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Cape Town — When the Covid-19 hit, governments all over the world became responsible for curbing the spread of the virus. Leaders across Africa came up with regulations that have affected the livelihoods of small-scale fishers and farmers, but in different ways.
The pandemic along with climate change have exposed and multiplied the vulnerability of food systems across the globe, increasing food prices and food insecurity, but especially in African countries who are least equipped to handle the multiple, ongoing crises. One-in-four people globally - 1.9 billion - are moderately or severely food insecure, a number that is on the rise.
The term food system describes the interconnected systems that influence nutrition, food, health, community development and agriculture. Right from growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, transporting, marketing, consumption, distribution to the disposal of food and food-related items. And this highly complex system operates within and is influenced by a host of social, political, economic, and environmental factors.
A project following the impacts of Covid-19 responses and the political economy of the African food system looked at South Africa, Tanzania and Ghana, and was funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS).
"We have focused on three countries with three different farming and food systems that have also adapted different policy and regulatory responses to Covid-19 and looked at how those different policy and regulatory responses have affected food systems that themselves are already differently structured. Tanzania is a very smallholder based food system in contrast to South Africa's, which is based primarily on large scale commercial farming, but with a very large small scale sector and similarly a very highly corporatised, centralised supermarket based retail sector. It contrasts very strongly with the sectors in Tanzania and Ghana," says South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) Chair Professor Ruth Hall.
The partnership between activist organisations and university based researchers chose these three countries with a particular purpose in mind. South Africa has a very corporate-based food system whereas Tanzania has a food system dominated by small scale farmers and small scale fishers and Ghana is somewhere in between. Similarly they're extremely different in terms of regulatory responses to Covid-19.
"We did in-depth qualitative research in these three countries in three sites per country and in South Africa we have outlined our three sites where the West Coast, focuses on fishing in the Western Cape, secondly, fresh produce in parts of Kwazulu-Natal particularly focusing on small scale producers in communal areas supplying informal markets into Pietermaritzburg and then thirdly the fresh produce sector in Johannesburg and Gauteng, much of which sources from Johannesburg and a lot of that market produce comes from Limpopo.
Reporting on the South African component, PLAAS conducted a large number of in-depth interviews with food system actors.
"When we say food system, it's not just farmers and shops, but a range of actors from input suppliers to primary producers be they farmers or fishers. In some cases traders, wholesalers, fresh produce markets and street vendors," says Hall, adding that their focus was explicitly on the informal sector and the small scale sector and looking at how Covid-19 affected them.
"So what we are explicitly not doing is looking at overall aggregate food production within South Africa. We're also not looking at hunger which has been adequately covered in other studies. So the interest that we have is not just if there's enough food in the country but how the regulations have affected particularly people who already are in a relatively marginalised position within the informal sector in South Africa's food system. So South Africa has a peculiar food system in which even the poor are net consumers of food," the research reveals.
Hall further emphasizes how the small scale sector and the informal sector of the food system in South Africa is actually vast.
"So while a lot of the food we eat is produced by commercial farms, processed by big agribusinesses and sold by the big four or five supermarkets chains. In fact a huge number of people derive their livelihoods from small scale farming, small scale fishing and informal street trade. We got some of the stats here which are quite remarkable. 2,5 million small scale farmers at least part-time and about 250,000 black small scale farmers producing for markets, often these informal markets that were particularly hard-hit during Covid-19, about 80,000 small scale fishers and as many as 750,000 street traders, most of whom have some food that they are selling," she says.
"South Africa has had a long, hard and very restrictive type of lockdown over the past 18 months whereas Tanzania has had almost no restrictions other than some export restrictions and travel restrictions but largely has not locked down. While Ghana had medium level of lockdown that was then lifted after some time. So both in-terms of the food system, the political and regulatory responses by government, we see quite a spectrum of experiences so there's a lot to learn from here," Hall said.
The research shows very clearly that these different responses have really impacted on the flow of fish that have been caught and sold to local, regional and international markets, affected the prices of fish and the supply chains with some people managing to keep within the system and even benefiting and others being locked out.
In Ghana, 60% of their fish produce is imported from Namibia, South Africa, Europe and also from the U.S. according to Patricia Blankson Akakpo, an activist with the Network for Women's Rights in Ghana.
