The COVID-19 pandemic and government-implemented control measures may result in fundamental changes to the way people access food. In anticipation of this, the CGIAR COVID-19 Hub aims to leverage ongoing work to adopt a forward-looking lens. Alongside addressing short- and medium-term critical needs, the Hub recognizes the importance of focusing on food systems' fragilities in the medium- and longer-term to ensure attention to health, nutrition, environmental and system sustainability, and inclusion and socioeconomics, while strengthening links to other systems, such as social, business, and environmental.
To accomplish this, one must first map the impacts of COVID-19 on food systems, food security, and nutrition and understand key fragility points as well as underlying vulnerabilities. The crisis calls for building back better, in two key ways:
CGIAR researchers are working to consider possible evolutions of consumption patterns, expected technological breakthroughs (digitalization, robotization, alternative proteins, food safety requirements) and adjustments in social innovation systems around food, such as trust, reliability, collective action, and public sector confidence.
Over the medium- to long-term phases of the pandemic, researchers plan to map key fragility points of COVID-19 and underlying food system vulnerabilities, including analyses of the food system drivers exacerbating the health impacts of COVID-19, such as air contamination by pesticides and crop burning; poverty of agricultural workers; obesity, diabetes, or malnutrition; and the trade-offs between productivity and sustainability. They will estimate the impacts of COVID-19 in different types of agriculture and food systems, and identify solutions to the issues for the various actors affected, while also developing tools, recommendations, and capacity-building resources to integrate risk prevention and management into food systems, and analyzing longer-term issues of economic stability.
They expect to be able to identify the impacts of COVID-19 on food consumption, diets and livelihoods in developing countries and integrate prioritized, sustainable production and consumption solutions to improve resilience, add to knowledge on food systems’ fragility, and provide concrete recommendations on how to address vulnerabilities and reinforce resilience in the mid-term response, with particular emphasis on vulnerable groups and country priorities. Incorporating this new knowledge into foresight modelling will enable food systems to build back better.
Members of the working group Addressing Food System Fragilities and Building Back Better include:
Research in this area targets goals outlined in all four research pillars of the CGIAR COVID-19 Hub:
Learn more about CGIAR work on COVID-19 here or by contacting us at COVID-19-Hub@cgiar.org.
In this piece, Kanayo Nwanze, CGIAR Special Representative to the UN Food Systems Summit 2021, lays out the argument for why building back better starts with transforming food systems.
Read the essay
A joint study between the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT and Twiga Foods analyzed the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the consumption of nutritious foods, food security and diets of residents of the Kibera and Mathare slums as well as middle-income residents in Nairobi, Kenya. The researchers captured residents’ experiences through a series of interviews.
Read their stories
In this blog, Johan Swinnen, IFPRI Director General, and Thomas Reardon, Professor, Michigan State University, summarize early experiences in international and domestic supply chains across various types of firms and commodities, review a range of innovations developed to keep supply chains running, and make recommendations on facilitating continued innovation to speed the recovery and ensure better food supplies post-pandemic.
Read their perspective
At the 2020 Food Systems Dialogues, ICRISAT Director of Country Relations and Business Affairs Arabinda Kumar Padhee offered six pathways to transform food systems in India to tackle the twin challenges of climate change and the burden of malnutrition in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Read his suggestions
The COVID-19 pandemic — and the related economic crisis and disrupted food and health systems — will likely severely worsen all forms of malnutrition globally, with micronutrient deficiencies, child wasting and stunting, and overweight and obesity all expected to surge. This IFPRI-A4NH seminar focused on anticipated impacts on maternal and child nutrition, diets, reach of nutrition interventions, and mortality, with speakers reflecting on positive adaptations that could help rebuild stronger health, economic, and food systems, and thereby protect nutrition and health.
View the seminar
COVID-19 adds challenges to farmers across sub-Saharan Africa who are already struggling with floods, drought, pests and diseases. Emergency relief must look beyond just food to be consumed now, to also include high-quality seed for future harvests. CGIAR scientists from ICRISAT argue that supplying certified seed for nutritious crops that are treasured in traditional African diets is one of the cheapest and most effective ways of achieving future food security.
Read their analysis
As social protection programs and systems adapt to mitigate against the COVID-19 crisis, gender considerations are likely to be overlooked in an urgent effort to save lives and provide critical economic support. Yet past research and learning indicates that small adaptations to make program design and implementation more gender-sensitive may result in overall and equality-related gains. Experts from IFPRI and the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets, and their colleagues, detail these adaptations across five areas of implementation.
As people around the world work to understand the implications of the pandemic, it’s clear that water is central not only to these systems, but also to our ability to respond to COVID-19, restore growth and build resilience in a post-pandemic world. Scientists from IWMI make the argument in this op-ed published in Ensia.