Editor’s Note

2021 and hopes of post-COVID-19 recovery

[rt_dropcap_style dropcap_letter=”W” dropcap_content=”e welcome the new year 2021 with cautious optimism after an extremely difficult 2020 dominated by the devastating COVID-19 pandemic and a trail of destruction on lives and economies.”]

The agricultural sector, the mainstay of the economies of many African countries and sustainer of the livelihoods of the majority of the continent’s 1.3 billion population, was hard hit by the virus.

Movement restrictions as part of the control measures coincided with the planting periods for most staple crops, exacerbating food security challenges. To achieve adequate food supplies, governments must develop better packages to confront the challenge of reducing hunger post-COVID-19. This edition dwells on the livestock and aquaculture sectors, a profile of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Director-General Dr Jimmy Smith and a powerful response on Africa’s aquaculture sector by Kenya’s Principal Secretary in the State Department of Fisheries, Aquaculture and the Blue Economy, Prof Japheth Ntiba.

We report on the issues at the heart of the animal-human health interface and the emergence of new infectious zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19 transmitted from animals to humans. We also review the evolution of African indigenous, cattle, donkeys and snail farming, the sugar sub-sector and our food security watch features the high-level ‘Resetting the Food System from Farm to Fork’ meeting ahead of the 2021 UN Food Security Summit.

With over 65% of households mainly poor, vulnerable smallholder farmers, African countries must rethink strategies and policies for sustainable economic growth. Rootooba attended the recent African Union (AU) virtual session of the 16th Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) themed ‘Malabo Commitments Five Years on: Translating Lessons Learnt into Accelerated Action towards 2025.

The commitments require governments to allocate at least 10% of public expenditures to the agricultural sector and 6% annual growth in agricultural GDP.

Less than 20% of African countries have achieved these commitments, a situation worsened by the pandemic. COVID-19 has left a negative impact on agricultural productivity and the value chain, disrupting farming communities and trade.

Calling for resilient policies and action, the forum expressed concern that African agricultural institutions are deeply fragile and cannot respond effectively to the fall armyworm, locusts and COVID-19 shocks. Welcome to the new year!