Jesuit Justice Ecology Network of Africa (JENA)

Food sovereignty in Africa post–COVID-19: Insights into policy and systematic gaps

By Dennis Kyalo and Charlie B. Chilufya, S.J

COVID-19 pandemic and its associated containment measures such as curfews and restrictions on movement continue to be not only a health concern but also a major food sovereignty concern in Africa. Food sovereignty refers to ecologically appropriate food production, distribution and consumption, social-economic justice and inclusion of producer communities and the people, and use local food systems as ways to tackle hunger and poverty and guarantee sustainable food security for all people. Since onset of COVID-19 agriculture value and supply chains have been disrupted. In particular, this is seen from the disrupted farm to fork movement of food, at production (availability), distribution (accessibility), affordability (increased costs) and nutrition (quantity and quality). Aggravating the issue are environmental and ecological concerns associated with locust invasion and climate change manifested in drought and floods. FAO reports show an average swarm is estimated to destroy as much food in a day as is sufficient to feed 2,500 people per day. The locusts have affected over 103,144 hectares of land in a number of countries in the horn of Africa including Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea and Egypt. This comes at a time when food losses associated with drought and floods have also affected many people over many years. 

The COVID-19 and ecological challenges have plugged many people into poverty, food insecurity (measured at household level), hunger (measured at individual level) as evidenced by the recently launched 2020 Global Hunger Index (GHI) by Severity. Out of 107 countries that were ranked globally, a number of the GHI low-ranking (serious and alarming levels) countries are in Africa such as Kenya (84), Tanzania (89), Congo (91), Ethiopia (92), Rwanda (97) and Madagascar (105)&. On the other hand, different research outputs such as working papers published by the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) show increased poverty inequalities in Africa, with the estimated proportion of people below the international poverty line (currently set at US $1.90 a day) in different countries having increased following the on-set of COVID-19&. This is to a great extend attributed to loss of incomes and sources of livelihoods which has affected majority of vulnerable segments of the population such as women, youth and persons living in marginalized areas.  

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