Secretariat.

This move is critical in supporting the transportation of food items across the region.

The Joint Meeting of SADC Ministers responsible for Agriculture and Food Security, Fisheries and Aquaculture met through video-conferencing on in May 2020.

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