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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.

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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.

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Building resilience in the Asia-Pacific region in uncertain times

Abril 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

Março 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.

From virtual reality to virtual field visits: How IFAD used technology to stay connected to the people we serve during COVID

Março 2022 - STORY
Two years ago, COVID-19 closures forced us all apart – but the creative use of technology helped keep us together. Today, with tech giants promising to take all of us into the metaverse, IFAD is exploring how cutting-edge technology can help us see the world through each other’s eyes.

In The Gambia, targeted COVID-19 support helps small businesses flourish

Março 2022 - STORY
Back in early 2020, when the first waves of COVID-19 were spreading around the world, IFAD launched the RPSF as a multi-donor initiative to sustain rural people around the world during the pandemic. With the RPSF’s help, many were able to start small businesses – and today, those businesses are sustaining local economies and building resilience.

IFAD-funded project to develop technological solutions to help smallholder farmers overcome COVID-19 impact in Latin America and the Caribbean

Fevereiro 2022 - NEWS
IFAD launched the Innovatech project today, which aims to develop agricultural (AgriTech) and financial (FinTech) digital solutions to facilitate small famers’ access to markets and to financial and non-financial services in Bolivia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras and Mexico.

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COVID-19 Learning Notes

Agosto 2020
Learning lessons as the COVID-19 crisis unfolds, and providing timely knowledge-driven feedback to development practitioners and decision-makers, is perhaps as important as delivering IFAD’s COVID-19 package itself.

Food Security in Iraq: Impact of COVID-19

Outubro 2021
Over the six-month period analyzed in this report, Iraq experienced significant turmoil. In addition to the effects of the pandemic, with cases overall on the rise in Iraq, the devaluation of the Iraqi dinar in December 2020, and lower than usual seasonal rainfall, have all impacted upon the food security of households.

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the rural economy in China

Novembro 2021
Capturing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on China’s rural and agricultural economy offers an opportunity to ascertain how much influence it has had on rural farmers and how their coping strategies and the government’s mitigation measures helped ease the economic impacts on the lives of people living in rural areas.

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