Coronavirus, Agriculture and Possibility Post-crisis Global Hunger

By Sujan Gautam
Chairperson NAFSCOL Krishiban Pvt Ltd.
Graduate, Agricultural Science

The novel corona virus (COVID-19) has created a massive impact on the wholesome economy of the world.

Several countries around the globe are either under lockdown or stay at home order.

There is a large disturbance in the supply chain including the agricultural supply chain.

While these restrictions are very necessary to break the chain of spreading Coronavirus, they often interfere in the market chains and the trade of the agricultural products which have a significant impact on the livelihood, food and nutrition of the population around the globe.

Nepal is also facing similar circumstances as the rest of the world. Being a poor economy country in South Asia, Nepal has been facing various challenges to fight against this pandemic.

The availability of the agricultural products in the market has been very limited within the nation after the lockdown and travel restrictions that began in March.

People soon began to realize the importance of food during the lockdown which has led to uncontrolled buying and unnecessary stocking of the food.

On one hand, the consumers are not able to buy fresh fruits and vegetables from the market, whereas on the other hand, farmers are worried about the market for their products and waste of produced goods caused due to travel restrictions.

As our farming system is not fully mechanized like other developed countries and requires labourers for the production and harvest of the cereal crops, during this pandemic there has been shortage of labor which is directly impacting on the cultivation.

This pandemic is further leading towards on-farm food wastage.

Although some municipalities in Terai region are subsidizing farming with mechanical harvester, it is not possible around the country.

The present situation of crisis in Nepal that we are facing is not similar to the crisis that occurred couple of years ago due to economic blockade and unavoidable natural calamities like earthquake.

Back then, during those crises, there were support from the neighboring countries and other parts of the world.

But now all the countries around the globe are in the stake of crisis and are concerned about feeding their own population and going through similar dark situation as we do. Nepal is not self-sufficient in supply of its daily commodities.

Nepal largely depends on India and its market for importing agricultural products.

If lockdown and restrictions continues, the worst scenario that can happen is that neighbouring countries restricting the export of food and essential commodities to Nepal.

This is a clear situation that gives the message to be “self-sufficient” to Nepalese people.

Social media is full of pictures like farmers draining the milk, rotting cabbages and cauliflowers in the field, quintals of tomato being rotten in the storehouse.

Farmers are troubled and worried about their income during this crisis.

The government is playing a role to keep the food supply chain operating, but the problem is the health of those workforce involved in the supply chain management. It has been very difficult for farmers to ensure the sales of their products.

There is no availability of seeds and fertilizers among the farmers so that they could cultivate and produce foods and vegetables to feed the population after this crisis.

This is not only the condition faced by Nepal, if the crisis continues it will be a common problem for farmers around the world and may lead towards post-crisis global hunger.

It is for sure that if this pandemic continues to spread then there will be a huge impact on international production and these might also trigger the new round of food crisis leading to global hunger.

Remittance is a factor that is supporting rural economics in Nepal. Nepalese farmers, poor households, the under-nourished and those residing in remote areas are worst hit because of this pandemic.

Food insecurity and poverty are the most severe and serious concerns among these rural marginalized communities in Nepal.

These rural population; especially women and youth are major producers and as they are mostly affected in this pandemic, sustaining the food system will be very difficult during and post-crisis.

The government should now plan to invest in rural agricultural programs that can help people to become self-reliant.

Investing in rural agriculture will help to mitigate the post-crisis impact in the food system, increase in rural prosperity and will help to ensure more sustainable food systems and food security.

It is the responsibility of the government to ensure a sufficient supply of the seeds, fertilizers and necessary agricultural materials among the farmers.

Youth and farming community during this lockdown can plan and prepare their land for sowing cash crops like fruits and vegetables with a good economic return, by maintaining the social distance and keeping themselves safe from the spread of COVID 19 while working in the farms.

Farmer’s engagement, production, and well-maintained supply chain during and after the crisis can aid to reduce food insecurity and post-crisis hunger around the globe.

Sujan Gautam is 2019 APYouthS Ambassador for Nepal.
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