"Locally we only produce 40% and during the Covid-19 pandemic, though we did not record any reduction on the fish flow, there were issues with fish flow across regions so transporting the fish from the south to northern Ghana was a problem because there were partial lockdowns which affected the flow of fish in the market," Akakpo says, adding that not only regulations affected the flow of fish, but also people's choices and fears about where they go and the fear of contracting Covid-19.
Maia Nangle from Masifundise Development Trust says the fishing sector in South Africa is largely dominated by a few big fishing companies and yet there's a very important small scale fishing sector that many coastal communities are part of and rely on for their livelihoods.
"South African fisheries and the food system in general is very much dominated by the corporate sector but so many small scale fishers and fishing communities rely on this for their livelihoods and basic incomes. The government's strict response to Covid-19 and implementation of extremely harsh lockdown regulations led to the closure of export markets, tourism markets as well as the restaurant industry which completely crashed. Those are all very important markets for small scale fishers and because of the closure of all those markets, there was an oversupply of fish with minimal demand and this caused huge drops on the price of fish," Nangle says.
The government of South Africa also supported sales from small-scale fishers to industrial fisheries such as Oceana, an investment holding company with interests in fishing, cold storage and shipping, linking the informal market to the formal, says Nangle.
"The reason for that is that within small scale fishers, there isn't much of post harvest opportunities or processing of fish. As fish need to be sold fresh and small scale fishers don't have cold storage facilities, they had to sell their produce at very low prices that they get at the moment. They can't keep the fish for longer then sell it when the price is higher, whereas in selling it to industrial fisheries who have the facilities to do that and wait till the prices are better."
In Tanzania, a lot of the fish trade is cross-border, inland and also along the coast targeting the tourist industry, restaurants and of course, that was disrupted even though there wasn't a hard lockdown.
"Tanzania didn't have strong lockdown. However, that didn't stop some of the effects that came along with Covid-19 and particularly during the very early days where restrictions were put forward. This really interrupted the flow of fish within the country but also along the borders because we couldn't trade across the Great Lake area but also if you look at the coastal areas, tourists, hotels and the whole hospitality industry play a significant role," says Tanzanian activist Editrudith Lukanga from the Environmental Management for Economic Development Organization.
Lukanga says in the coastal areas, closing borders with other countries restricted tourists from coming in and this impacted significantly on the traders within these hotels that were serving the tourists. There was a significant drop, people lost their jobs, incomes were significantly reduced and the fish traders had to look at some alternatives. One of it has been the growth of the internal consumption through internal markets which contributed to increasing nutrition for the communities, but had its own downside for the trader.
"Normally in these tourist hotels, fish sell at higher prices but when sold locally, prices go down because now, the availability and supply is high and therefore it is the business people that are losing in a way because they are now selling the fish at a lower price," she says.
Coming to the Great Lakes region, restrictions that were put within the border-post increased the running costs and brought a bit of trouble for the traders as transportation of fish across the borders was close to impossible.
"It became difficult now for fish to be transported to other countries. You cannot pass through a border-post without testing for Covid-19 and that adds on the cost, takes longer and therefor it puts the fish itself as a product at risk because it's perishable, so the business people where losing on that."
To the traders this meant to they had to look for alternatives.
"There's a Congolese trader who is based in Mwanza, working at Kirumba International fish market who had an interesting story. She says because of what has been happening at these borders, they had to look for an alternative route. Now instead of going through the normal route, they now had to travel by road from Mwanza to Kigoma where there's Lake Tanganyika, then board the boat from the lake across going to Congo. So that route
again, doesn't come without complications. It took longer and there are times when upon arrival in Congo, the fish has been spoiled, gone bad. Then the health officials would confiscate and then it would end up being wasted," says Lukanga. These are just some of the challenges the traders have been experiencing and how Covid-19 has really disrupted the fishery value chain.
While many have lost out, the effects vary between classes of boat owners, crew, processors, and traders - and each of these roles is highly gendered, with women playing dominant roles in fish processing and fish trade. Restrictions on mobility, cross-border trade and the collapse of tourism meant loss of markets in both Ghana and Tanzania, with school closures adding to women's reproductive burden at the same time that market opportunities were foreclosed.
