By John Okeke
In order to minimize the negative effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on food security accross the region, President of the Republic of Guinea Bissau, Umaro Sisokko Embalo and the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Sidie Mohammed Tunis, among others have called on leaders and stakeholders in West Africa to invest in and implement regional programs that will improve agricultural production and food security .
President Embalo gave this urge while making his remarks during the opening ceremony of the ECOWAS, Delocalised Meeting with the theme “Agricultural Production and Food Security in ECOWAS region under Covid-19 pandemic” which commenced on Tuesday November 10 in Bissau, Guinea Bissau.
Represented by Soares Shambu, the Guinea Bissau President said that it has become imperative to take necessary steps to tackle the pandemic especially now that many nations of the world are beginning to experience the second wave of the pandemic, which he described as “more dangerous”, considering how vulnerable the sub-region has been in the face of the severe impacts of the pandemic.
He said “we must find a way and adopt new thinking to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on agricultural production and food security and prepare for the imminent second wave”.
Also in his opening remarks, the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Tunis, decried the devastations done by the Covid 19 pandemic in addition to the disruption of programmes and the shocks brought upon the economies of the region.
He said “ the pandemic has brought upon our shoulders even greater issues that demand robust action and real steps to mitigate future threats to the peace and security our region.
Tunis said that even before the global Covid -19 broke out, food security was a serious concern throughout sub Saharan Africa, stressing that the chromic food crisis was driven by a variety of factors including economic shocks, climate change and civil conflicts which have led to a state of food scarcity.
He added that border closures, lockdowns and curfews intended to slow the spread of the disease have disrupted supply chains that if even under normal circumstances people struggled to keep markets well stocked and farmers supplied with necessary agricultural and livestock inputs.
“These disruptions could have a much larger economic impacts on our region with the United Nations estimating that well over 40 million people across the West Africa could face desperate food shortages in the coming months. Moreover, disruption in food chains caused by labour shortages and low harvest has put the sub region further into crisis as a lot of our people rely on food systems for their jobs and livelihood. They work to produce, collect, store, process, transport and distribute food to consumers as well as to feed themselves and their families,” he said.
Tunis called on the regional leaders and stakeholders to make concerted efforts saying “We must act now and together we must, and can limit Covid- 19 damaging effects on food security and nutrition. This we believe will set the basis to reduce the risk of the pandemic disrupting the food systems and causing food crisis within our member states”.
There have been several efforts made by the ECOWAS member states, the ECOWAS commission and other regional and multilateral organizations to have this looming danger addressed. These include the establishment of presidential committees and task forces as well as regional and global responses to save lives, contain the spread of the virus and provide palliatives for vulnerable populations.
The Speaker noted that these efforts will also provide supports systems to cushion the national and local economies and development of safety nets for the sub-region. He noted that ECOWAS ministers of agriculture met in April to identify resource requirement aimed at managing the pandemic and adopted a framework that addresses both national and regional food and nutrition needs of member states. He added that the recommendations of the ECOWAS Ministers of agriculture are being implemented by the ECOWAS Commission.
“As such we have convened this meeting to find the means by which we can support and complete the work of the ECOWAS commission in mitigating the negative impact of Covid 19 on agricultural production and food security in the region. I Am hopeful that the in the next few days the deliberations will lead to innovations and strategies to alleviate these challenges,” he said.
President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean Claude Kassi Brou, in his remarks, said the regional organizations will continue to show solidarity with member countries to ensure success in the fight against Covid-19 and the poverty ravaging the region.
Brou, who was represented by the Political and Diplomatic Counsellor of the ECOWAS Commission, Ambassador Emmanuel Ohin, also praised the effort of the government of Guinea Bissau for the progress made at the political front and assured of ECOWAS support and solidarity for the stability of Guinea Bissau.