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COVID-19

COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, the most recently discovered coronavirus. The outbreak that began in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, has rapidly spread across the world, profoundly disrupting fundamental activities we all depend on, including agriculture and food systems – and endangering all those who depend on it as their livelihood.

The coronavirus pandemic is a global emergency affecting all countries, requiring immediate and sustained international action. While mitigating the terrible human and economic toll worldwide is rightly uppermost in our minds, we are also gravely concerned about the underlying problems this emergency exposes, especially for those most at risk for severe consequences – older people, poor households, the undernourished, and those who live in remote rural areas without access to services or help. These problems heighten the risks of the current pandemic and must not be neglected.

Some 736 million people currently live in extreme poverty, which is a root cause of many global problems, from ill health to social unrest to migration. Meanwhile, hunger was already on the rise for several years before the pandemic, devastating the lives of up to 811 million people, not only robbing them of a future but weakening their immunity and health – a more dangerous combination than ever in the present crisis. Food insecurity and poverty are most severe among rural marginalized groups, including women and youth.

There are worrying reports of COVID-19 taking hold among rural populations, where poverty, undernourishment and lack of access to essential healthcare make the population especially vulnerable Given that we focus on the poorest of the poor, we fear that the impact of COVID-19 on our beneficiary groups is likely to be especially pronounced.

Short-term crises can feed off long-term problems, gaps, underinvestment and vulnerabilities.

The spread of illness can devastate poor rural communities and small-scale food producers who already face challenges such as weak resilience, poor nutrition and limited access to resources and services. Many countries depend on these communities for their national food security. Nevertheless, the pandemic and related disruptions of trade, travel and markets could reduce food production and availability.

We have received multiple reports of supply chain interruptions affecting agricultural production in some of our beneficiary countries. At the same time, small-scale farmers, with the support of IFAD and governments, are proving key actors to guarantee access to food for local populations amid the disruptions food systems are suffering. More broadly, the crisis is expected to have profound effects on the global economy, which will certainly affect small-scale rural producers on a much broader scale.

Mitigating the effects of the outbreak involves delivering support directly to the populations who need it most.

Around 63 per cent of the world’s poorest people work in agriculture, the overwhelming majority on small farms. Most of the poorest, hungriest and most marginalized people live in rural areas, and that is where the development community now needs to focus its mid- to long-term efforts.

Key messages

  • COVID-19 is a global pandemic that is having tangible effects on the agriculture sector.
  • In addition to its potential health effects, COVID-19 threatens to profoundly affect the livelihoods of poor rural farmers who depend on agriculture.
  • Given that we focus on the poorest of the poor, we fear that the impact of COVID-19 on our beneficiary groups is likely to be especially pronounced.
  • Investments in rural agricultural programmes can help people become more self-reliant, mitigate the impact of severe events, increase rural prosperity, ensure more sustainable food systems and food security, and create greater resilience in fragile states. 
  • Economic growth in agriculture is two to three times more effective at reducing poverty and food insecurity than growth in other sectors. Investments in small-scale agriculture can help revive food production and create jobs following a crisis and enable rural communities to recover.

For the latest information on novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), please refer to the World Health Organization.

In depth

In depth

IFAD’s Rural Poor Stimulus Facility

Given the magnitude of the challenge presented by this crisis, IFAD has launched a multi-donor COVID-19 Rural Poor Stimulus Facility (RPSF) to improve the resilience of rural livelihoods by ensuring timely access to inputs, information, markets and liquidity.

Stories and news

Stories and news

How IFAD worked with governments in Asia to build rural resilience during COVID-19

August 2022 - STORY
The pandemic pushed up to 80 million people in Asia into extreme poverty. Governments across the region had to respond quickly as incomes fell and food security was threatened. IFAD worked with them to ensure vulnerable rural people got the support they needed.

After the tsunami, home gardens provide fresh food and renewed hope in Tonga

August 2022 - STORY
When a massive tsunami devastated low-lying coastal areas in Tonga, local people had to rebuild their lives from scratch. For many, home gardens provided much needed fresh produce, as well as renewed hope for the future.

How over one million small-scale farmers in Pakistan got the information they needed to withstand the COVID crisis

July 2022 - STORY
COVID-19 presented new challenges for poor rural farmers in Pakistan. An IFAD-supported project shared personalized advice to farmers via their mobile phones to help overcome the challenges of the pandemic.

Building resilience in the Asia-Pacific region in uncertain times

April 2022 - BLOG
Just as the shadow of COVID-19 was lifting from many parts of the world, new crises have arisen – and they’re a particularly difficult challenge for poor rural people in developing countries.

Digital Technology and Homeworking help rural women in Guatemala recover from COVID-19

March 2022 - VIDEO
COVID-19 lockdowns meant Juana could no longer go to her job in rural Guatemala. But thanks to a loan from her local rural savings bank and IFAD’s Rural Poor Stimulus Facility, Juana started her own business at home.

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Related Publications

Related Publications

JIT Policy Note on Resilient Systems: Moving Beyond the COVID-19 Crisis

May 2022
This Just-in-Time Policy Note examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Pakistan’s food system and provides recommendations on key policy actions and adjustments to make the food systems more resilient to future shocks.

Multiple roles of farmers’ and producers’ organizations in responding to the Covid-19 crisis

May 2022
Faced with a triple health, economic, and social crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic, Farmers’ Organizations (FOs) have been called on by members and partners to play a variety of roles in response to the crisis.

Reinforcing Pacific Food Systems for COVID-19 recovery – key impacts, responses and opportunities to build back better

February 2022
This report offers a consolidated analysis of pre-COVID food security and nutrition challenges across the Pacific Islands and outlines key actions needed to respond to the current impacts, inform medium- to long-term recovery planning, and better prepare for future crises.

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