Moderate or severe food insecurity has been climbing slowly for six years and now affects more than 30% of the world population, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). And by 2050 the world will need to feed an estimated 9.7 billion people, all while protecting natural resources and biodiversity.
Many people still think of climate change as a phenomenon that we will only face in the distant future. Perhaps that's partly because climate change projections about rising temperatures and extreme weather events are tied to future dates: 2030, 2050, or 2100, for instance.
But it's important to realize that we already are experiencing climate change, and have done so for some time now. Over the past century, global temperatures have increased by approximately 1°C. Sea level rise is already starting to affect certain low-lying coastal communities. The world is experiencing more frequent and intense extreme climate events.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) 6th Assessment Report: Physical Science basis, released in September 2021, contains a comprehensive - and largely grim - assessment of the state of both recorded and projected climate change globally. The IPCC is the United Nations body for assessing science relating to climate change - a group of expert scientists from around the world, who author scientific reports on the state of the earth's climate and future climate change projections.
Its latest report compiles research from 1400 papers, and will serve as an important reference document for the COP26 meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, from October 31 to
November 12. It's there that science is turned into policy.
Such policy is critical for the whole world - and urgent for southern Africa, which is particularly vulnerable to climatic changes. The region has already been experiencing climate changes that are more rapid, and with impacts that are more severe than the global average. It also struggles with a low adaptive capacity: there's little capital available for investment in measures to protect against future climate hazards, and very pressing immediate human rights needs for a large proportion of the population.
There's no avoiding the reality that southern Africa is in the throes of a climate emergency. By identifying trends in the frequency of weather events happening and its intensity over a period of decades, and exploring changes in related biological systems in light of this, it's plain to see that the region has already been rocked by climate change and related effects.
An increase in extreme temperature
Extreme temperature events can be defined by the maximum temperature, the deviation from the norm, or the length of time of above-threshold temperatures. A number of indices have been developed by the World Meteorological Organization to identify and quantify these extreme temperature events.
Warm events, when they meet specific criteria, are termed heatwaves. These are particularly dangerous for people, animals and plants, and are a direct cause of deaths.
In southern Africa, there has been an increase in the severity and frequency of heatwave events over recent decades. Interestingly, for a few locations, there has also been an increase in the frequency of extreme cold events. While this is not a feature of climate warming, it is induced by changes in regional climate patterns, such as the number of cold fronts which move over South Africa.
Severe drought
Drought is defined as a significant and prolonged departure from mean rainfall totals. The most severe, and best known, drought in southern Africa in recent years was the "Day Zero" crisis in Cape Town. While increasing pressure for water in the City of Cape Town played a role in this, a longer-term poleward displacement in the winter-rain-bearing westerlies which bring the cold fronts and rain to Cape Town during the winter months was a significant contributor to this drought.
Southern Africa more broadly is also sensitive to El Niño induced droughts. El Niño refers to warmer than usual conditions in the Eastern Pacific that persist for a couple of months through to years, driven by a weakening of the Trade Winds, and a resultant reduction in the upwelling of colder water to the sea surface just off South America. This was the cause of the 2015-2016 drought in South Africa's Kruger Park, which resulted in the drying up of watering holes, and the widely publicized death of hippos and later culling of other large mammals.
High intensity tropical cyclones
The southern African subcontinent is relatively well protected from tropical cyclones by the island of Madagascar. However, some tropical cyclones do form in the Mozambique Channel, and occasionally some tropical cyclones move across Madagascar. These storms can - and do, as was seen most recently with Tropical Cyclones Idai, Kenneth and Eloise - make landfall on Mozambique.
Over recent decades, tropical cyclones in the Southwest Indian Ocean have increased in intensity; the first category 5 tropical cyclone for the sub-ocean basin was recorded in 1994. Tropical Cyclone Idai, which bordered in intensity between categories 3 and 4 on landfall, provides stark evidence of the damage wrought by high intensity tropical cyclones in populated areas. There is also evidence that tropical cyclones have expanded their range polewards over recent decades, affecting a larger region of southern Africa.
