The Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Sidie Mohammed Tunis, has called on leaders and stakeholders in West Africa to invest in and implement regional programs to improve agricultural production and food security in order to minimize the negative effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Speaker Tunis, has made 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” in Bissau, the capital of Guinea.
“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,” said Sidie Mohammed Tunis, the Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament.
The ECOWAS Speaker also decried the devastations done by the Covid 19 pandemic in addition to the disruption of programmes and the shocks it brought upon the economies of the region.
“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 of our region,” he asserted.
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 disclosed 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 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.
Speaker Tunis further 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 would also provide support 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 concludes.