Efforts to curtail the COVID-19 pandemic have sent shockwaves across the globe. The immediate measures to preserve human life and bring the health crisis under control have been wholly necessary, but as restrictions on modern life remain in place for months to come, disruptions to food systems will inevitably become more acute. The number of hungry people, already at 800 million, could double as part of the wider fallout from the pandemic.
As a global organization working at the nexus of agriculture, the environment, and nutrition, the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT is in a position to help countries avert further catastrophic hits on their food systems by stress-testing promising quick-response options, monitoring and mitigating current impacts, improving and accelerating responses, and facilitating recovery.
As an immediate response, the Alliance has quickly mobilized its resources and expertise to address immediate needs, including helping our host countries meet short-term food security requirements, providing real-time information on COVID-19-driven shifts in food consumer behavior, and maintaining our global collections of seeds and germplasm ready for deployment to farmers fields across the globe. In the short- to medium-term, while we remain committed to our ongoing research agenda, our response to COVID-19 will focus on supporting food systems at the country level.
We have divided this response into three main areas:
- We will monitor impact. Our researchers have already mobilized data-gathering resources to learn how COVID-19 is influencing agricultural production and consumer behavior. This work will allow us to evaluate the extent to which country-level food systems have been disrupted by the pandemic.
- We will improve and accelerate responses. In the short- to medium-term, our impact monitoring will lead to the deployment of targeted policy recommendations and proposals to keep national food system supply chains open and thriving, even under conditions of global stress.
- We will facilitate recovery. Over the longer term, we will embed resilience in national food systems through evidence-based policy and action recommendations. We will do this by helping countries shift consumer and agricultural behavior toward increased domestic food production, improved diets, and improved resilience to future external shocks.
During the next few weeks and months, we will tell you more about these new initiatives. We will also keep you up-to-date on the latest news from our global team of scientists and collaborators, who continue – with even greater urgency than before – their longstanding efforts to improve the health and livelihoods of the world’s most vulnerable.