Changes in the timing of phenological events
In addition to the weather, we experience from the changing climate itself, climate change also has an impact on biological systems. Phenology, which refers to the timing of annually recurrent biological events, is one of the most sensitive bio-indicators of climate change.
In South Africa, scientists have recorded advances in the timing of apple and pear flowering in the southwestern Cape, and of Jacaranda flowering in the Gauteng City Region. Warmer sea surface temperatures have also resulted in a delay in the sardine run along the KwaZulu-Natal south coast.
These shifts have an impact on agriculture and tourism, but more importantly demonstrate that climate change is having an effect on the natural environment. These shifts in timing cannot continue indefinitely. Plants and animals have thresholds beyond which the stresses of climate change will result in at least local extinction.
The picture seems hopeless, but with mitigation and adaptation strategies and policies driven through, among other processes, COP26, southern Africa can reduce the impacts of climate change on local livelihoods. It is important at this stage to invest in adaptation to reduce the impacts of climate change, and to make every effort to reduce our reliance on carbon to slow down climate change
The world food price barometer surged to a new peak reaching its highest level since July 2011, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reported today.
The FAO Food Price Index, which tracks monthly changes in the international prices of a basket of food commodities, averaged 133.2 points in October, up 3 percent from September, rising for a third consecutive month.
The FAO Cereal Price Index in October increased by 3.2 percent from the previous month, with world wheat prices rising by 5 percent amid tightening global availabilities due to reduced harvests in major exporters, including Canada, the Russian Federation and the United States of America. International prices of all other major cereals also increased month-on-month.
The FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index went up 9.6 percent in October, hitting an all-time high. The increase was driven by firmer price quotations for palm, soy, sunflower and rapeseed oils. Palm oil prices rose for a fourth consecutive month in October, largely underpinned by persisting concerns over subdued output in Malaysia due to ongoing migrant labour shortages.
The FAO Dairy Price Index rose by 2.6 points from September, influenced by generally firmer global import demand for butter, skim milk powder and whole milk powder amid buyers’ efforts to secure supplies to build stocks. By contrast, cheese prices remained largely stable, as supplies from major producing countries were adequate to meet global import demand.
The FAO Meat Price Index slipped 0.7 percent from its revised value in September, marking the third monthly decline. International quotations for pig and bovine meats fell amid reduced purchases from China of the former and a sharp decline in quotations for supplies from Brazil of the latter. By contrast, poultry and ovine meat prices rose, boosted by high global demand and low production expansion prospects.
The FAO Sugar Price Index dropped by 1.8 percent from September, marking the first decline after six consecutive monthly increases. The decline was mainly the result of limited global import demand and prospects of large exportable supplies from India and Thailand as well as a weakening of the Brazilian Real against the US dollar.
Source: FAO
04 /09 / 2021 - Rwanda: New Hub to Connect Rwandan Women Entrepreneurs to Markets
The International Trade Centre (ITC) and the Private Sector Federation (PSF) Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs, in collaboration with the Rwandan Ministry of Trade and Industry (MINICOM) on Thursday, September 2 launched a SheTrades Hub in Rwanda.
SheTrade is a global initiative under ITC that aims at connecting women entrepreneurs to markets, the hub's aim is to bolster the competitiveness and market access of Rwandan women-led businesses.
The new hub will join a network of more than ten SheTrades Hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Executive Director of ITC said that through the SheTrades Hub, women-owned businesses and corporations in Rwanda will benefit from a wide range of opportunities to expand their business and advance women's economic empowerment.
"This will be done through networking with other businesses, learning about the export market through e-learning courses and webinars and participating in in-person workshops, trade fairs and other business events," she added.
Jeanne-Françoise Mubiligi, Chairperson of Rwanda Chamber of Women said that Hub will support Rwandan women entrepreneurs to improve their competitiveness, connect them to new markets and internationalize their businesses and maximize profitability.
"Launching this hub will help very many women whose small and medium businesses have been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, and they will have an opportunity to continue their business operations, this launch could not have come at a better time," she added.
Sharon Akanyana, a member of SheTrade and business owner of a Kigali-based food processing company said that through the hub she was able to receive training on different business aspects, like marketing and how to digitalise her business and also get easy access to financial help, and many other opportunities.
"In addition, this hub will help support and reach out to younger generations of women entrepreneurs and help them grow and get more investment opportunities," she added.
Joy Murekatete, who owns a hospitality business that took a hit from the pandemic due to the closure and annulation of events, said that through the hub, her and many women owning similar businesses will be able to learn, access the financial help they need and be able to get their businesses up and running smoothly.
Beata Habyarimana, the Minister of Trade and Industry who officiated the launch said that the Government of Rwanda is committed to promoting women in all areas including entrepreneurship and the hub will give access to finance and information, and give them a platform for their businesses.
"Through these kinds of hubs, we can leverage businesses owned by women, and we will be able to align them and help them with the economic recovery they need," she added.
Habyarimana urged all the stakeholders and partners to advance and support women's economic empowerment because they greatly contribute to the country's economic development.
Source: The New Times
Despite the country registering a bumper maize harvest during last agricultural season there are fears that there could be a scarcity of the commodity in the near future and the parliamentary committee on agriculture has advised government to consider issuing a maize export ban.
Among others, the Committee cited the heightening rise of fertilizer prices as a factor that would affect the amount of maize produce in the next growing season.
"The country may have lower yields if rising fertilizer prices are not contained... and allowing people to export maize will expose the country to food shortage and rising prices," Sameer Suleman, parliamentary agriculture committee chairperson, said.
A recent Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) report shows that the number of people requiring relief food in the country stands at 1.5 million, about 43 percent lower than 2.6 million projected last year but it could worsen based on the prevailing indicators.
According to Suleman, the ban would be in the best interest of all Malawians and that it would be reasonable to suspend exportation of maize now until the country was sure of a surplus.
Grain Traders and Processors Association Chairperson, Grace Mijiga Mhango, advised government to purchase more produce through Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC) and National Food Reserve Agency (NRFA) before exporting.
"Government should not rely on maize in the hands of private sector players as some can informally export or hoard it at will," Mijiga-Mhango warned.
But trade minister, Sosten Gwengwe, said the food balance sheet informs that Malawi has achieved excess maize.
"People need to understand that if there are pockets of hunger in the country it means we will not be importing but we will use maize which is locally found," Gwengwe said.
Maize is a staple food for Malawi and the highest contributor to inflation's Consumer Price Index.
In the 2020-21 National Budget, the government allocated K12 billion to NFRA and ADMARC for maize purchases.
This year, maize production has been estimated at 4,581,524 metric tonnes (mt)-- compared to 3 785,712mt in the 2019-20 agriculture season.
Source: Nyasatimes.
China on Wednesday received the first consignment of dried chili pepper from Rwanda, making it the first African country to debut the product on the Chinese market.
The move follows a deal secured by Diego Twahirwa, a young Rwandan entrepreneur in agribusiness and China's GK International, located in Hunan Province.
Under the agreement, Rwanda will export 50,000 tonnes of dried chili, every year, for a period of five years.
"The imported 200 kg of dried chilies will be sold to dealers and then given to customers and food processing plants as samples," said Yu Jian, chairman of GK International in Hunan.
According to Twahirwa, the consignment delivered on Wednesday was a sample with a bigger one expected to be seen off on Monday, August 9.
This, experts say, is a good market opportunity for Rwanda in terms of expanding its steadily growing chili exports.
China has the world's largest number of dried chili pepper consumers, exporting 119,900 tonnes of dried chili peppers in the first half of 2021.
Across the Asian country, Hunan is a big consumer and processor of chili peppers across the country.
However, the pepper plantation in Hunan cannot meet the local demand from the dried chili pepper processing industry, according to reports.
Before imports from Rwanda, only seven countries were allowed to export dried chili peppers to China.
Last month, the General Administration of Customs gave the green light to dried chili pepper imports from Rwanda, making it the first African country to gain access to the lucrative market.
This is not the first time Rwanda exports dried chili to an international market.
The country has previously exported to India, a market exporter say has not been highly favorable due to small cost of the product, which made it a risky business.
"This new market will double the cost, with unlimited capacity, making it a sustainable market," said Twahirwa, adding, "It also gives a reliable market to local farmers for their chilli."
Based on this, Twahirwa asserts that Rwandans will have an opportunity to get a foothold in a lucrative market.
Source: The New Times